For those of a certain age, the comedy routines of Bob and Ray — Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding — provided many a smile and the not-infrequent guffaw.
While they made occasional forays into television, their routines were born in an era when radio delivered not only music and news, but comedy, drama, and variety programs, featuring the leading stars of the age.
Their routines provided inspiration for two generations of comedians, and novelist Kurt Vonnegut wrote of the delight he took in their schtick.
The routines played on the medium itself, skewering newscasts with their intrepid report Wally Ballou, one of a whole cast of characters.
What prompts our nostalgia is a a story in today’s New York Times:
Bob Elliott, who as half of the comedy team Bob and Ray purveyed a distinctively low-key brand of humor on radio and television for more than 40 years, died on Tuesday at his home in Cundy’s Harbor, Me. He was 92.
His death was confirmed by his son Chris Elliott, the actor and comedian, who said his father had had throat cancer.
Mr. Elliott and his partner, Ray Goulding — Bob was the soft-spoken one, Ray the blustery, deep-voiced one — were unusual among two-person comedy teams. Rather than one of them always playing it straight and the other handling the jokes, they took turns being the straight man.
What better way to memorialize what is truly the end of an era than with s few of their brightest routines?
First up, from the early radio days, a sketch that focuses on a feature that was once ubiquitous on the airwaves:
Bob and Ray – The Question Man
The next sketch captures a trauma all too common in the days of live radio news interviews:
Bob & Ray – The slow talker
And another interview sketch:
Bob and Ray A Visit with Neil Clummer of The Hobby Hut with The Vegetable Collector
In 1951 the comedy duo moved their act to television, with a fifteen-minute broadcast [yes, broadcast television then often came in both shorter and longer programs than today]. Audrey Meadows, who would go on to television immortality as Alice Kramden in The Honeymooners, joined the duo for the show.
Bob & Ray. “Jack Headstrong” & “The Life and Loves of Linda Lovely”
The first episode of “Jack Headstrong, All American American” and the contuing story of Uncle Eugen’s kidnapping in “The Life And Loves of Linda Lovely”.
From the “Bob & Ray Show” which ran on NBC from 1951-1953, with Audrey Meadows, announcer Bob Denton and organist Paul Taubman.
And pair of short sketches:
Bob & Ray. “Hartford Harry”. Bud Sturdley “Impartial Survey”
The next sketch was performed just as politicians were beginning to discover the power of the medium:
Bob & Ray “Booking Agents to the Politicians”
And one final sketch from their show, again playuing against the medium itself:
Bob & Ray: “Television Referee”
And finally, their appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, performing two sketches that leave their host writhing in laughter:
Bob and Ray “Most Beautiful Face Winner”
Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding perform two of their classic interviews: “Most Beautiful Face Contest Winner” and “Four Leaf Clover Farmer.” Lots of great Bob and Ray available at the official site: www.bobandray.com
Radio as they knew it is dead, a transformed into a coldly calculated corporate entity, with local stations reduced to robot run money-making machines.
So hoist one for Bob and Ray, and may their shadows never grow less.