Passing: Bob Elliott of Bob & Ray
Some passings touch one more than others – this is one that touches me.
I always loved the good-hearted, understated humor of Bob and Ray. It was satirical but in a light way that did not unduly hurt.
Bob Elliott died on February 2 in Maine.
As reported by the New York Times, Bob, 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, 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.As Mr. Elliott told Mike Sacks, the author of “Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations With Today’s Top Comedy Writers” (2014), “We were both sort of straight men reacting against the other.”Together they specialized in debunking gasbags, political airheads, no-talent entrepreneurs and Madison Avenue hypemasters. Their weapon was not caustic satire but wry understatement.
Persoanlly, I spent many hours enjoying Bob and Ray, dating back to them in Black & White cartoon form in the Bert & Harry Piel’s Beer ads.
Then again, in the 1970’s they were a daily fixture on New York drive time radio – including the likes of Mary Backstage Noble Wife (Take off on an earlier radio soap opera), the Mcbibbby Twins, the Transatlantic Bridge, and Bob as roaming reporter Wally Ballou (see picture above).
Their records entertained me as well. They performed on Broadway in “The Two & Only”, and even appeared on SNL doing a disco-tune (quite funny).
By the early 1980s, Bob and Ray’s gentle approach had largely been supplanted by a louder and angrier brand of comedy. But they were not forgotten — perhaps, Mr. Elliott theorized, because the “hilarity of pomposity” had not gone out of style — and in 1982, they returned to the airwaves with “The Bob and Ray Public Radio Show” on NPR. They remained on the air for as long as Mr. Goulding’s failing health allowed.
I have long missed Bob and Ray. Glad I can still calm myself after a tough day with their timeless humor.
Nonetheless, their sensibility is something that we could use today.
Here is a great appreciation of Bob and Ray (check out Transatlantic Bridge – one of my favorites).
This article was first published on http://www.journeysinto.com.