Friday, February 5, 2016

bob and ray

I'm pretty sure I've never written here about anyone famous who has recently died but I heard just a little while ago that Bob Elliott of the famous old comedy team of Bob and Ray passed away yesterday. Among my favorite memories of living in New England in the 70s and 80s was listening to their radio shows when we were out driving. I've always associated their droll humor with Boston and the east coast of the US  as the hosts of an ostensibly serious radio program. Their 'staff' (all voiced by the two of them) was a comic menagerie of reporters, book reviewers, actors and all other manner of radio personalities, all of whom interacted with Bob and Ray as well as with each other. Almost all of these characters had picturesque names, as in one sketch where Bob introduced Ray as one Maitland W. Mottmorency, who then replied, "My name is John W. Norvis. I have terrible handwriting."

They worked together from the 40s until 1990 when Ray Goulding died and over the course of those five decades played more characters than I can count. Parodying radio commercials of the time was a standard routine with a typical show having such 'sponsors' as:

* The Monongahela Metal Foundry ("Casting steel ingots with the housewife in mind")
* Einbinder Flypaper ("The brand you've gradually grown to trust over the course of three generations")
* The United States Post Office ("Makers and distributors of stamps")
* The Croftweiler Industrial Cartel ("Makers of all sorts of stuff, made out of everything")
* Cool Canadian Air ("Packed fresh every day in the Hudson Bay and shipped to your door")
* The United States Mint ("One of the nation's leading producers of genuine U.S. currency")
* Penuche ("With or without nuts, the greatest name in fudge")
* Kretchford Braid and Tassel ("Next time you think of braid or tassel, rush into your neighborhood store and shout, 'Kretchford'!")

The only real way to enjoy Bob & Ray is to listen to them. With that in mind, here's one of my favorites, with Bob Elliott as the Komodo-dragon expert being interviewed by Ray Goulding:

They were so low-key you could almost forget you were listening to satire.. until:

"You can run a big operation like I've seen here and only take in 12 dollars a week?" asks an incredulous Elliott while interviewing Goulding's paperclip factory chief.

"We have a low wage structure," responds Goulding, noting that employees make 14 cents a week and "live in caves on the edge of town and they forage for food."


Should Fish More said...

I remember this skit, him starting the spiel over and over. I first heard them on NPR not long after it started in the 70's. Droll, subtle and funny.

Ol'Buzzard said...

When you are my age, just about everyone I remember from my early days is already dead. We did not have television until I was 18, so I am a product of radio days.

Listening to the radio took imagination; today, watching TV is an act of vegetating: We sit like mushrooms staring at a box that feeds us images and noise - no imagination necessary - no cognitive engagement necessary.

Not that the earlier days were better; but coming from that time we (an older generation) are wired different than the young people today. I can not picture a young person today actually being able to sit and listen and focus on a radio program from earlier days.

This is a different time - but a good time.
the Ol'Buzzard

Halle said...

Classic satire. My personal favourite was the Slow Talkers of America skit.

Thanks for the reminder of a slower and funnier time.

susan said...

Their timing was absolutely impeccable, wasn't it? Last night I watched the 'Most Beautiful Face' skit they did on television at some point. It was amazing too.

susan said...

If I'm not your age, OB, I'm pretty close to it, which means there are a lot of people I miss too.

One of my fondest memories was listening to the radio shows my parents had tuned into once I'd gone to bed. Amos and Andy were great.

I actually do believe many things were better when we were young. At least, other than for their health and suppleness, I don't envy the young at all.

susan said...

Oh yes, that is another good one, Halle. Ray got so frustrated with Bob he couldn't help but finish his sentences even as Bob spoke even more slowly.

Sometimes I wonder where the grownups went.

troutbirder said...

Fond memories of their special kind of humor.

susan said...

They were the best at making something hilarious out of next to nothing.

marja-leena said...

I have not heard of them...perhaps they were not known in Canada. They sound hilarious. Wonder what they would say about current politics in the US compared to that in their day.

susan said...

I'm sure you would have been as delightfully surprised as I was, Marja-Leena. They were always as funny as the first time - and always understated. I have a feeling they would have been as horrified by US politics as us, but they would have had more amusing ways of describing things.

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan. Usually satire is at the expense of others or inevitably is brutal but this engaging old style brand simply evokes a good laugh.
Best wishes

susan said...

You're right about that, Lindsay - Bob and Ray were never, ever cruel. I'm delighted to know you enjoyed hearing them.

gfid said...

Their voices sound very familiar.... I'm sure I've heard them before. Wonderful entertainers! I guess I'm a little younger than you, but I do remember a time with no TV in the house. And when I lived in the Yukon, CBC radio was our only outside vioce, sometimes for months at a time. Even now, as I put in almost a full day's 'work' each week behind the wheel of my car, I still listen to a lot of radio, and still love CBC radio. Have you come across Jim Brown and Pat Kelly and their show 'This is That' ? It's so similar to Bob and Ray that I wonder if they haven't consciously emulated them.

susan said...

They really were very funny over the course of a very long mutual career. We only ever heard them on the radio although I eventually found out they did make TV appearances too.

No, I'd never heard of Jim Brown and Pat Kelly until today when I listened to a couple of episodes of their shows. I haven't heard much yet but I especially enjoyed Saskatchewan farmer hosts Melting Man Festival, the Canadian equivalent to Burning Man and After fire hydrants were left running, Ontario town is frozen solid under 3ft of ice. They're definitely in the same ballpark.

Bernie Walp said...

I have been dying to hear their 'advertisement' for United States Mint. Does anyone know where I can find that?