Bob Elliott, Half of the Famed Comedy Duo Bob and Ray, Dies at 92
He and Ray Goulding made audiences laugh for more than four decades on the radio and on television. His son is actor Chris Elliott.
Bob Elliott, the soft-spoken half of the hilarious radio and television comedy team Bob and Ray, died Tuesday. He was 92.
Elliott died at his home in Cundy’s Harbor, Maine, his son, Chris Elliott — the comic actor (now on Schitt’s Creek) and former Late Night With David Letterman staff writer and Saturday Night Live player — told The New York Times.
Survivors also include his grandchildren (and Chris’ daughters) Abby Elliott, also a former SNL member, and actress Bridey Elliott (2014 film Fort Tilden).
After stints on a Boston radio station and then NBC radio, the low-key Elliott and his more-boisterous comedy partner Ray Goulding hosted The Bob and Ray Show on TV from 1951-53. (The series featured future Honeymooners star Audrey Meadows and then Cloris Leachman.)
Elliott and Goulding created a company of funny characters, with Elliott drawing laughs as sportscaster Biff Burns — “This is Biff Burns saying this is Biff Burns saying good night” — and goofy man-on-the-street reporter Wally Ballou. They took turns serving as the straight man, interviewed each other, made fun of everyday life and often mocked their medium.
“I like jokes, but Ray and I, we never did jokes,” Elliott said in a 2011 interview with the Archive of American Television. “We weren't in that line of humor. We each contributed our own kind of observations. I’m glad to have people look at and laugh at and respect and get some creative juice out of what we did by observing.”
Bob and Ray recorded comedy albums and appeared often on The Tonight Show and The Ed Sullivan Show. On Broadway starting in 1970, they starred in Bob and Ray: The Two and Only, where they did comedy sketches as their characters, and were seen in Cold Turkey (1971), directed by Norman Lear, and, playing brothers, in Arthur Hiller’s Author! Author! (1982).
After Goulding died in 1990, Elliott appeared as a castmember on Garrison Keillor’s American Radio Company of the Air and showed up in the Bill Murray comedy Quick Change (1990). He also played Chris’ father on the 1990-92 Fox series Get a Life and in Cabin Boy (1994).
A native of Boston, Elliott was a disc jockey and Goulding a news reader when they met in 1946 at Boston station WHDH. They ad-libbed between records, and station execs gave them an afternoon show and then a morning show, “Breakfast With Bob and Ray.” That led to a one-hour Saturday night show on NBC Radio in 1951.
One of their routines, as showcased by The New Yorker in 2013:
Ray: Tonight we’re talking to Darrel Dexter, the Komodo dragon expert, from Upper Montclair, New Jersey. Say, doctor, would you tell us a little bit about the Komodo dragon?
Bob: Happy to! The Komodo dragon is the world’s largest living lizard. It’s a ferocious carnivore found on the steep-sloped island of Komodo, in the lesser Sunda chain of the Indonesian Archipelago, and the nearby islands of Rintja, Padar and Flores.
Ray: Where do they come from?
Bob: [Mystified pause] The Komodo dragon, world’s largest living lizard, is found on the island of Komodo, in the lesser Sunda chain of the Indonesian Archipelago, and the nearby islands of Rinja, Padar and Flores. We have two in this country that were given to us some years ago by the late former Premier of Indonesia, Sukarno, and they reside in the National Zoo, in Washington.
Ray: I, ah, believe I read somewhere, where a foreign potentate gave America some Komodo dragons. Is that true?
Bob: [Pause.] Yes. The former Premier of Indonesia, Sukarno, gifted our country with two Komodo dragons — the world’s largest living lizards — and they reside at the National Zoo, in Washington.
Ray: Well, now, if we wanted to take the youngsters to see a Komodo dragon, where would we take them?