Yesterday, Bob Elliott — one-half of the legendary comedy team of Bob & Ray (as in Ray Goulding) — died at the age of 92. In some respects, it’s more than the death of a beloved comedian whose career lasted over a half-century, many of them spent with a partner/friend who equaled him in terms of talent and humor — it’s the end of an era in the history of mass media that several generations already know can never be revived, given the fact that things have greatly changed since Bob & Ray first teamed up almost a century ago, when radio was still the media of choice for a generation.
The use of dialogue was essential to Bob & Ray’s comedy sketches — and why they still remain funny today. The fact that Bob & Ray performed those sketches on the radio added greatly to their success — and at a time when audiences used the “Theater of the Mind” concept in order to listen to their favorite radio programs, something that today’s generation rarely does, despite the advancements in technology over the past few decades. Of course, Bob & Ray were also funny on-screen, appearing in several feature films at the height of their success (including Cold Turkey ), as well as on TV. Not to mention appearing live on-stage. Which proves that Bob & Ray were masters of just about every form of mass media that existed during their careers — and still do, as the YouTube video featuring Bob & Ray’s “The Komodo Dragon” comedy sketch should prove.
Bob & Ray never used any offensive dialogue and language in their comedy sketches — but then, they didn’t have to. Bob & Ray were true show business originals who did comedy their way — and the end result was nothing less than brilliant. It’s no wonder that Bob Elliott’s son Chris owes his success as an actor/comedian in part to what his father and Ray Goulding accomplished as a comedy team, simply because they were the best at what they did.
When Ray Goulding died in 1990, it may have meant the end of Bob & Ray as a comedy team — but certainly not Bob Elliott’s career, as he continued to work, alongside not only his son Chris, but also Garrison Keillor, whose comedy sketches on Public Radio’s Prairie Home Companion were inspired, in part, by Bob & Ray’s classic comedy sketches. (And the fact that Keillor will resign as host of Prairie Home Companion this spring after over forty years reminds us that all good things — even radio eras — must come to an end.)
I hope and pray that Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding won’t be forgotten — not only by generations of fans, but also those still to come, especially when we need humor to not only brighten our souls, but also give us the courage to move forward. There’s no doubt that Bob & Ray — and other great comedians — would agree with that sentiment.
John Lavernoich is the author of five books (including not only the first two Chameleons, Inc. novels, but also his most recent, Memories Of My Youth), as well as various non-fiction articles and short stories that have been published in print and on the Internet. To learn more about Mr. Lavernoich and his various creative accomplishments, please check out the following websites listed below:
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