Sunday, April 6, 2014




Bob Elliott (born 1923) and Ray Goulding (1922-1990) were an American comedy team, whose career spanned five decades. In a career that saw a successful transition from radio to television, their comedy was derived from the media in which they performed. They would conduct radio or television interviews, with off-the-wall dialogue, that would be presented in a deadpan (deadpan, adjective. 1. marked by or accomplished with a careful pretense of seriousness or calm detachment; impassive or expressionless: deadpan humor.) style as though it were a serious broadcast.

"Matinee with Bob and Ray" sounded better than "Matinob with Ray and Bob," according to Ray Goulding. Just a taste of the odd-ball and off-the-wall comedy the pair would perfect.

They began their professional careers as radio announcers in Boston with separate radio programs; Elliott was a disk jockey and Goulding a news reader, but they would visit one another's shows while on-air. Their informal badinage was so appealing that the radio station, WHDH would call on them to provide entertainment, when Red Sox baseball games were rained out. The pair would improvise comedy routines throughout the afternoon, and joke around with the studio musicians. They were not yet known as “Bob and Ray”.

Elliott and Goulding's brand of humor caught on, and WHDH gave them their own weekday show in 1946. Matinee with Bob and Ray was originally a 15-minute show, but soon expanded to a ½ hour. When explaining why Bob was billed first, Goulding said it was because “Matinee with Bob and Ray” sounded better than “Matinob with Ray and Bob”, which is just a sample of some of the off-the-wall comments the two uttered over the years. Their trademark sign-off was “This is Ray Goulding reminding you to write if you get work”, and “Bob Elliott reminding you to hang by your thumbs”.

The continued on the air for over 4 decades on NBC, CBS and Mutual networks and on New York City stations WINS, WOR, and WHN. From 1973 to 1976, they were regular afternoon drive hosts on WOR, doing a 4 hour show and in their last incarnation, they were heard on NPR, National Public Radio, ending in 1987.

They served as stand-by on NBC's Monitor, often going on-air at a moment's notice if the program's planned segments developed problems, and thus were heard in a surprising variety of formats and timeslots.

Ray, Audrey Meadows and Bob in a skit on the Bob & Ray Show in 1951.

They made the move easily to television, and in the early 1950s, had their own 15-minute TV series on NBC, called simply Bob & Ray. During the second season, the title changed to Club Embassy and was joined by Cloris Leachman, who replaced series regular, Audrey Meadows who left to join the cast of The Jackie Gleason Show on CBS. The actresses took the roles of Mary Backstayge and Linda Lovely in the Soap Opera parodies, that Bob and Ray were becoming known for, along with the characters that they created:

Bob Elliott's roster of characters included:
  • Snappy sportscaster Biff Burns – “This is Biff Burns saying this is Biff Burns saying goodnight!”
  • Tex Blaisdell, a drawling cowboy singer, who also did rope tricks on the readio
  • Cyril Gore, a Boris Karloff sound-alike who often appeared as a butler or a doorman; his catchphrase was “Follow me down the cor-ree-dor.”
  • Peter Gorey, a character similar to Gore with a Peter Lorre-type voice. He would appear as a news reporter reading the same gruesome stories: “Three men were run over by a steamroller today...” each time he appeared.
Any script calling for a child's voice would usually go to Elliott.

"The Handyman," featuring Bob Elliott's "Fred Falvy, Do-It-Yourselfer"

Ray Goulding's characters included:
  • Webley Webster, a mumble-mouthed book reviewer and organ player, whose reviews of historical novels and cookbooks were usually dramatized as seafaring melodramas
  • Steve Bosco, a sportscaster (who signed off with “This is Steve Bosco rounding third and being thrown out at home,” parodying Joe Nuxhall's signature sign-off of “the old lefthander rounding third and heading home”)
  • Charles the Poet, who recited sappy verse (parodying the lugubrious Chicago late-night broadcaster Franklyn MacCormack and to a lesser extent, the Ernie Kovacs character Percy Dovetonsils) but could never get through a whole example of his bathetic work without breaking down in laughter
All female characters; while originally employing a falsetto, Goulding later used the same flat voice for all of his women characters, of which perhaps the best-known was Mary Margaret McGoon) satarizing home-economics expert Mary Margaret McBride), who offered bizarre recipes for such entrees as “ginger ale sale” and “mock turkey.” In 1949, Goulding, as Mary, recorded, “I'd Like to Be aCow in Switzerland”, which soon became a novelty hit and is still played by the likes of Dr. Demento.

Every generation seems to re-discover Bob and Ray. My father introduced me to them when I was about 18 and I avidly watched for their appearances on the Comedy Channel, along with repeats of "Clutch Cargo" and "Supercar" in the late 80s when I still lived in Detroit at the age of 35. They can best be summed up perhaps as zany, an old-fashioned, quaint word, but they were talented and held appeal for several generations. Ray Goulding died in 1990, but Bob is still alive and acts occasionally. He is the father of comedian Chris Elliott and the grandfather of actress/comedian Abby Elliott, who joined the cast of Saturday Night Live for the 2009-2010 season.


D Biswas said...

I had no idea about the work of either of these people. Thanks for the feature, Mary.

Mary Wallace said...


They are a species of comedian that makes fun of the very media they work within! Being American comics, I wouldn't expect you to and frankly, my father was a HUGE fan and introduced me to them. They seem to resonate with each generation, here in America, but I should investigate the Indian radio and television medium and see if there are not counterparts!

Thanks for stopping by, as always, Damyanti! Mary xoxo

Kristen Dyrr said...

Great choice! I love that you are going far back through comedy history. :)

Random Musings from the KristenHead — E is for 'Elementary' (and Elephants)