The comedy world lost another legend this week with the news that Bob Elliott, one half of longtime radio/TV comedy duo Bob and Ray, died yesterday at the age of 92; his son Chris Elliott confirmed the news to The New York Times. In addition to his 40+ years of performing on radio and television alongside his partner Ray Goulding (who died in 1990 at age 68), Elliott was the patriarch of an impressive comedy family – his son Chris Elliott would go on to write and perform on Letterman, SNL, and a handful of other TV shows and films, and his granddaughters Abby and Bridey Elliott are both rising comedy stars in their own right with credits on shows like SNL and films like Fort Tilden. Here’s how Splitsider contributor Ramsey Ess described Bob and Ray’s comedy style in their early days:
The thing that is perhaps most striking about the style of Bob and Ray is how at home it feels with a lot of modern comedy. The pair did do a lot of specific parodies, so there are a lot of soap opera and hard-boiled detective pastiches that maybe aren’t the most relevant things anymore, but the main thing they did was satirize whatever medium it was that they were on. And the thing about that is… radio and television hasn’t really changed that much in its basic structures. When Bob and Ray were on the radio their sketches involved a lot of interviews with the man on the street about the latest news event, or a local expert on a relevant issue. When they were on television they made fun of how difficult it was to make educational material entertaining or the clichés of drama’s cliffhangers. Their tone could fluctuate from the driest of the dry to the silliest scene imaginable, but it all fit into the world that they had created, under the big marquee of the Bob and Ray show.
For more on Elliott’s work, check out our look back on the original Bob and Ray NBC show from 1951, 1975 special Bob and Ray, Jane, Laraine, and Gilda, and time playing his son’s TV father on Get a Life in the early ‘90s.