Bob Elliott, half of the legendary radio comedy duo Bob and Ray, died this week at 92. With his partner Ray Goulding, who died in 1990, Bob Elliott was known for his low-key groundbreaking humor, mostly on radio.
The two began their 40-year career together when they were co-workers at a Boston radio station. Elliott was the station's sportscaster and during rain delays during Red Sox games, he would fill time by riffing and improvising with Goulding, who was a DJ there. Part of their riffs included inventing wacky characters they would impersonate.
Those characters -- Biff Burns, a clueless sportscaster, nasal on-the-scene reporter Wally Ballou, and Mary Backstage, noble wife, and many more -- became regulars when the duo got a daily gig on the station. Their humor took them to New York, where the did a daily TV show on NBC, and later runs on the NBC radio network and NPR.
Way ahead of their time, Bob and Ray lampooned game shows, soap operas, politicians and commercials. Greats from Johnny Carson to David Letterman, Jay Leno and George Carlin said they were inspired and influenced by Bob and Ray.
I discovered them when I was in my teens. They weren't joke tellers; they were storytellers, using crazy characters to tell stories and put the listener in the middle.
Many of their routines can still be heard online. Even 25 or more years later, they are still funny and relevant.
Farewell to Bob Elliott. As one of his characters, Biff Burns, would say as he ended his sports report, "This is Biff Burns saying this is Biff Burns saying good night."