The November 29 New York Times Magazine has a piece (“Hand-Me-Down Humor”) by Ed Zuckerman on the Elliott family of comic actors (Bob, his son Chris, and Chris’s daughter Abby) — which immediately reminded me of some of my favorite Bob and Ray routines, in particular the Komodo Dragon interview.
Ray Goulding is interviewing the alliterative Dr. Darryl Dexter, the great expert on the Komodo Dragon (played by Bob Elliott), who begins by sketching (in a deadpan voice) the basic facts about the creature: “The Komodo Dragon is the world’s largest living lizard …” More alliteration.
The interview then runs through several exchanges in which Goulding asks about facts he’s just been given by Elliott, who struggles to paraphrase and expand on what he’s just said. Each expansion leads to another pointless question from Goulding. (The routine, which Bob and Ray did again and again over the years, is available on-line in a number of versions.)
Bob and Ray often portrayed inept radio announcers, interviewers, and reporters, not to mention frustrating interviewees (the spokesman for the Slow Talkers of America, for instance). And they did many parodies of radio shows and personalities — among them, Mary Backstayge, Noble Wife (Mary Noble, Backstage Wife), Mr. Trace, Keener Than Most Persons (Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons), with transpositions in the titles.
A huge body of their material is available, for sheer enjoyment and as a source of data on discourse organization (and how it can go awry) and on language play.