Sometimes all it takes to make something funny is to give reality just the tiniest nudge. Take for instance, reporter Wally Ballou touring the historic Sturdley House, home of Fabian Sturdley, which was going to be torn down to build a combination bowling alley and car wash before a group of civic-minded citizens banded together to save it. A tour of the Sturdley House takes approximately four and a half minutes and you can see Mr. Sturdley’s collection of National Geographics as well as his picture of a blank Mount Rushmore. Not too many of those around.
That, of course, comes from the comedy duo Bob and Ray. After more than forty years of working on radio together they were separated in 1990 when Ray Goulding passed away. Bob Elliott continued working, including appearing with his son Chris Elliott. Bob played Chris’s father on the show Get A Life. That sounds like a premise for a Bob And Ray bit: What’s it like playing your son’s father on television?
Their wit was dry as a bone and I think that’s what keeps me going back and listening to it. Or reading it since a lot of it works just as well in print—their book From Approximately Coast To Coast…It’s Bob And Ray includes some great bits, including an interview with historian Alfred E. Nelson whose history of the United States mistakenly puts the Civil War in 1911. Nelson admits that’s a mistake and goes on, “I could have checked by asking almost anybody. But, here again, when I sit down at the typewriter, I just like to take off and go. Know what I mean?”
In a genuine interview with Mike Sacks, collected in Poking A Dead Frog, Elliott said, “We did what we wanted to do and we got away with it. And it was fun.”
Yes. Yes it was. Hail and farewell Bob Elliott.
As a final twist I first learned about them from a 1979 NBC television special. The clip below includes one of my favorite things ever, which starts at the 7:33 mark. If you don’t have time to watch the whole thing skip to that. It’s four and a half minutes you won’t regret.