R.I.P. Bob Elliott (1923-2016), of Bob & Ray duo, and patriarch of three generations of Elliott comedians

Robert Elliott’s father worked insurance, his mother in antique refinishing.

Born on March 26, 1923, and living in the Boston suburbs during the Great Depression, could Fred and Gail Elliott ever have imagined that their son Bob would grow up to become half of a legendary comedy radio duo, then father to a cult classic comedian and grandfather to two rising comedic actresses? Yet Bob Elliott did just that, until he died Tuesday at his home in Maine from throat cancer. He was 92.

With Ray Goulding, Bob and Ray first wowed listeners on the radio airwaves in Boston in the late 1940s after World War II, where Bob served in Europe with the Army. Bob was an announcer, while Ray was a morning show DJ on WHDH. The station discovered how well the two worked together and gave them their own show, then another. Their audience became national, and Bob and Ray hit big on TV, too, with The Bob and Ray Show from 1951-1953.

While both played the role of straight man from time to time, Bob’s voice really shone through with characters such as The Slow Talker or as reporter Wally Ballou.

They took their act to Broadway in 1970, and then to guest-starring roles in several hit sitcoms of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

In 1979, NBC aired a primetime special that combined Bob & Ray with three of Saturday Night Live‘s stars, called Bob & Ray, Jane, Laraine & Gilda:

After Ray died in 1990, Bob still found opportunities, especially appearing alongside his son Chris Elliott — playing his father on TV (FOX’s Get a Life) and the big screen (Cabin Boy). He also co-authored Chris’s mock autobiography in 1989, “Daddy’s Boy: A Son’s Shocking Account of Life with a Famous Father.”

Here were Bob and Ray reminiscing in the early 1980s on Late Night with David Letterman, where Chris worked as a writer and frequent on-air contributor.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn spoke with David Pollock, who wrote a book about Bob & Ray, about their comedic influence:

And here’s Chris Elliott talking about Bob’s influence on him in a 2012 interview with Scott Rogowsky, while Chris is seated with daughters Bridey and Abby.

Bob Elliott is survived by five children, including Chris; 11 grandchildren, including former Saturday Night Live cast member Abby Elliott and comedic actress Bridey Elliott; and five great-grandchildren.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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