Friday, 24 October 2014

In the Key of M (For Mouse)

Tom Cat decides to go a-huntin’ in “When the Cat’s Away,” a 1929 Walt Disney cartoon. What’s odd about this is after the cat disappears in the distance, a little mouse comes out of a hole in the porch. It’s Mickey! He’s almost mouse-sized.

How does he get into the cat’s shack? Simple. He turns one of his unnamed mousey buddies (who isn’t wearing pants) into a key.

Ub Iwerks gets the sole animation credit, as usual.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

I'll Go Into Television

“This is the last straw, man,” says the southern wolf as he lights explosives all around the brick house of the Three Little Pups. “If this don’t work, I’ll—I’ll go into television,” he vows. The low key wolf doesn’t even take his hands out of his pockets. He gestures with the top of his head, pointing off camera to where he lit the explosives.

There’s a huge explosion. A bunch of different explosion/fireworks cards take up about four seconds of screen time.

The dog house and the pups in it survive.

And the wolf fulfills his promise. We see him on the television set the pups are watching as the cartoon ends.

Ed Benedict designed the “The Three Little Pups,” with Vera Ohman handling the stylised backgrounds. Animators for Tex Avery on this one are Ray Patterson added to his usual unit of Mike Lah, Grant Simmons, Walt Clinton and soon-to-be-departing Bob Bentley.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Cage Away!

New characters were added to Tom and Jerry cartoons by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera to keep the series fresh. One of them was a canary in “Kitty Foiled” (1947).

The bird unhooks the bottom of its cage so it’ll fall on Tom, allowing Jerry to escape. You can see the weight in the first drawing below as the bird pulls on the latch. In the second drawing, you can see the sense of balance as the bird is thrown backward a bit by the force of the latch loosening.

Then the impact as the cage bottom flattens Tom’s head. Who else in the H-B unit but Irv Spence would draw like this? (See the answer in the comment section).

Ken Muse, Ed Barge and (for a change) Irv Levine receive the other animation credits.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

No Satire Wanted

Satire and the radio industry have never been a good match, as satirists have discovered. Satire has a point of view. People who disagree with that point of view get upset. And the last thing the radio industry wants is people upset with what it puts on the air because that could affect profits.

Fred Allen learned that lesson. So did Henry Morgan. And so did Stan Freberg. When television took over the living room from radio, Allen and Morgan became emasculated and spent their days as panelists for the Goodson-Todman empire. Freberg went into the advertising business he professed to hate and earned an extremely comfortable living—and still got some satiric licks in.

Freberg went from cartoon voice actor to puppeteer to recording star to radio to advertising, building his reputation along the way and leaving behind some truly brilliant work. Who can’t appreciate his stab at censorship (re-imagined by listeners today as an attack on political correctness) in his “Elderly Man River” sketch? Or his kick-in-the-you-know-whats at Lark Cigarettes for appropriating the William Tell Overture (complete with appearance by TV’s Lone Ranger and Tonto)?

Mr. Freberg’s creativity over six decades will be honoured at a function in Los Angeles on November 2nd. Read more about it HERE, especially those of you who can go. The rest of us will have to settle with munching on some Geno’s Pizza Rolls, or singing about Omaha, in tribute.

During the ‘50s, it appears some people didn’t appreciate Freberg’s talents. At least, when directed at them. Arthur Godfrey didn’t mind Bob and Ray making fun of him (even though some of it was a little nasty) and Ralph Edwards’ “This Is Your Life” got a screamingly funny makeover on Sid Caesar’s show. But when it came to Freberg, it looks like the subjects got a little unnerved.

Here’s a United Press story from 1956.

Satirist Is Stymied by Reluctant Performers
UP Hollywood Correspondent

HOLLYWOOD, Aug. 31 (UP)—Stan Freberg, last of the vanishing tribe of satirists, claims Ed Sullivan, Arthur Godfrey and Ralph Edwards have cost him a small fortune by refusing to grant him permission to poke fun at them.
BEST KNOWN FOR his broad parodies on record, Freberg is a frustrated man. Unless he gets the green light from celebrities involved he can't cut recordings. "The only TV star ever to give me permission was Jack Webb," Stan said. "Jack has a sense of humor. And my record, 'St. George and the Dragonet,' sold a million and a half. I don't think it hurt his show one iota."
It turns out that Freberg, an owlish-looking individual with cropped hair and horn-rimmed glasses, is a dedicated man. Friday night he takes over CBS "Radio Workshop" to present a study of satire titled "It only hurts when I laugh."
"I BECAME a satirist about 1950 when a lot of absurdities in show business began to irritate me," he said, "I talked to Capitol records and they let me vent my feeling on wax.
“But a multi-million dollar company can't fight multi-million-dollar law suits every day. So I have to ask permission."
Stan, whose parodies of Eartha Kitt, Johnny Ray and other personalities are classics of satire, believes satire is a form of criticism. He considers himself a critic, beyond the reach of censorship.
"Satire started 2,000 years ago, to get around censorship by using humor. Through burlesque, lampooning and exaggeration the satirist used his wit as a weapon to point up flaws and shortcomings of the thing he criticized.
"But what critic sends his story to the person he's criticizing before it appears in print?" Stan asked. "I feel the same way about my recordings."
FREBERG SAYS he makes only three records a year "to retain the novelty of his work. His latest is a take-off on Elvis Presley's echo-chambered version of "Heartbreak Hotel."
"I didn't need Presley's go-ahead," he said. "Recording outfits figure record artists are fair game because they aren't public institutions like national TV figures.
"Sullivan has turned me down three times. And Edwards and Godfrey want no part of satire. I think if I'd just gone ahead and done them anyway they wouldn't have sued. But it's too late now, everyone's afraid they'd take me to court.
“It seems to me laughter is an escape valve for modern pressures,” Stan concluded. "But we're losing our sense of humor, and that could be dangerous."

A year later, Freberg waxed on about the same topic to the Associated Press. This was after his CBS radio show was pulled from the airwaves in what turned out to be a bit of a mess. Variety reported on September 26, 1957 that Freberg had been told the day before he would go off the air on October 20th, when Bing Crosby would take over his slot. But Crosby wasn’t ready. Seems he was lured by the sound of wedding bells. So Freberg’s show ran until the 27th and was replaced with Morgan’s game show “Sez Who!” (in its third time slot in less than four months). Freberg discussed a TV syndication deal with former NBC president Pat Weaver in October but it was not to be. There was talk a month after he was cancelled (and before he was off the air) that CBS wanted him to remain but Freberg rejected the idea (Variety, Oct. 31, 1957).


HOLLYWOOD, Dec. 30 (AP) – Is America losing its sense of humor?
Perhaps we can laugh just as easily as before, but we are getting less and less opportunity. The decline of comedy in TV, movies and radio has been cited by many observers. In Atlantic Monthly, Steve Allen attributes this to such causes as the force-feeding of comedy on a mass scale, lack of training grounds for new comics and unsettled conditions in the world.
George S. Kaufman has also complained that funnymen have fewer things to kid these days; there are too many sacred cows.
Stan Freberg, the brilliant young satirist, can attest to this in the radio and record field. Freberg is a curly-haired fellow with a devilish sense of humor though he has the face of a hick "I'm from Pasadena, and I wear it like a badge," he says defiantly. His take-off on Dragnet, "St. George and the Dragonet," sold over 1½ million records, an amazing number for a non-musical, comedy disc.
Since then he has satirized rock 'n roll singers, Johnny Ray, Texans, Harry Belafonte and other phenomena, his latest hit being a takeoff of Lawrence Welk called "Wunnerful, Wunnerful." Stan also lasted 15 weeks on network radio with a show that won critical acclaim but no sponsors. He shows scars from trying to be funny in both radio and records.
"The subjects you can satirize are getting narrower and narrower," he sighed. "I had records about Ed Sullivan, Arthur Godfrey and Ralph Edwards ready to go, but I couldn't get approval for them.
"Capitol Records is too concerned that the subjects will sue unless we get permission from them. The lawyers argue that a single takeoff on TV might not bring action, but the repetition of a record might be cause for damages. I can't convince them otherwise.
"Sullivan said the record was very funny, but wouldn't give his go-ahead. I sent the record to Godfrey and it was rejected, though I don't know if Godfrey himself ever heard it. Edwards was very nice about it. He said he'd never be able to do ‘This is Your Life’ with a straight face if he allowed the record to come out.
Tired of such goings-on, Freberg sneaked the Welk record out without the bandleader’s approval or the Capitol legal department’s permission.
Freberg said his tangle with radio was even more difficult. On his opening show, he had a satire of Las Vegas. It featured two desert hotels called El Sodom and Rancho Gomorrah, which vied to get the greatest attractions. The climax had one importing the Gaza Strip, parcel by parcel, and staging “The Suez Follies” complete with gunfire.
The other hotel countered by book an H-bomb, which returned the entire resort to desert again.
The skittish network made Freberg change the acts to “An International Incident” and an earthquake. “All the punch was taken out of the whole skit,” the comedian complained. He added that he once had to remove an imitation of Walter Winchell because a top network official hated him.
Fortunately for those who appreciate laughter, Freberg is not giving up. He has formed Freberg, Limited ("but not very much") and is cooking up a TV show for one of the networks. He also is producing some spot commercials which are hilarious.
He is determined to continue, though he readily admits that being funny these days is serious work.

And continue he did. That’s why he’s being honoured on the 2nd. It’ll be a little like “This Is Your Life.” Without Ralph Edwards. Which, somehow, is very appropriate.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Hollywood and Vine, 1946

The corner of Hollywood and Vine greets viewers at the opening of “Hollywood Daffy” (1946). A pan down from the street sign shows the inevitable Hollywood wolves. Note the subtle shadow against the yellow Hollywood Plaza Hotel, indicated by the diagonal colour change on the windows (the hotel really was at Hollywood and Vine; it has been converted into a retirement home).

The backgrounds in this cartoon are by Paul Julian from layouts by Hawley Pratt. Let’s look at a couple of other backgrounds in the opening scene where Daffy arrives in Hollywood by bus. Somewhat out of character, Julian doesn’t work the names of Freleng unit members into the artwork this time. However, it looks like Grauman’s Chinese Theatre is in the distance in one of the drawings.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

She Got Her Benny Story

Here’s another “What’s Jack Benny really like” newspaper feature, this time from the Long Island Daily Press of March 22, 1936.

There’s no indication of the stage fright that supposedly caused Mary Livingstone to, more or less, quit the show after 20 years. But it may hint at another reason she didn’t want to be on the radio. And Harry Conn, the writer who claimed no one knew who he was, once again gets more ink.

It Pays to Be Big-Hearted

NEXT TIME, Mister Editor, please let this writer have an easy assignment—such as interviewing a sound effect. Or translating a series of broadcasts by Mussolini, Emperor Haile Selassie and the St. Bernard dogs of the Alps. But never again, please, send me out to get Jack Benny to talk seriously about himself. The first thing he said was. “You don't want a story about me. I haven't any Hidden Chapters in My Life. You know as well as I do that you can't write a story without a Hidden Chapter, And looka here, I'll show you what a punk prospect I am. I haven't even a Hitherto Undisclosed Love Affair. Now where are you? What can you write about?”
Only dimly, behind the rolling clouds gray smoke, could I discern the sly smile and silver hair that are Jack's trademarks. The Benny big black cigar, in you hadn't heard, has often been compared to the ever-burning torch under the Arc de Triomphe. Now and then some trouble-maker starts a whispering campaign to the effect that Jack discards his cigar while sleeping and showering, but he is always quick to deny the rumor.
“Now, here's your story,” he went on. “Kenny Baker. There's a kid who's going to amount to something. Why, I want to tell you that Kenny—”
“But Mr. Benny,” I protested, “we'll do a story about Kenny later. What the editor wants is a story about YOU. Here you are back in New York after months and months in Hollywood. We've GOT to have a story. Everybody’s writing and asking!”
“That gives me an idea,” he said, quietly, thoughtfully. “I'll give you something for Screen and Radio Weekly. I'll get Mary to write a poem for you.”
JUST then Harry Conn, who is Benny's script-collaborator, stepped in and saved the day.
“Don't pay any attention to Jack,” he whispered. “Come out here in the control room a minute and I'll give you a story.”
He talked only a couple of minutes before the whole thing fitted together as the works fit into a watch. Jack's talking eternally about the other people in his show; the gay atmosphere of the rehearsal (because a Jack Benny rehearsal has none of the strain, none of the ragging, none of the seriousness that characterize most big-time rehearsals). Everything suddenly seemed quite clear, this story included.
The thing that makes Jack Benny different; the thing that makes you listeners love him, is really the simple old-fashioned trait of generosity. Most theatrical people and comedians particularly are selfish as they can be about the “fat parts” or the “laugh lines” of their show. The star gets the big piece of pie—or else why be a star?
WELL, there was a time (some of this I eventually wormed out of Benny, but most of it came from the people he works with) when Jack was exactly like all the rest. He began in vaudeville and in small circuits. He worked hard, kept busy most of the time—but he is the first to admit that he wasn't too good.
Those were the days when “playing the Palace” in New York was the apex of every vaudevillian's ambition. Finally, after years in the sticks, Jack got his chance at the Palace.
His act consisted of himself and a girl, but he didn't give the girl much. Just a line or two, here and there, to help him out.
When he stepped into the spotlight he almost ignored the girl altogether. This was his big moment. Why share any of the precious limelight? His reasoning was the typical reasoning of show business. “Grab the spot if it's on you or anywhere near you.”
Jack played his hardest to that blase big city audience. He gagged and he fiddled. He smiled, shouted. He gave them the works.
“You kind of keep out of things, for a while,” he tipped off the girl stooge. But it wasn't for long. A week later Jack was back in the sticks, smarting under the knowledge that somehow, unbelievably, he hadn't made good.
There were hundreds of more nights in tank town hotels before Jack won a second chance at the Palace. Even then it wasn't what he really considered a break. He had to share his skit with another guy. Guy by the name of Lou Holtz. And, golly! What ideas that Holtz fellow had! Why, he wanted to mop up the floor with Benny! He turned Benny into a regular stooge. By the time the curtain was rung down Jack hadn't enough dignity left to patch a pinhole. He'd been a goat, he'd been a chump—and he'd been a wow! That was the turning point in his career. From that performance on Benny was big-time. He had learned the secret that has guided his every move in radio: “Never mind being the big shot. It's being the under-dog that pays!”
He spent more time than ever thinking up laugh-lines—and then he gave them away. He gave them to George Olsen and Ethel Shutta, when he made his debut with them 'way back in 1932. He gave them to Mrs. Benny, when he finally persuaded her to join him behind the microphone under the name of Mary Livingston. And speaking of Mary brings up a subject that is a story in itself. She isn't a bit nervous or concerned about rehearsals, so she had plenty of time to talk to me. She said quite frankly that the first few years of her marriage to Jack were not all that she had expected them to be. You see, Mary had been brought up as far as possible from the theatrical world. She thought a husband should go to work at 9 in the morning and come home at 5. She thought he had no business associating with chorus girls, who call everybody “darling” as a matter of course.
She thought—very definitely!—that she had made a mistake when she married an actor fellow who couldn't provide anything in the way of a home except a series of cheap hotel rooms, linked together by tiresome train trips.
Several times when Jack’s girl stooge was ill, Mary filled in behind the footlights, but it wasn't in her really to like the stage. The stage was the Enemy of the Home.
THEN one night, after Jack had turned to radio, he pressed her into service again. The script ran short. There was, in radio parlance, “one minute to fill.” Jack beckoned insistently to Mrs. Benny and together they filled the minute with silly, pointless conversation.
“Now,” said Mary, after the program was off the air, “now I suppose the sponsor's sore. I'll bet I've ruined your career in radio—and just when I was beginning to see where we'd have a real home and stop hopping trains every night.”
As it turned out, nobody was sore, least of all the radio audience. They sent in hundreds of letters asking who the new girl on the show was. “We like her voice,” they wrote. “Let's have more of her.”
THAT, my children, is the story of How Mary Livingston Came to Radio. Jack, having discovered the material advantages as well as the spiritual satisfaction of being big-hearted, gave her an increasingly large part in the broadcasts. Week by week and program by program he built her into a star. Of course, she didn't know what was happening to her. Most of the Benny-made stars haven't known what was happening to them. They speak lines, to oblige Jack. They treat him rather badly, it always seems to them, cracking jokes about him, talking back and acting sassy. And then one day they wake up to find themselves famous, the beneficiaries of the powerful “Benny build-up.”
"If he wants to give lines away, if he wants stooges, why doesn't he go out and hire real actors?" you might very well ask.
The real reason is that Jack likes the non-professional way in which these singers, announcers, maestros, friends and relatives deliver their wisecracks. They're natural. They can get the laughs.
There, Mister Benny! I hope you're satisfied. You were right when you asked us to write the story about your pals. They can tell your story better than you can!

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Early Plaudits For UPA

In the 1950s, UPA was the darling of film critics and movie columnists who were wont to write about animated cartoons, thanks to a little boy named McBoing-Boing that the studio purchased from Dr. Seuss. But the studio received some compliments for what it was trying to accomplish some years before that, and from a not unexpected source.

PM Daily was a literate newspaper with a deliberate leftist slant. It should be no surprise, then, that it would support a film studio founded by former unionised strikers, who won contracts with the United Auto Workers, and created a sales pitch film to re-elect Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt as president in 1944.

It would appear someone at UPA, which was just getting off the ground and dealing with cash-flow difficulties, felt some free publicity was in order, and who better to give it than the politically like-minded PM? At least, that’s a safe assumption as the newspaper’s film critic was invited to a special screening of some of the company’s work. UPA had just finished The Brotherhood of Man, and its theme of racial equality in the post-war era was, no doubt, appealing to the editors at PM.

The paper’s movie critic was John T. McManus, later a two-time candidate for governor of New York and one of the founders of The National Guardian, another publication devoted to left-of-centre causes. Here’s McManus’ take on the early UPA studio. The photos accompanied the column; it’s a shame these copies are not very clear. It’s less than shocking that McManus takes a shot at Walt Disney but a pleasant revelation that he’s a fan of Bugs Bunny, though it’s easy to read the war-time version of the rabbit as a fighter against The Big Guy (and, therefore, Corporate America).

Speaking of MOVIES
Fun and Function

The most fun and the most enlightenment I have had out of films this year I enjoyed this week at a preview of some of the works of a promising young animated film company called United Productions of America.
UPA, as the outfit will be referred to hereinafter, may best be introduced as the organization which made the Vote-for-FDR cartoon featurette, Hell-Bent for Election, for the United Automotive Workers, CIO, in 1944. When the company undertook this project, its first, it called itself United Film Productions, but actually it was merely a group of fugitive artists from the Walt Disney studios who got tired of Mickey Mousing and cut loose for themselves to devote their animated artistry to useful purpose.
The result of their success with Hell-Bent for Election was a flock of instructional work for the Army and Navy. How they got their stuff past the brass hats who insist that entertainment and learning mustn’t mix is probably a military secret, but I can't recall when I had so much fun learning things as in watching a couple of films called Fear and Japan, each about five minutes long.
Fear let the GIs in on the biological fact that everybody experiences fear and then proceeded to show, in terms of St. George and his fabled dragon fight, how to turn fear into fearlessness. What interested me particularly, aside from the irresistible humor of the treatment, was the new departure in animation design evidenced in the silhouette-style settings of knights and castles.

Japan introduced the gentlemen in the illustrations at the top of the page, Sato-San or Messrs. Average Japanese and the way Japanese thought-control police operate to keep Sato-San thinking straight. The film ends with a regular atomic punch but up to then it is as delightful a rib of Japanese custom and formality as a scene from The Mikado, and a lot more meaningful.
What brings UPA into the news of movies at this moment is the fact that the company has just completed and is preparing for general release a 15-minute cartoon subject based on the Races of Mankind pamphlet bv Ruth Benedict and Dr. Gene Weltfish. The film is called The Brotherhood of Man, sponsored by the UAW-CIO. It is in full color and will be available in 16-mm, as well as theater-size prints.
We will report more fully on The Brotherhood of Man when stills from it are available for reproduction in these pages but in the meantime my advice to all organizations, church groups, unions and others who may be listening is to get your order in now for a booking of this film, because it is a real lulu, as funny as a Bugs Bunny and as urgent as the Atlantic Charter.
The eastern address of United Productions of America is 1 E. 57th St., the western headquarters are at 1558 North Vine St., Hollywood 28. Releasing plans are not yet complete for The Brotherhood of Man, but I believe it may tour the country coupled with The Open City in addition to being made available for the 16-mm. non-theatrical circuit. It will probably be booked locally in 16-mm. through Brandon Films, 1600 Broadway, which also furnishes projection equipment for groups not owning their own apparatus.
Another film innovation in which UPA specializes for classroom and organizational use is the “slide-film” or filmstrip. This is a series of scenes printed on a strip of film about a yard long and projected like lantern slides through a stereopticon machine, usually in conjunction with a disk recording of the accompanying commentary, sound effects etc. The record signals the operator, by musical note, when to change the slide.
I saw three of these—one called The Man in the Cage, an ingratiating and convincing argument for a permanent FEPC; another called Permanent Health Plan, made to help Henry Kaiser have the last laugh on reactionary medical authorities who opposed installation of health plans at Kaiser plants; and one called Svensons Seniority, which is a riotous exposition of how a shop grievance is handled by the UAW-CIO at the Ford Plant. I can't go into more detail about these today, but let's consider this an agenda for the near future, when we'll go into the problem of Svenson's Seniority et al with full illustration and advice on how to book slide-film lectures and have fun with functional films.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Homer is Not Tex

Happy Homer Brightman tries a Tex Avery gag in “The Great Who-Dood-It,” a 1952 Woody Woodpecker cartoon.

We’ve all seen how Wolfie tries to escape from Droopy by jumping in a cab, then onto a train, then onto a plane, etc. only to reach his destination, discover Droopy’s there, and fill the screen with an outrageous take. Well, in this story, Buzz Buzzard takes a locked trunk (supposedly with Woody Woodpecker in it) and runs onto a train to catch a plane, then ride a motor scooter to the edge of a pier and drop the trunk in the water. He returns (via reused animation) to where he started, and hears Woody laugh. He turns to look. Here are the first five drawings.

The difference between this and an Avery gag—well, there are a lot of them in the execution of the animation if you really want to delve into it—is we can see Woody’s not really in the trunk as Buzz runs off with it. Brightman came from Disney so there had to be a logical explanation for what was happening on screen. Avery would never explain why Droopy was always where the wolf tried to hide from him. That’s just the way it was (to me, it was a case of cartoon law where the Bad Guy Always Loses, the same law that inflicted violence on Wile E. Coyote).

This is the first Lantz cartoon where Brightman got a story credit, and also Don Patterson’s first cartoon as a director. Patterson went on to better things in his brief directorial career. Brightman, I understand, got laughs in story meetings. Tex Avery got them on the screen.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Lively Cake

Betty Boop gets a birthday cake delivered to her in “Betty Boop’s Birthday Party” (1933). Being a Fleischer cartoon, it’s only natural the candles come to life and wish Betty a happy birthday. And they develop little rumps in the process before returning to being to inanimate objects.

Seymour Kneitel and Myron Waldman get the on-screen animation credits. Mae Questel doesn’t voice Betty in this one.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

On All Day Are Bob and Ray

Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding filled the airwaves in the 1950s with some pretty funny (and biting) parodies and satires. The question isn’t “how did they do it?” but “how did they not collapse from exhaustion?”

The NBC network plucked them from a radio station in Boston and, pretty soon, they were all over the schedule, kind of like Arthur Godfrey at CBS. The difference was Godfrey had oodles of sponsors. Bob and Ray didn’t—even though Elliott did a funnier Godfrey than Godfrey did.

By the time they landed on TV on November 26, 1951 (replacing half of “Kukla, Fran and Ollie” from 7:15 to 7:30 p.m. on weekdays), they were already filling NBC’s and WNBC’s radio schedule in mornings and early evenings. Perhaps it got to be too much. By early January, NBC announced “The Goldbergs” would take over the Monday-Wednesday-Friday slots. By May 6th, a sitcom called “Those Endearing Young Charms” took over Tuesdays and Thursdays. No matter. The TV network moved them into a Tuesday night, 10:30 to 10:45 p.m. show for Embassy cigarettes called “Club Embassy.” It debuted October 7, 1952. By November, Billboard reported the sponsor wanted to dump them. Then the sponsor changed its mind. Then the sponsor changed its mind again. The show became a musical revue with Mindy Carson as of December 30th (Carson was gone the following May 19th).

The critics all seemed to love Bob and Ray. Here’s a story from the Amsterdam Evening Recorder of February 23, 1952 which sums up their show, if you haven’t heard or seen it.

Lights of New York

Only a little while ago the names Bob and Ray meant nothing to radio listeners and television -viewers unless they happened to be the monickers of friends or relatives. Within the short-space of seven months, Bob and Ray have become familiar from coast to coast. They are a couple of uninhibited zanies who are on radio and television something like 18 hours a week. Incidentally, so far as can be ascertained, they are the only air comics who have received a “cease and desist” request from the staid and dignified Smithsonian Institution. There is no "Mr. Inbetween" so far as Bob and Ray are concerned. Fans either dislike their programs violently or like them just as violently. That the latter are far in the majority is indicated by their air hours. The National Broadcasting Co. has efficient ways of ascertaining public opinion.
● ● ●
Their full names are Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding. Bob is 28 and Ray, 29. Both are married. Ray has three children. Bob none. Bob was born in Boston and Ray in Lowell, not so far away. The team was formed by accident—and by grace of favorable audience reaction. Earlier in 1946, while both were staff at WHDH, Boston. Ray read the newscasts on Bob's morning disc jockey show. They became friends and Ray would remain at the studio after his newscasts to indulge in on-the-air pleasantries and gags, with Bob. They soon realized they worked well together and began to work in routines. Their humor caught on. The station gave them a daily, half-hour program. By that time, they had developed numerous fictional characters for their satirical sketches. They now use eight of these characters, all voiced by Bob and Ray and when necessity demands, they invent another.
● ● ●
Last July, Bob and Ray moved on to New York to do a 15-minute network show five days a week and 30 minutes Saturday night. In no time at all, they were on their way. At the end of 13 weeks, the network picked up their option. Now in addition to their six network shows they also have a two-and-a-half-hour local show which starts at 6 A. M. and runs five mornings a week. The first of the year, they made their television bow and now have five 15-minute shows each week. The morning show is strictly ad lib. For their other shows they wrote their own material until they went into television. Now they have writers but the main burden is still on them. To air time must be added rehearsal time. Their rehearsals for their daily TV show start at 3 P. M. They are really busy young men.
● ● ●
Masters of satire, ingenious mimics and skilled deflaters of pomposity, Bob and Ray travel their own peculiar way. The first of their characters was Mary McGoon. Tex, representing all cowboy singers, Webley Webster, who conducts the forums. Uncle Eugene, a typical stuffed shirt who knows all the answers, and Arthur Sturdley, "Just a jerk," are among the familiars. They kid commercials by offering skits of various kinds. In fact, they kid anything and everything that comes into their versatile minds. They even needle their boss since they introduce their programs with the announcement, “Bob and Ray take great pleasure in presenting the National Broadcasting Co.”
● ● ●
Despite the fact that the kits they offer listeners are farcial in the extreme, they bring a heavy mail. There were even listeners who sent to “Thieves, NBC,” for a "get-away kit" which included a high - powered black limousine, usually driven by a confederate, stolen license plates and an "automatic summons rejector." The "House Dismantling Kit" was the one that brought the protest from the Smithsonian Institution. It was for those who buy new houses which they want to look like old Colonial homes. So there were termites and even a "condemned" sign. Though they called it the "Smithsonian Institute" so many letters reached the Washington Institution that they were asked to stop making that particular offer.
● ● ●
Being funny 18 hours a week is rather a strain, Bob and Ray admitted as we lunched at Café Louis XIV. They made that statement seriously. As a matter of fact, off the air they are rather serious young men. As we talked, they seemed more or less, detached. There was reason for that—they were soon due at a rehearsal. Asked for what they were ultimately heading, they replied in unison, “Ulcers.”

Bob and Ray continued to bounce around on the NBC schedule, then jumped to 485 Madison Avenue where their characters enlivened the airwaves on CBS. They were still on the air in the ‘70s at the former New York hub of the Mutual network, and later on NPR. Their routines perhaps evoked more nostalgia than anything else, but their humour still stands up. You don’t need to have listened to “Linda’s First Love” as you hear the banal dialogue of Bob and Ray’s soap “The Life and Loves of Linda Lovely.” And there’s still a nugget of reality stretched to the Nth degree of ridiculousness in the phoney products the pair would hawk on the air. And who can’t appreciate the know-it-all, all-American kid Jack Headstrong getting his comeuppance from his buddy Billy, even if one isn’t familiar with “Jack Armstrong” (and its breathless, condescending offers paid out of parents’ wallets)?

There was plenty of parody and self-parody on radio, but only a handful of great radio satirists. Bob and Ray were among the best.