There are many things that baffle me about the great team of Bob and Ray. One of them has nothing to do with their comedy. I’m dumbfounded about the hours they kept.
In 1952, the two were hosting a morning radio programme at WNBC. But they are also appearing live on television at 7:15 p.m. In fact, after their arrival in New York City, various networks kicked their body-clocks all over the clock. How they managed to stay creative, let alone awake, is a major accomplishment.
Here are Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding talking about what it’s like to be up at sunrise. It was syndicated by King Features and found in the Glens Falls Post-Star of February 19, 1952.
My New York
By MEL HEIMER
NEW YORK — I was talking with Bob and Ray the other morning and discovered two important items about the city I love: (1) this is a very hilly town, and (2) no matter how early you get up in the morning, there's always somebody up ahead of you.
A brief description of and explanation about Bob and Ray might be in order, although this is unnecesary to New Yorkers. This is Bob and Ray year. The Chinese probably would describe American years as the year of the eating of goldfish, the year of dancing the Charleston, etc.; well, this is the year of Bob and Ray.
These two souls, who are the most tired and likely the funniest men to New York, are a pair of radio and television performers who swept into town last July from the outlying precincts of an Indian territory called Boston. They are the sharpest, most honestly whimsical most dead-panned puncturers of the bubble of false dignity that Manhattan has seen in lo, these many moons.
Blase Gothamites rush home to watch them on television at the uncivilized hour of 7:15; others pass this up reluctantly, when unable to pry themselves loose from the Plaza bar, and stay up all night to catch one of their radio shows at 6 A.M.
They are on their way to being the richest comics in the cemetery, having been handling a total of 17 radio and TV shows a week, which they estimate gives them time to sleep two hours each night.
The most remarkable thing about the whole turbulent schedule is that the quality of their humor remains constantly high, which likely is because at heart they are very funny-minded men.
• • • •
"I love the morning," Ray said, feebly, to me, "but now — well, now, when that alarm rings, I could just put my head in the pillow and sob. It's inhuman."
Ray is the one who discovered there's always someone awake ahead of you. "Any time I drive through all those little Queens communities on my way to work," he said morosely, "there's always somebody standing on a street corner waiting for a bus."
That, Ray says, is what he probably will remember longest as his great Impression of life in New York — a man standing on the street corner in the dawn, waiting for a bus. "And feeling, no doubt, more miserable than I do," he adds. Bob, who is stockier and looks the enact opposite of the lanky, mustachioed Ray (although their minds must be twins), says that the thing that impresses him about Manhattan in the dawn is the hills. I didn't know there was a hill in the city.
"Oh, yes," he said, doggedly. "I grab the same cab every morning and we go rolling down Second Avenue and all of a sudden, with no cars on it, you notice that it's hilly. And all over town it's the same way; the streets are full of little hills you don't see in the daytime." Bob refused to accept the theory that at 5:30 A.M. he was full of little hills, and not the streets.
• • • •
The boys have dusted off and put into use an old dodge of the subtler radio comedians (there are so some)—the phony, satirical commercial. They have elevated it to the heights.
They have been offering phony television sets, a fantastic soap flake called Smurd (or something) which dirties clothes rather than cleans them, and so on. One would expect them to be sued for libel or hung by the thumbs by outraged merchants or other objects of their satire, but they've escaped unscathed so far.
Their television characters are superb — Kindly Dr. John, Linda Lovely (beautifully played by Audrey Meadows), Mary Magoon (a hairy-armed recipe-maker whose face never is seen, because Ray plays her) and a superb pointy-headed man named Uncle Eugene, who makes peanut butter sandwiches endlessly. This may not seem funny. All right, it doesn't seem funny. But it is, you must take all New York's word for it.