Bob Elliott, one-half of the Fifties comedy duo Bob and Ray and father of comedian Chris Ellott, passed away Tuesday at his home in Cundy’s Harbor, Maine. He was 92. Chris Elliott confirmed his father’s passing to the New York Times. No cause of death was given.
The partnership between Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding began in Boston in the late Forties, with the duo eventually headlining their own radio, TV and stage show. As part of the team’s The Bob and Ray Show television program, Elliott popularized characters like reporter Wally Ballou, sportscaster Biff Burns and “Harlow … P … Whitcomb,” the president of the Slow Talkers of America. The series ran for only two years but Bob and Ray continued collaborating after its cancellation.
David Letterman was an admirer and frequently had Elliott and Goulding on his Late Night NBC program. “The funniest people in this country, these guys are also two of the keenest observers of the American scene and the finest interviewers in the business,” Letterman said of the duo prior to one interview. Letterman would eventually hire Chris Elliott to be a runner for his Late Night, a role that eventually blossomed into a staff writer.
“[Letterman] told me that he’d tried a number of times to book Bob and Ray on The Tonight Show when he was filling in for Johnny,” Chris Elliott told Rolling Stone in 2008. “But he hadn’t had any luck.”
Goulding passed away in 1990 at the age of 68.
Later, Bob Elliott continued to show up on the small screen, appearing on Saturday Night Live, Happy Days and Newhart; Elliott’s 1978 cameo on SNL meant that three generations of the family appeared on the sketch comedies series, as both son Chris and granddaughter Abby were one-time cast members. Bob Elliott was also cast to play the father of his own son on Chris’ sitcom Get a Life, and again played his son’s father on screen for the 1994 film Cabin Boy. Elliott also lent his vocal talents to A Prairie Home Companion.
“My hero, who was ceaselessly encouraging to me,” Keith Olbermann tweeted following news of Elliott’s passing. “For my money, we lost an American hero today. Rest in peace, Bob Elliott, and thank you for everything.”