Bob & Ray musings of the week (now with new download action!)

Being a Bob & Ray fan is a peculiarly fraught business, betimes.

Over forty years they racked up many thousands of hours of radio and TV comedy…much of which was ad-libbed, and all of which was performed without a mikeside script. No human being could be expected to consistently bring the funnie over that kind of a period. That they ended up with even a 60-40 average is enough for immortality…and I’m by no means sure of that number. Might be closer to 70-30.

This is why their output exists today mostly as neatly-collated individual skits scissored out of the random mass. The stuff that features a a well-set-up beginning, a middle containing…discernable humour (with these two, asking for punchlines is pushing it) and a neat windup at the end. Which is of course the only sane way to appreciate anyone’s comedic brilliance.

As she has mentioned before, however, yours truly enjoys hearing Bob & Ray’s ad-libbed bits above all else – their natural interaction and improvisation – and thus it can sometimes be a bit of a slog, plowing through entire programmes and picking out the really good bits. You can’t predict it nohow. They can be merely puttering along for hours in a row, and then all of a sudden one or the other will toss out a completely throwaway quip and it’s like Dorothy just stepped out into the Technicolour.

The other problem with this approach is being a listener who’s fascinated with Bob & Ray, themselves. Or, more accurately perhaps, with their ability to keep their selves hidden. Occasional mentions aside (usually of their children), they exhibit an uncanny ability to efface their personal lives from their comedy stylings. Let alone their celebrity ones. Whitney Baillet, whose two New Yorker profiles constitute a large chunk of their public biography, suggests this near-pathological shyness simply is normal behaviour among humourists…I’m not entirely sure. It may be that I’ve only encountered the ones who base their entire careers around their own intimate lives and times, but there does seem to be an awful lot of those.

Anyway, the point of all this – I swear – is that my favourite Bob & Ray material is quickly becoming their very early stuff, the Matinee shows of 1948-50, which are entirely ad-libbed and nearly every word of it…well, if it isn’t always brilliant, or revealing, it’s at least endlessly, endlessly charming. They hadn’t yet acquired anything much in the way of dignity, then, or even of purpose. Nothing distracts from their sheer delight in their own ability to make laughter, their eagerness to explore it.

So that when I discovered a set of twenty intact eps on CD for sale online, I immediately turned to Shoemom my financial advisor and de-mothballed the power wheedle, splendidly heedless even of that gorgeous new dress I overspent on last week.
Took awhile, but eventually I was permitted to join the paid-membership ranks of geekdom, and must never again mock those who spend hundreds on a Barbie doll they’re not going to take out of the box….wait, yeah, those I can still mock. Also those who spend hundreds on, say, an Actual Genuine Replica Slaying Knife as used on Buffy…Maybe I should start with model-train collectors and work my way up.

To celebrate mine purchase, I thought I’d provide download links to two more of the bootleg Matinee eps I’ve just discovered, both from September 1948. The usual random off-duty staffers, friends and family have been augmented somehow into a full-fledged studio audience, and as a result both men are at the top of their game. Rated PG for some mild playground stuff – I’m guessing the audience may have consisted largely of college students. Enjoy!

Episode 1

Episode 2

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