Bob & Ray [sporfle!] of the week

So I’m listening to my B&R stuff the other night, one of the skit collections that I hadn’t got around to yet because it’s an hour long and won’t play on my iPod**, and ran across what is very possibly the single cutest moment in the history of comedy: Ray interviews a ‘bunny exterminator’, that is to say Bob…

…doing a pitch-perfect Elmer Fudd. (Here named Robin Pickett, presumably because copyright lawyers don’t find this sort of thing funny.)

And I do mean perfect; an offhand salute from one of the great anarchistic spirits of comedy to another. I think that’s just swell. Especially bearing in mind that this is the early ’50’s, when the reference – to what was then generally thought of as adult entertainment – would’ve been still hip and current:

Ray: Robin, isn’t this kind of an inopportune time to be engaged in such activities? I mean…Easter Sunday coming up so soon?
Robin: Yeah…well, we don’t weawwy try to exterminate ’em. We just try to scawe ’em.
Ray: So in other words you’re not trying to kill the, ah, bunny, you just kind of stun them, is that right?
Robin: That’s wight. Just scawe ’em away from the farmer’s cwops.
Ray: What kind of cwops – er, crops – do they attack, usually, sir?
Robin: Well, anything gween, like, uh, salad gweens…
Ray (catching on): How about tuwwips – I mean, tulips?
Robin: Yes, tuwwips…cawwots…ah..anything that makes the – I beg youw pawdon?
Ray (starting to enjoy himself): I was just going to say…Gowwy, Wobin, is that wipstick on your collar?
Robin: Wipstick? Where?
Ray: Sure wooks wike it.
Robin: Well, uh, I…[giving up]...We use swingshots.
Ray: You use the regular old slingshot.
Robin: That’s wight.
Ray: And that more or less stuns the bunny, is that right?
Robin (mildly shocked): No, we don’t hit the bunny, unless we take pawticulawwy good aim, and that’s only by accident. We just want to scawe ’em away from Farmer Bwown’s stwawbewwy patch.
Ray: Is that the farmer’s name, you’re working for?
Robin: No, that’s hypothetical…
Ray: Oh, so it’s a hypothetical Farmer Brown?
Robin: That’s wight. It could be Farmer Jones, or it could be Farmer…
Ray: Gray…
Robin: No, it wouldn’t be Farmer Gway.
Ray: Oh. Well, whomever it would be, it would be a farmer.
Robin: That’s wight. [pause] And we do get paid for this kind of work.
Ray: Sure. And do you, uh…wear traditional bunny-exterminating clothing, when you’re on the job?
Robin: Well, we twy to camofwage oursewves so we wook wike wabbits. As you know, these long eaws, they’re not mine, this is pawt of my costume…
Ray (drily): Uh-huh. But that white cottontail, that’s yours, isn’t it.
Robin (not getting it): That’s wight.
Ray: Well, sir, thank you for talking with us. I don’t know when I’ve had a more idiotic –
Robin: I’m cwazy, incidentawwy.
Ray: Uh-huh, sure. Well, we accept that; I don’t know when I’ve had a crazier interview. Now, if you don’t mind, I’ll switch back to New York…
Robin: Say hewwo to Mr. Ewwiott when you get back there!
Ray (giving up entirely): Gowwy, I will!

**Has anybody else encountered this? The file engages, pauses, and then without flashing an error message of any kind the iPod quickly moves on to the next file. Sometimes it cuts out similarly in mid-file. Granted, these are pretty ancient mp3s I’m dealing with here, but there doesn’t seem to be any kind of connexion to quality.

In which I talk in mock-Shakespeare for awhile, just because I feel like it.

Act 1: (Enter the Author, wringing her hands against her lavender voile breast.)

Forsooth, I am sad, for I have lost my iPod Nano. My trusty little blue 2G that has been my companion for lo these many days of toil, lightening the burthen of feeding data into the most unkindest of machines. Without it, my mind is bleak as a desert sun, a plain arid and tempest-toss’d; in vain have I searched for an oasis. (Seriously. When you find yourself trying to remember the names of saltwater taffy flavours because you think ‘that’d make a really cool LJ entry!” you know your dependence on modern entertainment media is terminal.)

Act 2:

But soft! What wandering, wavering light is this that shines through my Franz Ferdinand-less gloom? ‘Tis Shoemom, waving the card provided by men of finance for just such curing of melancholy – foolish mortals are they, who allow men to satisfy their fondest longings on their account! Prithee, however, Shoemom has seen writ plain my torment, the exquisite pain of deprivation and want (also, the pain in her butt caused by my non-stop attempts to whine in Olde Englishe). I must hie me away to the shoppe where electronic delights flow into mine ears as the cinnamon syrup flows onto a Cinnabun!

Act 3:

…OK, getting bored now. Point of the exercise is that I’m now sitting here gazing fondly at a new silver Nano 3G. I didn’t think I’d be this impressed with the new models, ‘specially as I’ve got not much use for video capability. There’s gotta be something to be  said for taking a device already perfectly designed for pointless distraction and shamelessly ‘upgrading’ to add even more pointless distraction. Ooh…pretty album covers! Number of songs on the Playlists menu! Cute pink leather case…

I always feel vaguely dweeby when interacting with Apple tech – like I’m stuck in a perpetual Mr. Dressup episode (“OK, kiddies, see the playlist? Now we’re going to draw a picture of you changing the song…”)  – but am too chicken to saddle myself with anything more complex. Pointless distraction should not come with a manual of more than ten pages, this is my new motto.

Headphones, on the other hand, are a problem. My ears are small and very narrow, not good candidates at all for the signature iPhones. I had finally found the perfect pair of seriously cool JVC marshmallow-foam earbuds, now vanished into the ether along with the 2G itself – unless my theory of the disappearance is correct, and the cat is now sneaking off into one of those corners only cats know, the better to groove to Rockin’ Robin or something. (Geddit? Cats, robin…oh, fine then.)
Anyway, upon stuffing my ears with the new iPhones this evening, I noticed a definite unease in re: the sound quality. [Sigh] Onto the list the JVC buds go…along with the new backup hard drive, and the new fall slacks, and the new handbag, and that Mexx blouse I fell hopelessly in love with on the way home from work this afternoon, and…geez, I’m exhausting myself just imagining the whining required. Maybe I better go distract myself with that video capability after all. Or, wait, Cinnabuns…mmmmm….

My life would be pretty well perfect, except…

Can somebody please explain Dragnet parodies to me?

I mean – backtracking a little here – I get Dragnet, itself. For that matter I get cop shows generally, having been a tender devotee of A&E’s rerun lineup in the early 90’s. As such, I even get how ripe – nay, automatic – a target the format must’ve been for hip young comics back in the day. Clearly, this is a touchstone of modern American humour.
Somehow, though, I remain completely unappreciative of their efforts. In whatever format they choose to present them, so I know it’s not just the style. I’ve seen some of the Tom Hanks movie; I’ve seen the Muppet Show skits with Fozzie Bear. I’ve listened to Stan Freberg’s classic ‘St.George and the Dragonet’ (“The story you are about to hear is true. Only the needle should be changed to protect the record”), and the slightly-less-classic Bob & Ray serial ‘Squad Car 1182 Alameda’ (in which the officers of said squad car routinely miss the scene of the crime entirely). Hey, I’ve even read some of the dialogue from Dragnet’67.

And my only reaction is the kind of bemused ‘well, I’m sure that was all very clever…’ parents give kids just before hastily slapping their fingerpaints on the fridge. I appreciate the effort, I’m just not laughing at it. At all. It’s like there’s an entire manic mindset I’m not tuned into here. Probably not to the detriment of health and happiness, or anything, but still a little un-nerving.

Otherwise, this week is shaping rather well. Made the Comment of the Week runner-up float over at the Comics Curmudgeon (scroll down past the baby pics).

Then Shoemom got the urge to redecorate, and I got the new area rug for which I’ve been begging over a year now – one of those pseudo-Oriental jobbies that, in conjunction with a new heavy dark-wood(-finish) bookshelf, is giving off ‘becomingly serious yet charmingly idealistic’ vibes. Which I can now enjoy to the full, because my work situation is likewise flattering. At one point, yesterday, I paused to realise I had all the fall showcase samples in a full day ahead of time.

Then I got the chance to weigh myself and discovered that not only is the current diet working, I’ve lost twenty pounds in two months. Oh, and later this week the mondo Bob & Ray Amazon order arrives.

It’s getting to be kinda freaky, and clearly I need to take advantage while it lasts. If I get some time later this week I think I may try wishing for world peace…or, y’know, going over to Holt Renfrew and staring wistfully at the gorgeous handbags, just to see if any wealthy benefactors will swoop down and gift me with one this time.

Bob & Ray moment of the week

OK, I’ve decided to stop apologising for these, on the grounds that I’ve been reading the blogs of people I like and respect for some while now, and nobody’s similarly worried about their mental health in re: celebrating, say, Supernatural, or whichever Doctor happens to be in vogue that week, or for that matter how long it takes Psylocke of the X-Men to wrap those ninja-y things around her legs each time she gets into costume.

B&R were both even kinda…er…well…adorably homely, back when they were very young. Ray had a genuinely sweet, guileless smile, and Bob those big blue eyes.

So you’ll excuse me while I [sporfle!] over a couple moments from a recently-discovered Christmas 1949 show. The first – which is maybe funnier from the female POV – involves a valiant attempt to recall exactly who besides Jane Russell (and presumably her, ah, girlfriends) stars in The Outlaw, made in 1943 but only recently released by the censors in Boston. “Well, there’s some horses, I guess,” Bob finally hazards. “I mean, it’s a Western.”

The second actually comes a bit earlier in the program; there are no commercials this day, so Mary McGoon (Ray) kills the time suggesting ways the duo can ‘sell’ more effectively. Bob mentions that it’s a shame they can’t ‘play and sing’ like other announcers, which leads to the following:

Mary: “Can you play any instruments at all?”
Bob: “No! No, that’s the problem, we’re untalented. Completely.”
Ray: “Hey, I’m not so bad. My boy got one of ’em xylophones from Santa Claus, and I can play Jingle Bells on it.”
Bob: “Well, we couldn’t play that all year!”
Ray (huffily): “Why not?”
Bob (hastily): “So, Mary, what were your ideas?”
Ray (sulkily) “…I can also play the Marine Hymn.”

What makes me laugh on Monday

Dropped into my ear whilst innocently whiling away a dull Monday afternoon with a random Bob & Ray show from 1949, in which a station staffer walks in with some junk he wants the guys to try and sell for him on-air:

“Ooh, a vibrator!” Ray exclaims with what can only be described as pure childlike eagerness. “I’d love to have one!”


Turns out – mercifully, only a few seconds later – that it’s a barbershop gadget for foaming up the shaving cream.

Of course, natural language drift over time makes for all sorts of incidental fun like this – it’s the same process that’s seen a 1950’s Batman comic in which the Joker starts a ‘boner war’ beloved of myriad modern meme-smiths – but as per standard, with these two things get complicated real fast.

It obviously wasn’t totally ingenuous…as for instance the ‘tiny tin teddy bear’ incident, in which the hifalutin accent Bob’s using transforms the phrase to something like ‘tiny tin tetty…’ only with a vowel swap that can’t be made here on account of this being a family blog, if the drift is clear. The entire studio erupts in giggles, and Bob repeats, archly, “Tiny tin tetty bear…and I’m the only one who’s allowed to say that.”

Other times, it’s just ambiguous enough that one starts wondering if their biggest joke of all wasn’t pulled on the listeners they convinced of their ‘innocence’. Thus Bob – the slight, softspoken one, if you’ll recall – trying to sell a shipment of mismatched dinner plates at the Overstocked Warehouse: “Be gay! Be mad! Be modern!” This was reprinted in a script collection as late as 1985.

And then there’s Ray…again…in a 1973 Word Wizard skit after Bob suggests ‘plunging straight into the mail’: “Male and female serve only to differentialize one type of living creature from another. Now, undoubtedly some male members of the animal kingdom would be softer, say, to plunge into than others; but in any coincidence, the act of literally plunging into the male would in all probabilitiness be injureful!”

…Now, I firmly believe that that one had to do with, uh, swords or something. I really do. If for no other reason than it allows me to cherish a mental image of Ray wondering why his teenage children were looking at him funny all through supper that night.

…and remember to hang by your thumbs

[fade in on announcer’s voice] …One Fella’s Family was dramatized for radio by T. Wilson Messy. This is a Messy Production.

[music fades out]

Ray: Always liked that episode. So, whatta we got now, Bob?

Bob: Well, Ray, we have here with us today –

Ray: Where?

Bob: – In the audience, seated near the Bob & Ray picture window, a young lady with a very unusual hobby. Miss, would you come up to the microphone here please? Yes, just sit down right there –


Ray: – Don’t mind the Great Bob & Ray Bird, he’s just moulting, y’see.

Me: Well, I should say so! Now there’s feathers all over my skirt, and –

Bob: Yes, he does seem to be taking it very hard. Now then, miss, it says here that your hobby is…’writing about bizarre and/or obscure pop-culture topics that nobody else on the Internet cares about.’

Me: Yes, that’s right.


Bob: Well, I must say, miss, that’s a rather elaborate description of what seems to be a fairly flimsy …

Me: Oh, well, yes…I really tried to simplify it, but finally I decided it sounds more exciting that way anyway, so –

Bob [interrupting]: …I mean, it’s so long it barely fits on the card here, I had to turn it sideways just to make it out.

Me: Yes, I meant to talk to you about that – those response cards are kinda small, y’know. I mean, it’s a good thing I’m not a sensitive person, or I’d have a good case there for discrimination against people who write about about bizarre and/or obscure pop-culture topics that nobody else on the Internet cares about.

Ray: She could be right, Bob. I read about the rally in the papers just last week.


Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding, the two and only. You either get them or you don’t…and I am so very, very glad I do. More

Deer in the spotlights

So the other day I decided to recklessly shell out some credits on John Ritter and Arte Johnson reading Dave Barry’s columns. Quite good value, really; if only for the nostalgia factor. At that it’s funny how the one defect in Ritter’s reading is that he hurries a little, as if anxious to get it over. You’d think Barry’s Everyman-to-the-comic-extreme schtick would fit him as comfortably as if, well, they were sharing a beer.

At any rate, the collection also turns out to contain Johnson’s reading of the lengthy piece Barry wrote on the 10th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death. It’s not about The Pelvis, per se, but his fandom – the hardcores, the Graceland ‘gate people’, the ones who made up the eager audience when he rented a local theatre for exclusive showings of (for instance) The Nutty Professor, night after long night.

The thrust – excuse it, please – of Barry’s essay is that, contrary to the popular notion, the really hardcore fans idealized, not the image, but the man himself. That they rode the downhill slope more faithfully with each stop, all the way to the sick, sad, trailer-park joke he was at the end – circling the wagons as you would for a family member, Barry points out. “I still don’t understand it,” he concludes, “but I’m not laughing anymore.”

I was standing in the checkout line @ Wal-Mart pondering this, and the thought occurred that – well, to be entirely honest, that I finally had a way of working Britney Spears into my journal [waves happily at theoretical oodles of new Google traffic] without feeling like a total sellout. More

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