Did The Bob and Ray Comedy Duo Get Their Start Due to Red Sox Game Rainouts?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to radio and the people “behind the microphone,” so to speak, and whether they are true or false.

RADIO URBAN LEGEND: Bob and Ray got started as a comedy duo due to Red Sox rainouts.

Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding, credited as Bob and Ray, were one of the top radio comedy duos of the 20th Century. Elliott’s comedy legacy continues to this day with his son, Chris Elliott, and his granddaughter, Abby Elliott, both being involved in comedy (Chris and Abby are the first and, so far, only father and daughter to both be cast members on Saturday Night Live).

Their official website (both men have since passed away) quotes the New Yorker on them, “Bob & Ray invented, dreamed up the lines for, and then played, mainly on radio and television, a surrealistic Dickensian repertory company, which chastens the fools of the world with hyperbole, slapstick, parody, verbal nonsense, non sequitur, and sheer wit, all of it clean, subtle and gentle… Bob & Ray’s humor turns on their faultless timing and on their infinite sense of the ridiculous. It is also framed by that special sly, dry, wasteless vision of life perfected during the last couple of centuries by middle-class New Englanders…”

But how did they get their start?
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Did the Pestering of Reporters Lead to the Famed Description of the NBC Monitor?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to radio and the people “behind the microphone,” so to speak, and whether they are true or false.

RADIO URBAN LEGEND: Pat Weaver came up with the trademark description of The NBC Monitor on the fly when being pestered by reporters.

The NBC Monitor was a radio program that basically saved NBC Radio in a time when radio was deemed on its way out with the advent of television.

The show almost defied definition, as NBC (Radio and TV) President Pat Weaver came up with the idea of developing a weekend program that would put together the best minds available to NBC and producing quick bits of news and infotainment that would last the whole weekend. It would work so that no matter when you turned to the program, you would be able to get SOMEthing interesting to listen to.

It was seen as a bizarre gambit by Weaver at a time when radio stations were locked into general 30 minute or 60 minute shows, but it definitely paid off.

Basically, it is the same principle Weaver used on television for NBC’s Today Show (which still goes on today). You just use up blocks of time with interesting people and viewers will tune in. Soon, basically every radio station affiliate across the country were “on the Monitor Beacon.”

The show was introduced with an otherworldly sound called the Monitor Beacon (it would also be used to transition out of station breaks).

Courtesy of the great Monitor tribute site, The Monitor Beacon Tribute Pages, click here to hear an MP3 of the Monitor Beacon sound.

In any event, as you might imagine, it was difficult for Pat Weaver to describe a show that would have, say, X minutes of an old-time radio show then X minutes of visiting a Celebrity Chef then X minutes of straight news then X minutes of Bob and Ray doing a comedy routine then the weather (done in a breathy, sexy voice by “Miss Monitor,” played by actress Tedi Thurman) then X amount of minutes of live jazz.

So when he first described the show to affiliates on Friday, April 1, 1955, the affiliates must have felt that this was some sort of April Fool’s joke by Weaver! While they did not fully grasp the concept all that well, Weaver had an even tougher time when he debuted the concept to reporters in a press conference a few days later.

It is there that Weaver actually came up with the phrase that would forever be connected to the Monitor – and he did it on the fly!
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