Mr. Elliott was the smaller, meeker half of Bob and Ray. Short, balding and milquetoast-ish, he stood in apt contrast to his bigger, more blustery partner, Ray Goulding. They shared, however, a talent for understated, low-key humor that set them apart from their contemporaries in every decade of their long career, which began in the 1940s.
Bob and Ray sketches dealt in slow-boil absurdism. They did not tell jokes, per se, but invested in different characters in each bit. The people appeared normal at first glance but, but revealed themselves as slightly off-kilter as the skit went on.
A recurring character was hapless man-on-the-street Wally Ballou, played by Mr. Elliott with deadpan earnestness. Hailed as the "winner of over seven international diction awards," Ballou broke hot stories such as the cranberry grower who had never heard of cranberry juice or sauce as business options. In another sketch, he played the president of the Slow Talkers of America, whose paced speaking (a healthy pause between each word) drove his interviewer (Goulding) to distraction.
They were particularly skilled in spoofing the the media and advertising worlds. The United States Mint was sold, in their words as “"One of the nation's leading producers of genuine U.S. currency.”
Their parody of soap operas, "Mary Backstayge Noble Wife," was billed thus: "America's favorite family of the footlights and their fight for security and happiness against the concrete heart of Broadway." The team first broke into radio and then began appearing on television in the ‘50s on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and Jack Paar’s "Tonight" show. They also had their own show, "The Bob and Ray Show," for a time.
In 1970, they took their act, titled Bob and Ray: The Two and Only, to Broadway. The show ran for six months. In the program, in typical Bob and Ray humor, the scene is set as: “The setting is quite cluttered. Time: the following Tuesday.”
Mr. Elliott also appeared in occasional movies, notably "Cold Turkey," "Quick Change" and "Cabin Boy." He also starred alongside his actor-comedian son Chris Elliott, in the sitcom "Get a Life." Chris survives him, as does son Robert Jr. and three daughters Colony Elliott Santangelo, Amy Elliott Andersen and Shannon Elliott. Ray Goulding died in 1990.
Perhaps because of their unflashy style, Bob and Ray never became comedies sensations. But neither did they ever quite fade away. They counted among their fans some of the comedy heavyweights of their time, including David Letterman, Johnny Carson, Al Franken, George Carlin and Garrison Keillor.