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Friday, December 17, 2010

Bob and Ray and MAD

Hello fellow bloggers and those who like my rambling. We have more MAD goodness. THis time we're going back to even earlier in MAD's history. In the mid to late 1950s, MAD would often bring in guest writers to write articles for them. Among them would be famous humorists such as Wally Cox and Jean Shepherd (the man behind A Christmas Story). Even the famous Danny Kaye contributed one or two things to the magazine.

These particular comic-strip articles (it feels weird calling these things just articles) are from, and starring, the incredible comedy duo of Bob and Ray.

Bob and Ray was made up of Robert Brackett Elliott (b. March 26, 1923) and Raymond Walter Goulding (March 20, 1922 - March 24, 1990).

They were mainly radio comedians, specializing in needling radio's pretentiousness, sentimentality, and silliness, according to author and cultural critic Gerald Nachman. They were sharp satirists who blazed the trail for future comedians such as Mort Sahl, Jonathan Winters, and Bob Newhart. Though they were mainstays of radio, they did do television off and on. They hosted a TV version of their show on NBC from 1951 - 1953.

These comics use the duo's classic character, radio/TV interviewer Wally Ballou (winner of 16 diction awards). He is played by Bob Elliott. The men he interviews are portrayed by Ray Goulding.


From MAD Issue No. 36 (December 1957)
Illustrated by Mort Drucker

I love the Henry Syverson flavored cartoons in this. Mort Drucker was probably inspired by him, or at least appreciated his work.

From MAD Issue No. 41 (September 1958)
Illustrated by Mort Drucker

I greatly admire these, not the least of which is the astonishing work of Mort Drucker. He perfectly captured the attitude and sensibility of Bob and Ray's humor. His artwork also adds another dimension to it.

Both comics/articles perfectly capture the atmosphere of early television. The first comic is the banality of the studio interview. You see people rushing around in the back, albeit in a more cartoony way, but it wholly encapsulates that spirit. The second one caricatures the whole unpredictable facet of television. Writing and art coalesce into a hilarious send-up of the medium and those that participate in it.

Notice how in the two articles, Ray's characters do not look exactly the same. In the first one, he appears more as the devious, greasy scumbag he plays. In the rocket launch episode, he is shown more as a portly middle-aged man with an overabundant feeling of self-worth. Drucker's cartoons show the distinct difference in nature between the characters, all through his powerful cartooning. As David Apatoff said, Drucker approached each caricature and article with a clean slate. No one Drucker cartoon looks exactly alike.

Mort Drucker's work fits Bob and Ray as much as George Cruikshank matches the world of Charles Dickens.

Sadly, after the 1950s, MAD no longer used outside writers, preferring to stick with their own staff. Real shame.

More MAD goodness to come, amongst other things.


Steven Hartley said...

Personally; I've never been a fan of MAD nor have I seen it before; but it's a good collection that you have here. ;)

Eric Noble said...

Thanks Steven. I guess MAD is more of an American sensibility. I say just study the artwork.

Ignacio Ochoa said...

I like the Tonal Plan. The composition with black , white, and a few grays.

Eric Noble said...

Drucker definitely used the black, white,and gray color scheme to his advantage. Everything reads so clearly in his art. There are side gags (what Will Elder called "chicken fat humor"), but he knows where our attention should be focused.

David Apatoff said...

I'm glad to see another Drucker fan getting the word out. He is truly a genius, and deserves more recognition.

Will Finn said...

Bob and Ray and Mort are an unbeatable combination. Thanks for bringing these up, I've only seen a couple different ones before.

One of the great "d'oh!" moments of my life was being too busy to answer a phone call at the office around 1988. When i checked my voice mail (too many) hours later it turned out to be a friend inviting me to join him at one of their few (and Ray's last) appearances in LA. I still kick myself for missing that one.