The Komodo Dragon

The November 29 New York Times Magazine has a piece (“Hand-Me-Down Humor”) by Ed Zuckerman on the Elliott family of comic actors (Bob, his son Chris, and Chris’s daughter Abby) — which immediately reminded me of some of my favorite Bob and Ray routines, in particular the Komodo Dragon interview.

Ray Goulding is interviewing the alliterative Dr. Darryl Dexter, the great expert on the Komodo Dragon (played by Bob Elliott), who begins by sketching (in a deadpan voice) the basic facts about the creature: “The Komodo Dragon is the world’s  largest living lizard …”  More alliteration.

The interview then runs through several exchanges in which Goulding asks about facts he’s just been given by Elliott, who struggles to paraphrase and expand on what he’s just said. Each expansion leads to another pointless question from Goulding. (The routine, which Bob and Ray did again and again over the years, is available on-line in a number of versions.)

Bob and Ray often portrayed inept radio announcers, interviewers, and reporters, not to mention frustrating interviewees (the spokesman for the Slow Talkers of America, for instance). And they did many parodies of radio shows and personalities — among them, Mary Backstayge, Noble Wife (Mary Noble, Backstage Wife), Mr. Trace, Keener Than Most Persons (Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons), with transpositions in the titles.

A huge body of their material is available, for sheer enjoyment and as a source of data on discourse organization (and how it can go awry) and on language play.

5 Responses to “The Komodo Dragon”

  1. Chris Says:

    I used to enjoy Bob and Ray’s House of Toast. As a matter of fact, there is a chain of toast restaurants in Singapore (and maybe Malaysia) which sells a local delicacy called Kaya Toast, where “kaya” is a spread kind of like maple butter.

  2. arnoldzwicky Says:

    To Chris Hansen: it’s hard to know when to stop quoting this stuff, though the House of Toast is close to the top of my list. (Here in Palo Alto there’s a House of Foam just two blocks away, and in Columbus I wasn’t far from a House of Dinettes and a House of Tiles.) There’s just so much in Bob and Ray, and Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, and Monty Python (just to mention some comedy I’ve alluded to here or on Language Log), and …

  3. arnoldzwicky Says:

    On “largest living lizard”: metrically very pleasing (all trochaic) as well as alliterative, and with some assonance as well. A little line of poetry.

  4. The House of X formula « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] has been on to Bob and Ray’s House of Toast before — in a comment on my brief posting of last November 30 on their “Komodo Dragon”, which was also an appreciation of Elliott […]

  5. Burlesques, parodies, playful allusions « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] The Komodo dragon (link): parodies by Bob and […]

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