Tuesday, September 28, 2004

An Honest Politician

I'm hardly going against the grain (choose whichever grain you prefer) by saying that I like Bob and Ray. During election season, one routine that always comes to my mind as one of their best is one called "Corrupt Mayor." Bob and Ray were primarily mass-media parodists -- they made their name by coming onto the radio and making deadpan fun of all the terrible stuff that you'd just heard on the radio that day: the soap operas, the sports programs, and, especially, news programming. Bob and Ray are the forefathers of the routines on shows like The Daily Show, where the correspondents play on our knowledge of the cliches of broadcast journalism, and of the lengths to which reporters and interviewees alike will go to keep from speaking plainly.

Anyway, the "Corrupt Mayor" routine, like many of Bob and Ray's routines, is set up as a mock news interview, with Bob as the interviewer and Ray as the interviewee. It's partly a parody of the typical bland interview where a politician discusses his life, except the politician happens to have led a life of total corruption. But the premise is also something like: what would happen if the people in a news interview really did speak plainly, without "spin" words (or whatever it used to be called before the term "spin" became popular) or denials? Some excerpts:

BOB: The story of this man's trial has been on the front pages of most of our nation's newspapers for several weeks now. He is the corrupt mayor of Skunk Haven, New Jersey, Mr. Ralph "Moody" Thayer. Mayor Thayer... to go back over your checkered career: you were a petty forger, a master swindler, a convicted embezzler --

RAY: Convicted of perjury several times.

BOB: ...Then after you completed your formal education, I believe you developed an interest in financial matters? Lending money?

RAY: Loan sharking. Yes, I did that for several years, until the criminal element in town asked me to run for public office. I took that as a mandate.

BOB: I remember that first election. It still stands as the crookedest in Skunk Haven history.

RAY: Thank you.

BOB: That was only the beginning, and now, through your various administrations, you've managed to riddle each and every department with corruption, from the top all the way through even to the visiting nurse association... Do you think it's easier to be corrupt now than it was, say, ten or fifteen years ago?

RAY: Oh, my, yes! Ten or fifteen years ago it was a disgrace to be corrupt. Now it's a rich, fertile field. I would recommend it to anyone with a devious mind, who is willing to put in long hours without working hard.

The routine was incorporated into Bob and Ray's Broadway show Bob and Ray, the Two and Only, though I would assume they'd done it on radio before that. There was a recording of The Two and Only -- that's where I heard it and most of Bob and Ray's other famous routines, like "Slow Talker" -- but now I notice that it no longer seems to be available from the Bob and Ray website. Oh, well. Here's a good overview of the work of Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding.

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