Smothers Brothers

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The Smothers Brothers

Smothers Brothers performing in August 2004
Genre Variety
Written by Norman Sedawie
Starring Thomas Smothers
Richard Smothers
Narrated by Peter Cullen
Country of origin USA
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 3
No. of episodes 72
Broadcast
Original channel CBS
Picture format 4:3
Audio format Mono
Original run February 5, 1967 (1967-02-05) – April 20, 1969 (1969-04-20)

The Smothers Brothers are an American folk music comedy duo, made up of real-life brothers Tom ("Tommy") and Dick Smothers. They were at their most popular during the 1960s and 1970s. Tom plays acoustic guitar and Dick plays upright bass, and both men sing. They pretend to get into arguments about the songs, and this forms much of their comedy act.

Early career[change | change source]

The Smothers Brothers began their career during the folk music boom in the United States, during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Their comedy got them noticed, and they began to make records and appear on television. Later they starred in their own television series, The Smothers Brothers Show. They did not sing or perform music on this show, but instead Dick played a man whose deceased brother (Tom) became his guardian angel.

The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour[change | change source]

Their next series, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, was a variety show, with live performances by musical guests, and sometimes actors and comedians. The brothers hosted the program, which began in 1967. They would begin with a song in their usual style, and introduce the performers. Along with guests, the show had regular actors and writers. These included Steve Martin, Pat Paulsen, Bob Einstein, Mason Williams, Leigh French and Lorenzo Music.

Some of the guests who appeared on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour were Bette Davis, Tony Randall, Kate Smith, Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor, and Inger Stevens. Some of their musical guests were Pete Seeger, The Turtles, Janis Ian, Jefferson Airplane, Nancy Sinatra, The First Edition (with a young Kenny Rogers), Donovan, Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, Jennifer Warnes, Harry Nilsson and The Buckinghams. Glen Campbell regularly appeared on the show, and hosted a summer replacement series, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.

Sometimes the performances had controversial topics, like the Vietnam War, population and many social issues. CBS, who broadcast the show, sometimes censored it, taking parts out that a large number of people might disagree with. They warned the brothers about presenting things that might cause upset to viewers. The Smotherses and their staff, though, believed it was important to comment about such things. The issues mattered to them, and were affecting people around the United States and the world.

In 1969, CBS cancelled the show, even though they had already promised another season of shows would be made. The reason given was that David Steinberg, a comedian whose style included double entendre, had been invited back to appear even though CBS had vetoed his reappearance. The two sides went to court.

In 1973, the court decided CBS had violated (broken) their contract with the Smothers Brothers, and that the real reason they had cancelled the show was out of censorship. CBS had to pay the Smotherses for the never-made season. The reputation of the brothers, though, had suffered.

Later career[change | change source]

The Smothers Brothers tried to produce a new show, this time for the ABC television network, but it did not last long. Times had changed, and viewers were now interested in other shows and performers.

The brothers went back to appearing live, in small clubs and large venues, as the chances came. One night in 1974, they were appearing in the Troubadour Club in Los Angeles, California. Two members of the audience were Harry Nilsson and John Lennon, who both knew the Smothers Brothers offstage. (Tom Smothers had even appeared on Lennon's 1969 single "Give Peace A Chance", as a member of the Plastic Ono Band, while Nilsson had appeared on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.) As it turned out, Nilsson and Lennon were drunk, and began to heckle the brothers, thinking it would help the show. It did not, and Nilsson and Lennon were finally escorted out. (They both sent flowers to the Smotherses the next day, and issued an apology.)

The Smothers Brothers remained popular with many fans, and continued to perform their act as years went by. They appeared on programs like The Tonight Show during the 1970s and 1980s. A television special in 1988 reunited many of the Comedy Hour cast members, and another short-lived series was produced. CBS aired the new programs, having long ago made peace with the Smotherses.

In later years, the Smothers Brothers appeared in Las Vegas and Branson, Missouri, still performing their familiar act. They continue to tour, more than fifty years after their careers began, often backed by local symphony orchestras.