Tom and dick smother
Tom and dick Smother. Image: CBS News

In a surprising turn of events, the iconic comedy duo, Tom and Dick Smothers, find themselves back in the spotlight after decades. Once famous for their groundbreaking show that challenged the norms of prime time TV, they never expected to return to the camera, let alone on the very network that had canceled their top-rated series in 1969.

Tommy, the skilled guitarist, and Dick, the straight man on the bass, reflect on their past with a mix of nostalgia and self-awareness. Initially considering themselves folk singers rather than stand-up comedians, their unique blend of music and humor struck a chord with audiences. Just two weeks after the premiere of “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” their show surpassed even the mighty “Bonanza” in ratings, a feat that was deemed almost unthinkable at the time.

What captivated audiences was not only their musical talents but also their endearing bouts of sibling rivalry, punctuated by the famous line, “Mom liked you best!” However, the truth behind their on-stage arguments was that they often mirrored the tensions they experienced offstage. In fact, their relationship became so strained that they resorted to couple counseling, acknowledging the unique dynamics of their partnership.

The Smothers Brothers’ youth appealed to CBS, which sought to attract a younger audience. At the ages of 29 and 30, Dick and Tom respectively, they found themselves swept up in the political and social upheavals of the 1960s. Their show fearlessly tackled sensitive topics, with nothing deemed off-limits. Alongside fellow talented writers such as Steve Martin and Rob Reiner, they infused their comedy with social consciousness, commenting on issues like the Vietnam War and satirizing political figures like President Nixon.

However, their increasing sharpness in humor invited the scrutiny of CBS censors, who began wielding their scissors to remove controversial content, sometimes even entire skits. This censorship put Tommy on the defensive, leading to tensions between him and the network. Despite the pushback, Tommy continued to push boundaries, poking the bear and testing the limits of what they could say on air.

Ultimately, the conflict between the Smothers Brothers and CBS reached its breaking point, resulting in their dismissal from the network. Although they won a lawsuit against CBS for breach of contract, the victory offered little solace as they found themselves banished from the television landscape.

Undeterred, the duo continued performing, appearing in various TV and stage shows. CBS even extended an olive branch and invited them back for a period. Last year, in their mid-80s, they embarked on developing a new stage show, filled with both fresh material and beloved classics. The brothers found immense joy in connecting with audiences once again, reminiscing about the past and reveling in the enduring love and attention they received.

However, behind the scenes, Tom faced a personal battle. Since our last encounter, he has been diagnosed with stage 2 lung cancer. Despite this challenging news, he remains positive as he undergoes treatment, with a promising prognosis. In the meantime, Dick has taken on the task of reworking the show, preparing to step on stage without his brother by his side—an unfamiliar experience for both of them.

As they navigate this new chapter, the Smothers Brothers hold on to the belief that making people laugh is a sacred act. Tom, in particular, considers the sound of laughter to be holy and cherishes the ability to create and control it. For Dick, the happiest moments in his life have been standing on stage alongside his brother, sharing that unique connection with the audience—a defining experience that brings immeasurable joy.

The Smothers Brothers’ story is one of resilience, marked by their ability to overcome challenges, push boundaries, and embrace their shared passion for comedy. Despite the obstacles they faced, their legacy as comedic trailblazers endures, reminding us of the power of laughter in even the most turbulent times.

Source: CBS News

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