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Smothers Brothers performing in August 2004

The Smothers Brothers are an American double act, consisting of the brothers Thomas ("Tom") and Richard ("Dick"). The brothers' trademark act was performing folk songs (Tommy on acoustic guitar, Dick on string bass), which usually led to arguments between the siblings. Tommy's signature line was, "Mom always liked you best!" Tommy (the elder of the two) acted "slow", and Dick, the straight man, acted "superior".

In the 1960s, the brothers frequently appeared on television variety shows and issued several popular record albums of their stage performances. Their own television variety show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, became one of the most controversial American TV programs of the Vietnam War era. Despite popular success, the brothers' penchant for material that was critical of the political mainstream and sympathetic to the emerging counterculture led to their program's cancellation by the CBS network in 1969.

The brothers continued to work, both independently and as a team, on stage and television, and in films during subsequent decades. They continue to tour the country as the longest-lived comedy team in history;[citation needed] 2008 marked their 50th year performing together.


Early years

The brothers were both born on Governors Island in New York Harbor, where their father, Thomas B. Smothers, Jr., a West Point graduate and U.S. Army officer, was stationed.[1] Tom was born on February 2, 1937,[1] and Dick was born on November 20, 1939.[2] Major Smothers served in the 45th Infantry Regiment (United States) and died during World War II, while being transported from a Japanese prisoner of war camp in Fukuoka, Japan, to a POW camp in Mukden, Manchukuo.[1] They were raised by their mother in the Los Angeles area.

They graduated from Redondo Union High School in Redondo Beach, California, and attended San Jose State University. After a brief time in a folk group called the Casual Quintet, the Smothers made their first professional appearance as a duo in February 1959 at The Purple Onion in San Francisco.[citation needed] They were a popular act in clubs and released several successful record albums, the most successful being Live at the Purple Onion in 1961. The first national television appearance for them was on The Jack Paar Show on January 28, 1961.[3]

The brothers appeared in a segment of the television series Burke's Law, in 1964, in which they played two compulsive hoarders.[2] Their first television series was a situation comedy, The Smothers Brothers Show (1965–1966).[4] Tom played an angel come back to earth to oversee his brother Dick, who played a swinging bachelor. It did not do well in the ratings and had little of the music that was identified with the brothers. Tom would later say "Four Star (the production company) gave me ulcers."[citation needed]

The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour

Later career

The Smothers Brothers had further television shows: a 1968 ABC summer replacement series, The Summer Brothers Smothers Show[5]; The Smothers Brothers Show (1975)[6], initially produced by Joe Hamilton (who concurrently produced The Carol Burnett Show, starring his wife), which was an unsuccessful attempt to recapture the look and feel of the original comedy-variety series without the controversy; and The Tom and Dick Smothers Brothers Specials I and II in 1980. In 1981, Tom and Dick Smothers played non-brothers in a light drama, set in San Francisco, titled Fitz and Bones. Both characters worked at a Bay Area television station; Tom played cameraman Bones Howard and Dick played Ryan Fitzpatrick, an investigative reporter. The show was cancelled after five episodes.[7] Later, there was The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (1988–1989).[8] This show began production during a 1988 Writers Guild of America strike. As writer-performers, the brothers were allowed to perform their own material during the strike, as were their staff and guest stars. Prior to this they had reportedly saved an episode of Saturday Night Live by breaking through a picket line and hosting the show against the union's wishes; the episode was a ratings smash the likes of which the series had not seen since the 1970s. The Smothers Brothers also lent their (uncredited) singing voices to "Tom and Tom, the Brothers Brothers" in In Living Color (1990–1994), and guest starred on Bonnie Hunt's Life With Bonnie in 2004.

We still disagree about everything. I mean, he's more conservative politically and also is a pragmatist. He's very pragmatic and wants everything to line up and put in a box. And I'm a little bit looser.

—Tommy Smothers (on his brother Dick),
from a 2006 interview.[9]

The brothers have worked independently as well; Dick has appeared as an actor in films, including a rare dramatic role as a Nevada state senator in Martin Scorsese's Casino. Tom appeared in the 2005 made-for-television movie Once Upon a Mattress.

The Smothers Brothers operate the Remick Ridge Vineyards (Remick was their mother's maiden name) in Sonoma County, California, and continue to tour. Marci Smothers, wife of Tom Smothers, hosts a talk show on KSRO, Santa Rosa, California.[citation needed]

They appeared in the documentary The Aristocrats in 2005, and had separate cameos in the 2009 film The Informant!.

In 2003, the brothers were awarded the George Carlin Freedom of Expression Award from the Video Software Dealers’ Association. The award recognizes the brothers' “extraordinary comic gifts and their unfailing support of the First Amendment.” In the same year, they both received Honorary Doctorate Degrees from San Jose State University. The Boston Comedy Festival presented a Lifetime Achievement Award to the brothers in 2008.[3]

In September 2008, during the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards, Tommy Smothers, a lead writer of "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" was belatedly awarded a 1968 Emmy for Outstanding Writing In A Comedic Series. In 1968, Tommy Smothers had refused to let his name be on the list of writers nominated for the Emmy because he felt his name was too volatile, and thus when the writing staff won he was the only member not to receive the award.[10][3]

In December 2009, the duo guest starred in a 21st-season episode of The Simpsons that also featured Cooper, Peyton and Eli Manning.[11]



External links


Simple English

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

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

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 show, 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, 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

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.


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