Tom Smothers - one-half of The Smothers Brothers - has died aged 86

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By stefan armitage

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Tom Smothers, renowned as half of the iconic Smothers Brothers duo, and co-host of the groundbreaking The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, has passed away at the age of 86.

The news of his death was confirmed by the National Comedy Center on behalf of his family, stating that Smothers passed away on Tuesday at his Santa Rosa, California residence, following a battle with cancer.

In a heartfelt statement, via HuffPost, Tom's brother and the other half of the dynamic duo, Dick Smothers, reflected on their enduring partnership, both on and off stage, spanning over six remarkable decades.

"Tom was not only the loving older brother that everyone would want in their life, he was a one-of-a-kind creative partner. I am forever grateful to have spent a lifetime together with him, on and off stage, for over 60 years," Dick Smothers expressed. "Our relationship was like a good marriage — the longer we were together, the more we loved and respected one another. We were truly blessed."

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Tom Smothers with his brother, Dick. Credit: Mark Sullivan / Getty

When The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour made its debut on CBS in the fall of 1967, it took the television landscape by storm, defying expectations and becoming an instant sensation.

Despite being slotted against the top-rated Bonanza, the show not only thrived but also became a cultural touchstone of its time.

Its keen observations on pop culture trends, featuring young rock stars like The Who and Buffalo Springfield, as well as daring sketches that ridiculed the Establishment, protested against the Vietnam War, and portrayed members of the era's hippie counterculture as gentle, fun-loving spirits, resonated deeply with the young baby boomer generation.

In its first season, the show even reached the impressive No. 16 spot in the ratings.

However, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was not without its controversies. The show frequently clashed with network censors, and its outspokenness on various issues, including satirical commentary on Easter and Christmas, did not sit well with some viewers.

The brothers even played a pivotal role in bringing the blacklisted folk singer Pete Seeger back to television, showcasing his song 'Waist Deep in the Big Muddy,' which was seen as a critique of President Lyndon Johnson's handling of the Vietnam War. This segment faced resistance from CBS but eventually made it to air.

Despite their success, the network canceled the show in 1970, accusing the Smothers Brothers of failing to submit an episode for censorship review.

Nearly four decades later, Tom Smothers humorously acknowledged the writers he believed had contributed to his firing when he received an honorary Emmy for his work on the show. He also used the platform to speak out against the prevailing notion that peace could only be achieved through war. His words resonated with those who believed in speaking truth to power and resisting efforts to silence dissenting voices.

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Singer and dancer Judy Carne with Tom and Dick Smothers. Credit: Bettmann / Getty

Tom and Dick Smothers were more than just comedy legends; they were champions of free expression and fearless entertainers. Their battles with CBS are immortalized in the 2002 documentary Smothered: The Censorship Struggles of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

Before their groundbreaking television show, the Smothers Brothers honed their unique comedic style on the nightclub and college circuits. Their routine blended folk music with a healthy dose of sibling rivalry. On stage, Tom, wielding a guitar, and Dick, with an upright bass, would launch into a traditional folk song, only for Tom - playing the role of the bumbling brother - to deliberately mess up the tune and humorously claim it was intentional.

Dick - portraying the serious and short-tempered sibling - would berate him, often culminating in the famous line: "Mom always liked you best!"

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Tom and Dick performing on-stage. Credit: Mark Junge / Getty

While they maintained this shtick on their show, they also surrounded themselves with a talented ensemble of emerging writers and performers. Their writing team featured future actor-producer Rob Reiner, musician Mason Williams, and comedian Steve Martin, who presented Tom Smothers with a lifetime Emmy in 2008. The show's regular musical guests included esteemed artists like John Hartford, Glen Campbell, and Jennifer Warnes.

Tom Smothers's passing marks the end of an era in comedy, but his legacy as a fearless advocate for artistic freedom and his indelible contributions to entertainment will continue to inspire generations to come.

Our thoughts go out to Tom's fans, family, and friends at this time.

Featured image credit: Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer / Jason LaVeris / Getty

Tom Smothers - one-half of The Smothers Brothers - has died aged 86

vt-author-image

By stefan armitage

Article saved!Article saved!

Tom Smothers, renowned as half of the iconic Smothers Brothers duo, and co-host of the groundbreaking The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, has passed away at the age of 86.

The news of his death was confirmed by the National Comedy Center on behalf of his family, stating that Smothers passed away on Tuesday at his Santa Rosa, California residence, following a battle with cancer.

In a heartfelt statement, via HuffPost, Tom's brother and the other half of the dynamic duo, Dick Smothers, reflected on their enduring partnership, both on and off stage, spanning over six remarkable decades.

"Tom was not only the loving older brother that everyone would want in their life, he was a one-of-a-kind creative partner. I am forever grateful to have spent a lifetime together with him, on and off stage, for over 60 years," Dick Smothers expressed. "Our relationship was like a good marriage — the longer we were together, the more we loved and respected one another. We were truly blessed."

size-full wp-image-1263241911
Tom Smothers with his brother, Dick. Credit: Mark Sullivan / Getty

When The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour made its debut on CBS in the fall of 1967, it took the television landscape by storm, defying expectations and becoming an instant sensation.

Despite being slotted against the top-rated Bonanza, the show not only thrived but also became a cultural touchstone of its time.

Its keen observations on pop culture trends, featuring young rock stars like The Who and Buffalo Springfield, as well as daring sketches that ridiculed the Establishment, protested against the Vietnam War, and portrayed members of the era's hippie counterculture as gentle, fun-loving spirits, resonated deeply with the young baby boomer generation.

In its first season, the show even reached the impressive No. 16 spot in the ratings.

However, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was not without its controversies. The show frequently clashed with network censors, and its outspokenness on various issues, including satirical commentary on Easter and Christmas, did not sit well with some viewers.

The brothers even played a pivotal role in bringing the blacklisted folk singer Pete Seeger back to television, showcasing his song 'Waist Deep in the Big Muddy,' which was seen as a critique of President Lyndon Johnson's handling of the Vietnam War. This segment faced resistance from CBS but eventually made it to air.

Despite their success, the network canceled the show in 1970, accusing the Smothers Brothers of failing to submit an episode for censorship review.

Nearly four decades later, Tom Smothers humorously acknowledged the writers he believed had contributed to his firing when he received an honorary Emmy for his work on the show. He also used the platform to speak out against the prevailing notion that peace could only be achieved through war. His words resonated with those who believed in speaking truth to power and resisting efforts to silence dissenting voices.

size-full wp-image-1263241910
Singer and dancer Judy Carne with Tom and Dick Smothers. Credit: Bettmann / Getty

Tom and Dick Smothers were more than just comedy legends; they were champions of free expression and fearless entertainers. Their battles with CBS are immortalized in the 2002 documentary Smothered: The Censorship Struggles of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

Before their groundbreaking television show, the Smothers Brothers honed their unique comedic style on the nightclub and college circuits. Their routine blended folk music with a healthy dose of sibling rivalry. On stage, Tom, wielding a guitar, and Dick, with an upright bass, would launch into a traditional folk song, only for Tom - playing the role of the bumbling brother - to deliberately mess up the tune and humorously claim it was intentional.

Dick - portraying the serious and short-tempered sibling - would berate him, often culminating in the famous line: "Mom always liked you best!"

size-full wp-image-1263241909
Tom and Dick performing on-stage. Credit: Mark Junge / Getty

While they maintained this shtick on their show, they also surrounded themselves with a talented ensemble of emerging writers and performers. Their writing team featured future actor-producer Rob Reiner, musician Mason Williams, and comedian Steve Martin, who presented Tom Smothers with a lifetime Emmy in 2008. The show's regular musical guests included esteemed artists like John Hartford, Glen Campbell, and Jennifer Warnes.

Tom Smothers's passing marks the end of an era in comedy, but his legacy as a fearless advocate for artistic freedom and his indelible contributions to entertainment will continue to inspire generations to come.

Our thoughts go out to Tom's fans, family, and friends at this time.

Featured image credit: Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer / Jason LaVeris / Getty