Mom always liked you best.
September 14, 2007 3:35 PM   Subscribe

The Smothers Brothers are a folk-singing comedy duo whose television show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour featured music, comedy, and political satire. CBS abruptly canceled the show in 1969 due to continued arguments about censorship.

"I think it was that we were
just quite in tune with the consciousness of all the
people thinking the Vietnam war was bad. And voter
registration and voters' rights. And all these things
were happening and all of the people on our show were
young and we all started taking that position. It just
slowly evolved until they started saying, "You can't
say that." And of course that's the worst thing you
can tell a comedian: "Don't say that." Well, they're
gonna say it."

The Smothers Brothers was the first television show to have Pete Seeger on after he was blacklisted. His performance of "Waist Deep in the Bug Muddy" was censored by CBS due to it's implicit condemnation of the Viet Nam War.

The show also hosted the famous Who performance in which Keith Moon loaded his kit with explosives.

A medley of songs by Peter, Paul and Mary, Donovan, and the Smothers Brothers.
posted by oneirodynia (35 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I love Tom's introduction of Jefferson Airplane in this clip.
posted by Poolio at 3:51 PM on September 14, 2007

The mid-song discussion in the first clip about folk singers being obligated to "Take it" when told is pretty freakin' great.

YAY! I love the Smothers Brothers, and had never seen any of these clips, just heard their albums. Thanks for the post.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 3:56 PM on September 14, 2007

posted by ZachsMind at 4:05 PM on September 14, 2007

I am now officially old when the Smothers Brothers are dug out of the past like some relic from a time capsule.

Oh, BTW, get off my lawn!
posted by F Mackenzie at 4:20 PM on September 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Didn't John Lennon heckle them?
posted by chuckdarwin at 4:22 PM on September 14, 2007

I am now officially old when the Smothers Brothers are dug out of the past like some relic from a time capsule.

Seconded. I'm too young to have seen the show when it first ran, but not to young to have grown up with the reruns.
posted by gurple at 4:24 PM on September 14, 2007

My parents had this album when I was a little kid. I remember liking "John Henry." The rest of the album really puzzled me. I don't know if I sensed this or heard my parents talking about it, but I knew there something subversive about these guys, although I didn't even know what the word meant at the time. Something kept drawing me back to that record even though I didn't get most of it, I think I was around 7 or 8 at the time. I'd like to think I have vague memories of the TV show, but that is probably wishful thinking on my part.

Thanks for this post. I bet my brother has that album.
posted by marxchivist at 4:26 PM on September 14, 2007

Yay! Having been exposed to the corrupting influence of the SmoBros at an early age is a bid badge of honor for me. It's nice (if, yes, oldifying) to see the mod now young hepcats of today embracing the boys.

"Mom always liked you better. She gave you a dog, and all I got was a chicken."
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:29 PM on September 14, 2007

I wasn't born until 5 years after The Smothers Brothers was canceled, which makes me officially young.
posted by Poolio at 4:29 PM on September 14, 2007

er, big badge. Bad, bad fingers!
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:30 PM on September 14, 2007

*gets off F Mackenzie's lawn*
posted by Poolio at 4:30 PM on September 14, 2007

chuckdarwin: yeah, the drunken incident that got John thrown out of the Troubador Club. Somewhat odd, because Tommy had sung on Give Peace a Chance with John and Yoko. That was also the time of John Lennon's infamous light out with a sanitary napkin taped to his forehead. My Hero: this waitress-

John Lennon to waitress at club: Don't you know who I am?
Waitress: yeah, some asshole with a Kotex on his forehead.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:33 PM on September 14, 2007

light out? night out.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:34 PM on September 14, 2007

Don't forget Yo-Yo Man. I only have vague memories of the '60's show, but I watched the 1988-89 incarnation of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour faithfully during its brief run. I think Tommy did a yo-yo segment in every episode.
posted by worldswalker at 4:45 PM on September 14, 2007

get the heck off my lawn too!

I loved those guys, one of the best shows on TV in those days.....
posted by HuronBob at 4:46 PM on September 14, 2007

*gets off F Mackenzie's lawn*

What I remember of Sunday nights in 1968 (three network channels, two locals):

* Wonderful World of Disney
* Switch over to to the Ed Sullivan Show (or watch all of The FBI if Disney sucked that night)
* Smothers Brothers
* Mission Impossible

Everything was a build-up to Mission Impossible, but the Smothers Brothers was certainly 2nd. The whole family was glued to the new color TV--- wow, what a flashback.

Oh, and we all thought Bonanza was gay. Although we didn't know what gay was back then.
posted by F Mackenzie at 4:49 PM on September 14, 2007

“I am now officially old when the Smothers Brothers are dug out of the past like some relic from a time capsule.”


My father was a huge fan of the Smothers Brothers. He has all their albums. I grew up listening to and signing their songs. I am even old enough to vaguely remember some of the stuff from their first show.

I was ten years old and in the hospital when their second TV series premiered. This was my dual hip operation and I was in a children's hospital for about six weeks—my parents couldn't afford to take off work and stay in town, we lived about six hours away. And we didn't get much individual care; for example, after I left ICU post-surgery, I was in a boy's ward with about fifteen other boys.

Anyway, the show premiered when I was in a semi-private ICU room. It was at nine o'clock, I believe, or possibly eight, which was after light-out and the TV was supposed to be turned off. But this was such a big deal to me, that we explained it to the nursing staff and they made an exception and allowed me to watch the show. I wasn't able to watch it when I went to the boy's ward, though.

Just an example of how important these guys are to me, personally.

That second TV run was a mid-season replacement, an experiment to see if a new Smothers Brothers series would get decent ratings. It didn't, and it didn't last very long. It wasn't as edgy as its previous incarnation, but they did try to push a few boundaries.

I recall being very surprised to find out when I was older that, in real life, it is actually Dicky who is the non-serious playboy one and Tommy was always very serious about the business of the act...and he's quite intelligent. And, as is always the case, Dicky's talent in playing the straight man has been underrated—a good straight man is a very subtle and rare thing.

I'd like to get all their albums on CD, or if some aren't available (or if none are!), converted to digital. I've found My Old Man (one of my favorites) somewhere, but I'd like others. Oh, I think I used to have Mediocre Fred, too, but I think I lost it in a computer crash.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:54 PM on September 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

And, as is always the case, Dicky's talent in playing the straight man has been underrated—a good straight man is a very subtle and rare thing.

Not only is Dicky a great straight man, but anyone (even someone who grew up with it) who can stand there and not completely lose it when Tommy does his schtick, which had to be partly improvised -- you can tell from Dick's expressions -- is a real mensch.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:01 PM on September 14, 2007

I loved those guys back in the day. Thanks for the post.
posted by languagehat at 5:16 PM on September 14, 2007

I remember the second series run as starting out well, but getting thin quickly. My dad probably still has a videotape of that...
posted by Pronoiac at 5:21 PM on September 14, 2007

"The Smothers Brothers are a folk-singing comedy duo ..."

Your ideas are intriguing, and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:36 PM on September 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

I saw them in a theatre just last year. They are still brilliantly funny, with impeccable timing.
posted by RenMan at 5:40 PM on September 14, 2007

My memory of the show is limited to the van that speeds away in the show open or close, but their music and comedy was the sweetest subversion a person could find. Thanks for the reminder.

posted by davejay at 5:59 PM on September 14, 2007

What a couple of absolute pros. When I think of them, I always remember the 3rd Cannonball Run movie. I didn't really know about the censorship side of things. I really appreciate this post.

Gotta see them live now. New ambition of mine.
posted by chudmonkey at 6:27 PM on September 14, 2007

rather explosive, no?

(I loved this show, it was the very best)
posted by caddis at 6:33 PM on September 14, 2007

and they had balls, of the biggest brass variety
posted by caddis at 6:35 PM on September 14, 2007

I listened to my Mom's old Smothers Brothers LP's when I was a kid. They were and are hillarious. The best ever is "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" where Tommy tries to make sure that everyone is singing along.

Sadly the one time I saw them in person their performance was flat and they seemed to rush through a short performance. It was on the evening that Operation Desert Storm began and because of the reputation of their tv show I was expecting political commentary, but nary a word was mentioned.
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 6:39 PM on September 14, 2007

The talent assembled for the Smothers Brothers' first variety show (most getting their first-or-big break) was incredible...

Steve Martin (writer, rarely seen)

Rob Reiner (ditto)

Lorenzo Music (future MTM Productions go-to comedy guy, creator of Bob Newhart's first sitcom and Carlton Your Doorman)

Bob Einstein (whose controversial piggish-cop character "Officer Judy" was so much funnier than his later "Super Dave" claim-to-fame)

Pat Paulsen (I still occasionally write in his name for President)

music by Mason Williams, Jennifer Warnes, John Hartford and Glen Campbell doing the summer replacement show.

the sadly forgotten Leigh French as the Hippie Chick and Sally Struthers as the Other Chick Whose Name Sounded Like Tom & Dick's Sister...

and with Steve Martin, Lorenzo Music, Mason Williams and the Brothers all skilled at writing both music and comedy, it had a quality of Musical-Comedy rarely seen since. Bravo, Brothers!
posted by wendell at 6:50 PM on September 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Tom: You can tell who's running the country by how much clothes people wear, see?

Dick: Do you mean that some people can afford more clothes on, and some people have... less on? Is that what you mean?

Tom: That's right.

Dick: I don't understand.

Tom: See, the ordinary people, you'd say that the ordinary people are the less-ons.

Dick: So who's running the country?

Tom: The morons.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:44 PM on September 14, 2007

Most whippersnappers, maybe -- for us on the brink of senility and incontinence, "This is Carlton, your doorman" obliterates some damned cartoon slacker cat.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:56 PM on September 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Such beautiful singers and excellent musicians, in addition to their great comic timing. Amazing to realize (according to the Wiki) that 2008 will mark 50 years the brothers have performed onstage together. And they're still going; tonight they're scheduled to appear in Malibu. A remarkable career — and I was happy to see in the late 1990s that my 6-year-old son laughed so hard at the same material I enjoyed back in the late 1960s. (Pumas in the crevasses indeed.)

Tommy played dumb but was included in some cool 60s scenes — not only with inviting people like The Who to their show, but also as one of the MCs at the Monterey Pop festival, where he memorably introduced Otis Redding's classic set. And he not only sang on (and is included in the lyrics of) the original Give Peace A Chance, but was the other guitarist, who can be seen (4:39-4:43) sitting right next to John Lennon.

This is an interesting interview with Tommy about those good old days, and even earlier.
posted by LeLiLo at 9:48 PM on September 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Chocolate(realplayer sample)- written by Pat Paulsen
T-"soap, soap, soap, soap, soap, soap, soap, soap"
D-"What's that?"
T- "Oh, about 8 bars."
D-"My old man's a cotton-pickin' finger-lickin' chicken plucker, what'ya think about that?"
T- "I think you'd better not make a mistake"
John Henry

Lots of lawns for Poolio to stay off of.
posted by MtDewd at 6:08 AM on September 15, 2007

TOM: Oh, Jimmy crack corn, and I don't care, Jimmy crack corn and I don't care, I don't care and I don't care...

DICK: That's not how the song goes!

TOM: I don't care.

This one gets me every time. And when you're eight years old, nothing's funnier than listening to Tom insist on quacking like a duck during the Fox song.
posted by Spatch at 6:06 AM on September 16, 2007

Just came across this video of Tommy doing a Johnny Carson imitation on The Tonight Show. He looks mahvelous.
posted by LeLiLo at 12:35 AM on September 26, 2007

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