counter create hit Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" - Download Free eBook
Hot Best Seller

Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour"

Availability: Ready to download

A behind-the-scenes look at the rise and fall of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour -- the provocative, politically charged program that shocked the censors, outraged the White House, and forever changed the face of television. Decades before The Daily Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour proved there was a place on television for no-holds-barred political comedy with A behind-the-scenes look at the rise and fall of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour -- the provocative, politically charged program that shocked the censors, outraged the White House, and forever changed the face of television. Decades before The Daily Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour proved there was a place on television for no-holds-barred political comedy with a decidedly antiauthoritarian point of view. In this explosive, revealing history of the show, veteran entertainment journalist David Bianculli tells the fascinating story of its three-year network run -- and the cultural impact that's still being felt today. Before it was suddenly removed from the CBS lineup (reportedly under pressure from the Nixon administration), The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was a ratings powerhouse. It helped launch the careers of comedy legends such as Steve Martin and Rob Reiner, featured groundbreaking musical acts like the Beatles and the Who, and served as a cultural touchstone for the antiwar movement of the late 1960s. Drawing on extensive original interviews with Tom and Dick Smothers and dozens of other key players -- as well as more than a decade's worth of original research -- Dangerously Funny brings readers behind the scenes for all the battles over censorship, mind-blowing musical performances, and unforgettable sketches that defined the show and its era. David Bianculli delves deep into this riveting story, to find out what really happened and to reveal why this show remains so significant to this day.


Compare

A behind-the-scenes look at the rise and fall of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour -- the provocative, politically charged program that shocked the censors, outraged the White House, and forever changed the face of television. Decades before The Daily Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour proved there was a place on television for no-holds-barred political comedy with A behind-the-scenes look at the rise and fall of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour -- the provocative, politically charged program that shocked the censors, outraged the White House, and forever changed the face of television. Decades before The Daily Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour proved there was a place on television for no-holds-barred political comedy with a decidedly antiauthoritarian point of view. In this explosive, revealing history of the show, veteran entertainment journalist David Bianculli tells the fascinating story of its three-year network run -- and the cultural impact that's still being felt today. Before it was suddenly removed from the CBS lineup (reportedly under pressure from the Nixon administration), The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was a ratings powerhouse. It helped launch the careers of comedy legends such as Steve Martin and Rob Reiner, featured groundbreaking musical acts like the Beatles and the Who, and served as a cultural touchstone for the antiwar movement of the late 1960s. Drawing on extensive original interviews with Tom and Dick Smothers and dozens of other key players -- as well as more than a decade's worth of original research -- Dangerously Funny brings readers behind the scenes for all the battles over censorship, mind-blowing musical performances, and unforgettable sketches that defined the show and its era. David Bianculli delves deep into this riveting story, to find out what really happened and to reveal why this show remains so significant to this day.

30 review for Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour"

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    Clearly written and organized, and very informative. Bianculli had the advantage of full access to the Smothers Brothers, and it shows. Any of you remember that Firesign Theatre album title, "Everything You Know is Wrong"? Well, I found out this was true of my memory of the whole Comedy Hour controversy. I thought the series ended because of the Vietnam War, Pete Seeger's "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy," and pressure from the Johnson White House, when in reality it had more to do with falling rati Clearly written and organized, and very informative. Bianculli had the advantage of full access to the Smothers Brothers, and it shows. Any of you remember that Firesign Theatre album title, "Everything You Know is Wrong"? Well, I found out this was true of my memory of the whole Comedy Hour controversy. I thought the series ended because of the Vietnam War, Pete Seeger's "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy," and pressure from the Johnson White House, when in reality it had more to do with falling ratings (particularly in the Bible Belt), Tommy Smothers intransigence, and David Steinberg's edgy biblical routines. Even if you remember the whole story better than I did, read the book anyway. It gives you an excellent picture of America in a period of profound transformation, and of the TV show that--for a few brief years--was on the cutting edge of that change.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brent

    Another book in the "Read Aloud With the Wife" series. Pretty interesting account of the brother's career, politics, and impact on the current generation of entertainers. Another book in the "Read Aloud With the Wife" series. Pretty interesting account of the brother's career, politics, and impact on the current generation of entertainers.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    If you remember the Smothers Brothers, read this book for a tiptoe thru the tulips (I know it was on a competing show, but timeliness was the aim) buried under the neiges d'antan. If either phrase has left you scratching your wig-holder, look THAT up in your Funk and Wagnalls. But don't read this rather dense, somewhat longwinded recap of the three-season run of the Smothers Brothers's show. It will mean little to you, and the density of the behind-the-scenes material won't fascinate. The author If you remember the Smothers Brothers, read this book for a tiptoe thru the tulips (I know it was on a competing show, but timeliness was the aim) buried under the neiges d'antan. If either phrase has left you scratching your wig-holder, look THAT up in your Funk and Wagnalls. But don't read this rather dense, somewhat longwinded recap of the three-season run of the Smothers Brothers's show. It will mean little to you, and the density of the behind-the-scenes material won't fascinate. The author clearly knows his onions about TV, about the time period, and about the brothers. His style isn't sparkling, but it is very informative and it's never dry. Just thick. Like a fallen souffle, it still has the savor but the texture's just a little off. I grew up on Smothers Brothers material because my sisters are both much older than I am, so were listening to their albums, and Kingston Trio albums, and Vaughn Meader albums, and Bob Newhart albums. *sigh* What a way to grow up. Then along came the Beatles, and out went everything else...except the Smothers Brothers, the eldest sister was a granola-and-granny-gowns girl to the horror of our Balenciaga-wearing mother. So along comes the TV show the clean-cut young men put on, on Sunday night opposite "Bonanza" which neither of my parents cared diddly about (if it had been opposite "Gunsmoke" I'd've never even heard of it); the closing-in-on-50 mom and closing-in-on-40 dad tried to be gravy (joke on "groovy," slang of the times...they were as inept at modern slang as I am, and you will be, youngsters) by watching it with their teens and the caboose. We all loved it. Pat Paulsen was so funny that my arch-conservative parents thought he was the highlght of the show with his first-time-ever-done fake run for President. My sisters loved "Share Tea with Goldie", with a flower child making in-jokes about drugs that Mama and Daddy didn't get. I was in love with Mason Williams, of "Classical Gas" fame. Still one of my very favorite pieces of pop music, up there with "In Your Eyes" and "Solsbury Hill" by Peter Gabriel. No one used dirty words. No one was more than mildly salacious, to my father's disgruntlement. But everyone was ethically opposed to the Vietnam war, and my mother's nephew was a Navy pilot at risk, plus she'd lost "someone close" in the Ia Drang battle (never discussed in detail, quite mysterious), so we as a family were opposed to the unwinnable war (Dad's name for it). Hard to imagine now, in this fractured entertainment landscape, but the Smothers Brothers drew 35% (THIRTY-FIVE PERCENT) of the TV-viewing audience...and got canceled! If someone drew a 35% share today, the network execs would offer their grandchildren as slaves and their houses as rewards to the people who delivered such monster ratings. Then, well...that was just ordinary. What wasn't ordinary was the men delivering the ratings were young and idealistic and ready to talk about things that were taboo (eg, religious hypocrisy, racial politics) without hesitation. The people who watched the Smothers Brothers were mostly young, mostly rich, mostly well-educated and almost always all three. What an audience!! And they got canceled. Even my arch-conservative parents thought that was stupid. "Can't stop people thinkin' and best not to try," said Mama. "What's the use of a Constitution if you can only agree with powerful people?" asked Dad. Yeah. That's what I'm sayin' after reading this book. They didn't back down from any fight, and they lost the war...but damn, it's hard not to admire their spirit. Tommy, though, comes across as a self-righteous little pisher and Dickie as a self-absorbed bore. But hey, they fought a good fight and today's TV landscape looks the way it does in good part because of these guys and their irritating ways. Someone give them a show, quick! They're still alive, but who knows for how long!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Evan

    Since we inhabit this realm called "Good Reads" and not, say, "Middling to Fair Reads", I am yanked back into reality by that realization. David Bianculli's Dangerously Funny... is not, as it stands, an inherently "un-good" read, but neither is it particularly scintillating. I blazed through it, and enjoyed it, but only because the subjects of '60s pop and political culture, issues of creative control and free speech and censorship of art/media, social control and corporate mentalities, TV of th Since we inhabit this realm called "Good Reads" and not, say, "Middling to Fair Reads", I am yanked back into reality by that realization. David Bianculli's Dangerously Funny... is not, as it stands, an inherently "un-good" read, but neither is it particularly scintillating. I blazed through it, and enjoyed it, but only because the subjects of '60s pop and political culture, issues of creative control and free speech and censorship of art/media, social control and corporate mentalities, TV of that era, and the Smothers Brothers themselves hold some interest for me. But I think you kind of have to have some experience with the show to really care much about the book. I did find it interesting to realize how much Tom Smothers (the "dumb" brother on the show) was the creative mastermind and tenacious button pusher whose uncompromising stances and tendency to seek a good scrap ultimately led to the program's cancellation. Bianculli has done yeoman research and presents the facts in easy to read fashion. But in the end, the book really has no flair, and Bianculli too often resorts to hyperbole when heroicizing the brothers and their mark on culture. This is a common and noticeable tendency of boomers like Bianculli, perhaps overvaluing the importance of the pop cultural landmarks of their life.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    If you're interested in this sort of thing, and you should be, this is well told. The attempts to force the Nixon connection at the end get strained, but there's a lot of gold in here. If you're interested in this sort of thing, and you should be, this is well told. The attempts to force the Nixon connection at the end get strained, but there's a lot of gold in here.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    The first three-quarters of this book rates five stars, but the last quarter, which should have been omitted, turns into a political rant in which Bianculli offers idiotic opinions and lame-brain conclusions. Bianculli obviously sees the canceling, or firing, of The Smothers Brothers as some kind of conspiracy and some kind of right-wing conspiracy at that, rather than what it was--Tommy Smothers self-destructiveness spiraling out of control. Rather than spending so much time trying to uncover b The first three-quarters of this book rates five stars, but the last quarter, which should have been omitted, turns into a political rant in which Bianculli offers idiotic opinions and lame-brain conclusions. Bianculli obviously sees the canceling, or firing, of The Smothers Brothers as some kind of conspiracy and some kind of right-wing conspiracy at that, rather than what it was--Tommy Smothers self-destructiveness spiraling out of control. Rather than spending so much time trying to uncover blame elsewhere for the battles that ultimately led to the cancellation, why didn't Bianculli try to find out what was really going on with Tommy Smothers at the time, since he seemed to have unfettered access to the brothers during the writing of the book. This book offers no new insight into the story, although the story itself is chronicled in interesting and lively detail. What it doesn't offer is much perspective from Tommy and what was going through his mind when he pulled some of the stupid stunts he did with CBS. He doesn't take Tommy to task at all, nor challenge him in any way on his actions. Nor does Tommy seem to take any real responsibility for the cancellation. Instead its offered up as political censorship, ignoring the fact that those who censored and ultimately canceled the show weren't opposed to the brothers politics, they simply didn't want to offend the viewers on topics such as religion and sex or to offend anyone personally. It was never about the political ideas espoused. The book could have been great if Bianculli had just kept his left-wing snarking asides out. It wasn't about Democrats versus Republicans as it so often is today. It was the younger generation versus the establishment. In fact, the Democrats of the 1960s were even more conservative than the Republicans. It was a Democrat, Pastore, who talked of censoring the brothers and most everyone involved in the censoring and ultimate firing of the brothers were Democrats. As is still the case in recent years when government censorship is pursued by Democrats such as Tipper Gore. Here's a passage from the book that shows how much Bianculli wanted to uncover a right-wing conspiracy: "Finding a smoking gun connecting Richard Nixon directly to the demise of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was a task at which I proved unsuccessful, but not for lack of effort." Doesn't this guy have an editor at Simon & Schuster? How can someone who spends so much time researching a story ignore the facts he uncovers and come to such idiotic conclusions? This is what partisan politics does to a writer.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Dick: People don't tune in to us to listen to us argue! Tom: Some of them did. ********* I was one of those people who tuned in between '67 and '69 to listen to Tom and Dick Smothers argue and sing and make me laugh on "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour." David Bianculli's book, "Dangerously Funny", traces the Brothers' career, but spends most of it's pages examining the evolution of Tom's enlightenment as an anti-establishment proponent in the sixties and his constant battles with the CBS censors Dick: People don't tune in to us to listen to us argue! Tom: Some of them did. ********* I was one of those people who tuned in between '67 and '69 to listen to Tom and Dick Smothers argue and sing and make me laugh on "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour." David Bianculli's book, "Dangerously Funny", traces the Brothers' career, but spends most of it's pages examining the evolution of Tom's enlightenment as an anti-establishment proponent in the sixties and his constant battles with the CBS censors over the politicization of the show. The controversy itself became fodder for the writers as they made fun of the censors in their skits, but Tom's resistance to make the changes being demanded of him ultimately led to the cancellation of the show. *********** 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. ************ The book itself is hardly a work of literature, but it gets the job done in recreating the era and telling the story. I enjoyed reliving a part of my past that still carry fond memories. The Smothers have always one of my favorite acts and it was a pleasure to get behind the scenes of one of my favorite childhood variety shows. *************** Tom: Mom liked you best! Dick: Lower your voice! Tom: [Basso profundo] Mom liked you best!

  8. 5 out of 5

    James Swenson

    The author takes advantage of cooperative sources -- not only the Smothers Brothers and their collaborators but also a few CBS executives -- to take us behind the scenes of the popular 60s variety show. The book occasionally gets caught up in a catalog of guests and sketches, but we get a feeling for how the show fit into its time. To a present-day reader, the escalating battle between the show's writers and the network censors could seem inconsequential, but Bianculli makes the case for the Smo The author takes advantage of cooperative sources -- not only the Smothers Brothers and their collaborators but also a few CBS executives -- to take us behind the scenes of the popular 60s variety show. The book occasionally gets caught up in a catalog of guests and sketches, but we get a feeling for how the show fit into its time. To a present-day reader, the escalating battle between the show's writers and the network censors could seem inconsequential, but Bianculli makes the case for the Smothers Brothers' continuing influence on American media.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Barry Hammond

    Well-researched, detailed backstory on how one of the most inventive and progressive prime-time TV shows ever presented got scuttled due to political and censorship issues. Covers both sides of the story and puts things in historical perspective to give us the insider scoop on how a show that was an "irritant" like a grain of sand, became a pearl over time. An important piece of media history well-told. - BH. Well-researched, detailed backstory on how one of the most inventive and progressive prime-time TV shows ever presented got scuttled due to political and censorship issues. Covers both sides of the story and puts things in historical perspective to give us the insider scoop on how a show that was an "irritant" like a grain of sand, became a pearl over time. An important piece of media history well-told. - BH.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    I wish this book was a lot more about the Smothers Brothers and a lot less about their nonstop battles with CBS. Nevertheless it was an interesting blast from the past. I remember watching their show as a kid but had forgotten that I picked up most of my teenage musical preferences from them.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ray Charbonneau

    I'll bet there's an interesting story here, but it didn't make it into the book. I'll bet there's an interesting story here, but it didn't make it into the book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lane Willson

    Fired not Canceled and other irrelevant distinctions of the Genius Tommy Smothers I just finished Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” by David Bianculli. It is a wonderful recounting of Tom and Dick Smothers overcoming the death of their father in a POW camp on Bataan, and the revolving door of men in and out of their mother’s life. I laughed and laughed, and Mr. Bianculli does a wonderful job of capturing their rise to fame that at first seemed like as Fired not Canceled and other irrelevant distinctions of the Genius Tommy Smothers I just finished Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” by David Bianculli. It is a wonderful recounting of Tom and Dick Smothers overcoming the death of their father in a POW camp on Bataan, and the revolving door of men in and out of their mother’s life. I laughed and laughed, and Mr. Bianculli does a wonderful job of capturing their rise to fame that at first seemed like as arbitrary and strange as driftwood washed up on a beach. Their self-destruction seems just another of the many vast right wing conspiracy stories that like a chronic drug induced paranoia hang over what is left of the brains many of the 1960’s flower power warriors. Like many, many other examples in their career, they were possibly the first recorded case psychedelic battle fatigue. Some self-disclosure: From a political standpoint, there in not a single position of Tom and Dick that I know about that I agree with. But I have always loved their humor, and for some reason the Smothers Brothers show is one I actually remember from my early childhood. I was only 6 or 7 when it went off the air. Politics aside, Tommy was a genius. The caliber of talent Tommy was able to place in front of America over and over and over again was and remains unparalleled. The writers alone included names like Steve Martin and Rob Reiner. The Who, the Doors, Jefferson Airplane all appeared on the Smothers Brothers before they were widely known to America and the world. Tommy worked with the greatest straight man, his brother Dick, since Gracie Allen. All of this was fueled and focused by Tommy very real and passionate idealism. Each week Tommy used his persona as a not too bright, but warm hearted little boy whose only desire was to have his mother’s love, trapped in the body of a grown man who took positions each week that put the counter in counter culture – and he killed. KILLED! The Smothers Brothers went up against the biggest baddest television icon of American independence and grit – Bonanza; and the Smothers Brothers achieved what no one before them had ever done. The Smothers Brothers drew more viewers. This is what makes Tommy’s actions so infuriating and incomprehensible. Apparently Tommy is allergic to censorship. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to defend CBS standard and practices, the Nixon administration, or even the lemming like mindset of the greatest generation who by this time were in their 40’s and just wanted a century or so of peace after surviving WWII. But Tommy was fighting the wrong battle. Almost from the start CBS began limiting what he could say, and how he could say it. Over and over again, the anti-war, anti-establishment, anti-conformity present in Tommy’s humor resonated with his audience, and he had the love of the American people to prove it. Rather than using his immense talent to express his ideas in a different way. Knowing CBS would veto a bit with a not too subtle marijuana reference “Tea with Mary Jane”, the name that followed “A Little Tea with Goldie O’Keefe”. It got past the censors, but not the Smothers Brothers audience. With each battle Tommy became more entrenched, and victory with the audience was superseded by Tommy’s demand for a victory with the CBS censors. Tommy’s stubbornness was equivalent to Vincent Van Gogh demanding praise from the blind. Ultimately, Tommy was not the loser, but rather the American people. In the arena of ideas the best idea does not always win. Look no further than the words our own Declaration of Independence “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”, an idea that was almost immediately vanquished in constitution that did not outlaw slavery. Tommy had the chance to elevate the ideas being discussed in his day, and he missed it. Satire by its very nature is subversive, but Tommy became more interested in preaching about the hypocrisy of the censors. Yell at a fat man about his obesity, and he will remain fat. Make him chase you and like or not, his physical condition will improve. From the moment CBS took the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour off the air, and to this day, Tommy has argued with all his might that the show was not canceled, but that he and Dick were fired. A federal court would later agree with Tommy. But the Vietnam war continued for five more years, Nixon was elected to a second term before endangering our republic and disgracing his office, and Tommy’s ideas, censored or not, were no longer in front of a massive American audience. Tommy is certainly not to blame for these events. But there is a cliché of note which says that a rising tide lifts all boats Had his ideas remained in the American arena now known as “the ‘60’s” it may have been enough to raise us past these outcomes. Sadly, all we know for sure is that Tom and Dick Smothers were fired and not canceled.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    If I’ve ever seen an episode of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, I can’t recall a time or place in which it might have occurred. The show, lasting only three seasons (from 1967 to 1969), was over before I was born. I don’t recall it airing on (at least when I would have had access to it) Nick at Night or TV Land, which showed reruns of many of Comedy Hour’s contemporaries. My parents would have been old enough (12 when the show premiered), but both were from conservative Midwestern Catholic fa If I’ve ever seen an episode of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, I can’t recall a time or place in which it might have occurred. The show, lasting only three seasons (from 1967 to 1969), was over before I was born. I don’t recall it airing on (at least when I would have had access to it) Nick at Night or TV Land, which showed reruns of many of Comedy Hour’s contemporaries. My parents would have been old enough (12 when the show premiered), but both were from conservative Midwestern Catholic families who would have been unlikely to choose it over Sunday night’s biggest show at the time, Bonanza. Still, I knew enough about the the Smothers Brothers and their show — talented singers and musicians who could do folk music straight but were better when they lampooned it, the signature “Mom always liked you best!” line, the infamous Who appearance, Tommy Smothers playing guitar with John Lennon (and getting name-checked in the fourth and final verse) in the Montreal hotel room where “Give Peace a Chance” was recorded, getting folk singer Pete Seeger on TV for the first time in nearly 20 years after being blacklisted in the 1950s — that when I heard about David Bianculli’s book I immediately added it to my list. What I didn’t really know, and what Bianculli (probably best known as television critic and occasional guest host for Terry Gross’ NPR program Fresh Air) wonderfully details in his book “Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” is just how groundbreaking, cutting-edge, envelope-pushing, and status-quo-challenging Tom and Dick Smothers’s variety show really was. At a time when television networks (remember, there were only three back then) actively avoided issues in their programming, Comedy Hour insisted on doing exactly the opposite. Lampooning a sitting U.S. president, criticizing the government and its policies, addressing hot-button issues, even something as seemingly benign as musicians performing unreleased songs — these are so commonplace today that we would scarcely have anything on late-night television without them. But in 1967, all of that was unheard of. The show, under the driving force of older brother Tommy, and with its stable of young writers (including then-unknowns Steve Martin and Rob Reiner), worked tirelessly and ceaselessly to push the boundaries of what was considered permissible in television satire. Of course, it all seems so tame now. But Bianculli, by deftly placing the show in the context of its time and giving the reader a real sense of what America was like in the late ’60s — politically, morally, societally — brings vividly to life why the show was so threatening to middle America, so infuriating to CBS and its censors, and why, despite a still-sizeable viewership and winning an Emmy award for its writing, the show was abruptly cancelled. The story, of course, doesn’t end there. Tom and Dick Smothers sued CBS and won, returned to television unsuccessfully in the mid-’70s, eventually regained success again as a stand-up duo, and ultimately became cultural touchstones and icons to a generation of writers and comedians. It’s impossible to imagine Saturday Night Live, Politically Incorrect, Real Time with Bill Maher, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Last Week Tonight, etc. existing without the Smothers Brothers’s efforts to reshape television into something more socially relevant. Despite losing their show, and never again regaining the massive and influential popularity they had as hosts of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, David Bianculli had these concluding words to say about their career: “The longer they lasted, and the more they stayed true to their beliefs and styles, the more that mainstream America came to respect and even revere them, for stubbornly fighting for principles and ideas that, over time, were acknowledged as the right ones.” That’s a fitting epitaph for a career that spanned more than 50 years. Kudos to Bianculli for so richly bringing it all to life.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Laura de Leon

    I've only discovered the Smothers Brothers fairly recently, and I've never seen their show (I was 18 months old when it went off the air). After reading this book, I'd really like to fix this. I knew them as funny folk singers. I'd heard they had a political bent as well, as many folk singers of that era did. I had no idea what they'd accomplished on their show, and how much more they tried to do, but were stopped by CBS and the censors. I really enjoyed the look at the brothers as people, and I p I've only discovered the Smothers Brothers fairly recently, and I've never seen their show (I was 18 months old when it went off the air). After reading this book, I'd really like to fix this. I knew them as funny folk singers. I'd heard they had a political bent as well, as many folk singers of that era did. I had no idea what they'd accomplished on their show, and how much more they tried to do, but were stopped by CBS and the censors. I really enjoyed the look at the brothers as people, and I particularly liked finding out about how they influenced the world. Tom Smothers had an eye for talent, featuring writers, comedians and musicians that had never been heard from before, but are well known now. The late 60s/early 70s were a time of change, and the conflicts within the show were representative of this. On the one hand, there was a desire (particularly among the younger set) for more openness about sexuality (we're talking use of the word "breast", not anything that would be seen as steamy today), about religion (the first skit that caused problems was one that was actually enjoyed by audiences of clergy of multiple denominations), and drugs. On the other hand, there was a feeling that the airwaves should be safe for everyone-- that no one should be offended by what they see on TV, and that the network censors had a responsibility to make that happen. Then there was the political landscape-- the changing views about the Vietnam War, and what was appropriate to say about it was an ongoing issue for the show, and popular opinion underwent a significant change over the three years the show was on the air. I really only know the big facts about Nixon and his presidency-- this book showed me a part of the kind of control he tried to wield over the entire nation, including the world of television. The book also does a very good job of showing the influence the Smothers Brothers have had on later generations of shows and entertainers. The content of the book gets a full 5 stars from me. Unfortunately, the writing style did not work quite as well. I can't quite describe what bothered me about it-- the best I can say is that I was often aware of the narrator over the story being told, and I usually didn't see the value to this. In addition, the same information was repeated multiple times, perhaps in an effort to make each chapter able to stand on its own. I didn't have any major problems with the writing, but it did dampen my enjoyment of the book a little. Overall, this was a wonderful read, and I'd recommend it for anyone with an interest in television, in politics, or this era. Think holiday present!

  15. 5 out of 5

    A. Bowdoin Van Riper

    If you grew up in the United States, and were born after 1960 or so, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour may be the most significant television program you’ve never heard of. It ran for only three seasons (1967-1969), but in that time it was television’s premier showcase for up-and-coming musical acts and topical humor. It booked some of the leading musical acts of the late sixties—Donovan, Jefferson Airplane, Joan Baez, and the Who—and broke the 17-year network-television blacklist of folksinger If you grew up in the United States, and were born after 1960 or so, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour may be the most significant television program you’ve never heard of. It ran for only three seasons (1967-1969), but in that time it was television’s premier showcase for up-and-coming musical acts and topical humor. It booked some of the leading musical acts of the late sixties—Donovan, Jefferson Airplane, Joan Baez, and the Who—and broke the 17-year network-television blacklist of folksinger Pete Seeger, but its impact on comedy was even greater. Guided by Tom Smothers, who produced helped to write the show as well as sharing hosting duties with his younger brother Dick, Comedy Hour joked about once-taboo subjects (sex, drugs, religion) and hot-button political issues such as race relations and the Vietnam War. It was something unheard of at the time (and still rare): an entertainment program with a distinct political point-of-view. The show’s constant pushing of the envelope made battles between the creative staff and the network censors inevitable, and Tom’s combative personality, and fierce commitment to his political principles intensified them. Both the network and the nation acquired new, more conservative presidents during the show’s third and final season, making the battles even more ferocious. CBS eventually won the battle—terminating the brothers’ contract on a flimsy legal pretext—but it lost culture war. The Smothers Brothers became heroes to the young, the educated, and the politically engaged . . . and inspirations for virtually every topical-comedy program that has aired on American television since. David Bianculi sets out, in Dangerously Funny, to recount the history of the show and make a case for its significance. Both parts work brilliantly. The narrative of the show’s three seasons is meticulously detailed, but the details are carefully chosen to make the case for the Smothers Brothers as powerful, influential voices in a turbulent time. Bianculi writes with the warmth and enthusiasm of a fan, but the discrimination and analytical bent of a cultural historian. He takes care to move beyond “Isn’t it cool that Pete Seeger appeared on the show?” and into why—at that particular moment in 1968—it was revolutionary. Dangerously Funny is, as a result of Bianculi’s eye for detail and ear for dialogue, not just a great book about a legendary television series—it’s an important contribution to our understanding of America in the 1960s.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    This book is more than the story of the three year run of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. It is also the story of The Smothers Brothers. If you like the Smothers Brothers, it is a treasure trove of info about how the act was started and how it was shaped. I listened to one or two of their comedy albums over and over, as a kid. I didn't see their show, except in re-runs and documentaries, but since I have a brother, their comedy was very funny to me. Later in life, when I learned that Tommy (G This book is more than the story of the three year run of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. It is also the story of The Smothers Brothers. If you like the Smothers Brothers, it is a treasure trove of info about how the act was started and how it was shaped. I listened to one or two of their comedy albums over and over, as a kid. I didn't see their show, except in re-runs and documentaries, but since I have a brother, their comedy was very funny to me. Later in life, when I learned that Tommy (Guitar, left) was older I was really surprised, because he was the more immature acting of the two. In this audiobook, I learned that Tommy was the main writer of the show and did almost everything to get the 'Comedy Hour' on the air. It was his vision and really all his. Dick (Bass, right) came in, learned his stuff, performed it and when home and on vacation. I found that interesting, because the act makes it seem that those roles would be reversed. A lot of the shows are discussed. The guests, the behind the scenes information I like to discover is in this audiobook. All that went into their controversy and the trumped up reason for being cancelled, when the real reason was probably the fact that the network didn't care for Tommy expressions of his political views and pushing the envelope of the network's standards and practices. There is a lot in this book and it was all good for me.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brady

    I remember watching the Smothers Brothers in the 80s and liking them, though I was too young to get a lot of their jokes. I've been listening to some of their albums again and loving them, so I figured this book would be a great companion to that. The brothers were and continue to be a fascinating duo. But the book doesn't quite carry me away. There are a lot of facts I had no idea about, but Bianculli spends too much time (for my taste) getting into the nitty-gritty of the multitudes of specifi I remember watching the Smothers Brothers in the 80s and liking them, though I was too young to get a lot of their jokes. I've been listening to some of their albums again and loving them, so I figured this book would be a great companion to that. The brothers were and continue to be a fascinating duo. But the book doesn't quite carry me away. There are a lot of facts I had no idea about, but Bianculli spends too much time (for my taste) getting into the nitty-gritty of the multitudes of specific people at CBS who came down against them. And there's a bizarre amount of repetition, as though the author doesn't trust that we'll remember a particular detail he mentioned two chapters ago. I also would like to have heard more about what Tom and Dick were experiencing in their personal lives as the show went on, to give it a fuller picture. He does that with what was going on in America, but I'd also like to have had more on what was going on within the Smother(s) families, too.

  18. 5 out of 5

    John G.

    I never saw the show, born in 67, but I have an intense interest in stand-up and subversive comedy. I enjoy comedy and it's history and it appears the Smothers Brothers were way ahead of the game. I always thought these guys were kinda fuddy duddy and square, that's not the case at all. These guys, especially TommY Smothers, were rebels and anti-establishment all the way during the crazy days of the 60's. They used their show to express unpopular sentiments and were targeted as a result. This st I never saw the show, born in 67, but I have an intense interest in stand-up and subversive comedy. I enjoy comedy and it's history and it appears the Smothers Brothers were way ahead of the game. I always thought these guys were kinda fuddy duddy and square, that's not the case at all. These guys, especially TommY Smothers, were rebels and anti-establishment all the way during the crazy days of the 60's. They used their show to express unpopular sentiments and were targeted as a result. This story is really about an age old battle between censorship and creative/free expression. The powers that be always want to stifle the freedom of expression to "protect" us from being offended or to preserve the sanctity of sacred traditions and institutions, read the conservative mindset. Didn't realize that the Smothers were part of a long line of satirical comics and musicians, springing from the folk tradition. I'll have to watch some of their shows now!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Carl

    A tribute to the men who brought meaning to T.V. I absolutely loved the Smothers Brothers Comedy Show. This wonderful book talks about the behind-the-scenes struggles to make T.V. relevant at a time when the Vietnam war was raging, and no one else was speaking up about the wrongness of it. Tom Smothers did and brought the younger generation back to television by introducing new young talent and talking about the things that they were concerned about. They were fired for it, but what an effect it A tribute to the men who brought meaning to T.V. I absolutely loved the Smothers Brothers Comedy Show. This wonderful book talks about the behind-the-scenes struggles to make T.V. relevant at a time when the Vietnam war was raging, and no one else was speaking up about the wrongness of it. Tom Smothers did and brought the younger generation back to television by introducing new young talent and talking about the things that they were concerned about. They were fired for it, but what an effect it had on T.V. in the future. Even if you don't even remember the show, this story is well worth to appreciate what Tom's genius did for the country.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I'm having a hard time reading this book. I grew up listening to my dad's folk records, especially The Kingston Trio, The New Christy Minstrels, and the Smothers Brothers, and I still love the music and humor of the Smothers Brothers. But it is hard for me to learn the "inside story" of their comedy hour, and I find myself losing respect for Tom in particular--who I remembered as being just so gosh-darn funny when I was younger, but comes across in these pages as self-righteous and preachy. Defi I'm having a hard time reading this book. I grew up listening to my dad's folk records, especially The Kingston Trio, The New Christy Minstrels, and the Smothers Brothers, and I still love the music and humor of the Smothers Brothers. But it is hard for me to learn the "inside story" of their comedy hour, and I find myself losing respect for Tom in particular--who I remembered as being just so gosh-darn funny when I was younger, but comes across in these pages as self-righteous and preachy. Definitely some good discussion material here.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tom Rowe

    I loved listening to my parents' Smothers Brothers album when I was a kid. So, when I saw this book dealing with the Smothers Brothers and their TV show, I just had to read it. The book spent a lot of time describing various skits on the show, and repeated itself often. A good edit would have shortened the book by about 10%. But, it was interesting. If you like the Smothers Brothers, I would recommend. I loved listening to my parents' Smothers Brothers album when I was a kid. So, when I saw this book dealing with the Smothers Brothers and their TV show, I just had to read it. The book spent a lot of time describing various skits on the show, and repeated itself often. A good edit would have shortened the book by about 10%. But, it was interesting. If you like the Smothers Brothers, I would recommend.

  22. 5 out of 5

    John Behle

    Went on too long. Too much of who was mad at who and when. I was ready for the final page turn, close that back cover and exhale a "whew." Went on too long. Too much of who was mad at who and when. I was ready for the final page turn, close that back cover and exhale a "whew."

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dan Ryan

    Anecdotal, without including enough fun anecdotes.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    If the term "variety show" comes up today, it's most likely in a debate over Jay Leno's move to prime time television. Otherwise, it brings to mind names like Ed Sullivan, Sonny and Cher or even Donny and Marie, along with whatever smile or cringe they may produce. While variety shows tend to reflect or even contribute to popular culture, few have lasting impact. One exception is The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, which aired on CBS from 1967 to 1969. Featuring the comedy duo of Tom and Dick Smot If the term "variety show" comes up today, it's most likely in a debate over Jay Leno's move to prime time television. Otherwise, it brings to mind names like Ed Sullivan, Sonny and Cher or even Donny and Marie, along with whatever smile or cringe they may produce. While variety shows tend to reflect or even contribute to popular culture, few have lasting impact. One exception is The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, which aired on CBS from 1967 to 1969. Featuring the comedy duo of Tom and Dick Smothers, the show is most often remembered today for the censorship battles that brought it to a premature end. Yet as longtime TV critic David Bianculli shows in Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" , the show is just as important for how it helped change television. Dangerously Funny details not only the road Tom and Dick Smothers took to network television, but how the show and its battles with the network evolved. Bianculli makes clear that Tom — the daffy bumbler of the duo — was thoroughly involved in and a driving force behind the television show. Dick — the sensible straight man — left most details to his brother, preferring to spend his time driving race cars and motorcycles. The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour premiered as a replacement series in the midst of the 1966-67 television season, programmed against NBC's ratings juggernaut, Bonanza. CBS had eight of the top 10 shows that season, including Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies and Gomer Pyle USMC. As a result, Bianculli notes, "all the Smothers Brothers had to do to build a reputation for topical comic commentary was to say anything at all." Many of the controversies seem tame today. For example, there was the CBS affiliate that complained of the "extremely poor taste" of a comedy sketch that revolved around Tom Smothers getting a tablecloth caught in his zipper. Or there was a Jackie Mason routine for a March 1969 episode that helped bring the simmering relationship with CBS executives to a boil. CBS refused to air part of it, feeling the comedian discussed sex in a manner not fitting for prime time television. The offensive joke? "I never see a kid play accountant. Even the kids who want to be lawyers play doctor." This was an era where Petula Clark caused an uproar by touching Harry Belafonte's arm during her television special, the first time a man and woman of different races shared physical contact on national television. Americans didn't have access to dozens or hundreds of channels to watch or record on different television sets in the home. There were only the three national networks and most families watched shows together on the sole set in a household. But not all the attention focused on whether material was too risqué. Likewise, it didn't always take years for change to occur. In September 1967, the Smothers Brothers were the first to bring Pete Seeger, blacklisted in the 1950s, back to national television. Because CBS viewed part of Seeger's "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" as an attack on President Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam policies, it refused to air the song. When Seeger appeared on the show again five months later, he performed it without objection from CBS. The more material was cut by CBS, the more intractable Tom Smothers became. When a mock sermon by David Steinberg on an October 1968 episode led to a record number of complaints, CBS instituted a first-ever policy of providing affiliates with a closed-circuit telecast of each episode before it aired so local stations could decide if they were going to carry it. By then, the irresistible force of Tom Smothers and the immovable object that was CBS were wholly antithetical. The ongoing skirmishes culminated in March 1969 when the show brought Steinberg back with another mock sermon. CBS had had enough. Calling Steinberg's routine "irreverent and offensive" to the audience, it claimed the Smothers Brothers breached their contract by not timely providing a tape of the episode for the closed-circuit telecast to affiliates. It terminated the show. Although the Smothers Brothers would eventually prevail in a lawsuit against CBS, they almost became, like their show, a piece of television history. The Steinberg episode never aired. Again, though, controversy is not all that marked the show. It won an Emmy in 1968 for comedy writing. (Tom Smothers left his name off the list for fear it would hurt the other writers' chances. He belatedly was award that Emmy in 2008.) It spanned the entertainment spectrum. In its first season alone, episodes featured Bette Davis and Buffalo Springfield, Jimmy Durante and The Turtles, and Lana Turner and the Electric Prunes. The show helped launch the careers of Glen Campbell, Mason Williams, Pat Paulsen, Steve Martin and Rob Reiner. The show also was known for having musical guests before their songs hit the charts. Among those appearing on the show were The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Simon and Garfunkel, and, in a quite notable performance that would leave Pete Townshend with hearing loss, The Who. There was also a guest appearance by George Harrison and the American premiers of the videos of the Beatles performing "Hey Jude" and "Revolution." Relying on extensive interviews and research, Bianculli does a fairly good job detailing all these aspects of the show and their relevance and impact. There is, though, a tendency toward repetition and occasionally causing some chronology confusion. It also suffers the inherent inadequacy of the written word to describe performances appreciated best with sight and sound. Still, given how in-depth Bianculli goes, the book is quite readable. Dangerously Funny leaves little doubt a short-lived variety show altered the face of television. Somewhat ironically, though, while that show seems tame today, there has yet to be another prime time program on the three major television networks doing what it did more than 40 years ago. (Originally posted at A Progressive on the Prairie)

  25. 5 out of 5

    Al Berry

    A very favorable look at the Smothers Brothers, book feels very rushed after the point in which they are fired from the Smothers Brothers Comedy hour, maybe 1/20th of the book is dedicated to their time afterwards. The Smothers Brother father was a major in the US Army, he was captured in the Phillipenes, survived the Bataan Death March only to be killed as a POW later in the war, their mother became an alcoholic and had several failed marriages, the Smothers Brothers strong Anti-War stance becom A very favorable look at the Smothers Brothers, book feels very rushed after the point in which they are fired from the Smothers Brothers Comedy hour, maybe 1/20th of the book is dedicated to their time afterwards. The Smothers Brother father was a major in the US Army, he was captured in the Phillipenes, survived the Bataan Death March only to be killed as a POW later in the war, their mother became an alcoholic and had several failed marriages, the Smothers Brothers strong Anti-War stance becomes understandable.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Maryann MJS1228

    David Bianculli's love for the Smothers' Brothers Comedy Hour fuels Dangerously Funny so it's no surprise that this a 400 page admiration of the 1960s variety show rather than a critical assessment or a dispassionate history of the show. You'll find a mini biography of Dick and Tom, details about specific shows, and play-by-plays of the shows battles with the CBS censors. Tommy Smothers emerges as a canny businessman and spotter of talent, committed to his beliefs but also surprisingly driven to David Bianculli's love for the Smothers' Brothers Comedy Hour fuels Dangerously Funny so it's no surprise that this a 400 page admiration of the 1960s variety show rather than a critical assessment or a dispassionate history of the show. You'll find a mini biography of Dick and Tom, details about specific shows, and play-by-plays of the shows battles with the CBS censors. Tommy Smothers emerges as a canny businessman and spotter of talent, committed to his beliefs but also surprisingly driven to propel small disagreements with his bosses into scorched earth battles. Those battles have become part of TV lore. Bianculli's research shows that CBS's censors weren't part of a well-oiled machine trouncing any hint of expressed opinion contrary to the network's own. The censors come across as behind the times and behind the eight ball on most occasions, playing catch up to avoid angering the affiliates. Unfortunately Bianculli doesn't present any information directly from the affiliates, who seem to the be ones who had the biggest problems with what the Smothers' Brothers were putting on screen. What was on screen combined old-fashioned showbiz stalwarts like George Burns and Bette Davis mixing with the likes of Joan Baez, Glen Campbell, Donovan and the Who. Some of it sounds hilarious (the Honey House, dedicated to the dead wife from the Bobby Goldsboro hit), some of it ground (and guitar) breaking, some of it woefully dated (Tea with Goldie) and quite a bit involved the bane of my existence, folk music. But that's the challenge of variety shows, not everything scores. The mix of old and new was both the strength of the show and a source of discomfort - viewers who watched for Bette also saw Pete Seeger and were, or the network feared would be, offended. This is an interesting story and Bianculli tells it well. I wished he'd spent more time exploring why Tom Smothers felt the need to fight CBS over the small stuff rather than save his chits for the bigger battles. It became clear, to me at least, that CBS ultimately fired the Smothers Brothers for being more trouble than their ratings were worth but why Smothers maneuvered himself into a corner where CBS felt it had to fire them to save face it still a mystery. Prior to reading this book I'd never seen a full episode of the show for various reasons: it was before my time, variety shows frighten me and self-congratulatory Baby Boomerism makes me nauseous. I had heard about the show, mostly in the context of the censorship battles and it being canceled for allegedly nefarious reasons. It's a tribute to Bianculli's infectious enthusiasm for the show that after finishing this book I went in search of episodes to see it for myself. I still think Mason Williams' Classical Gas is more gaseous than "a gas!" and I'd still rather redo the grout in the guest bathroom than have to watch Harry Belafonte or Peter, Paul and Mary. Bianculli's a good writer, not a miracle worker. I also take issue with Bianculli's contention that nothing on tv has tackled on since the Smothers' Brothers lost their gig, other than David Kelly's Boston Legal. Everything from Chappelle's Show to Law & Order have tackled tough topics in prime time, even SNL manages something trenchant once in a while. A word about the audiobook version. The narrator, Johnny Heller, and the producer of this production should be sentenced to hard time. Heller is fine reading the straight passages but for some reason known only to him, the producer and I presume, Satan, he felt the need to provide an imitation of every single quotation from anyone even the slightest degree of fame. And not a particularly good imitation. It's ok when Heller is imitating Tommy Smothers' halting stage delivery, I guess that helps the listener get the joke. A lame LBJ imitation doesn't help sell the meaning of "I will not seek my party's nomination" and there is absolutely no occasion that calls for an imitation of Harry Belafonte or David Steinberg's speaking voices. None. By chapter five, every time a quote seemed in the offing I cringed in anticipation of another embarrassing impression by Mr. Heller. Two stars for the audiobook version due to the wretched narration.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Todd Stockslager

    The Smothers Brothers show was on CBS from 1967 to 1969, so I would have been about 10 years old when saw what I remember just as silly-funny sketches and musical guests, the kind that a 10-year-old kid could listen to and laugh at without reserve or puzzlement. More interesting to me now, after reading Bianculli's book, is that my parents turned the show on and apparently watched it. Note to self: ask them about this. Because it turns out the Smothers Brothers show, despite the innocent, even ch The Smothers Brothers show was on CBS from 1967 to 1969, so I would have been about 10 years old when saw what I remember just as silly-funny sketches and musical guests, the kind that a 10-year-old kid could listen to and laugh at without reserve or puzzlement. More interesting to me now, after reading Bianculli's book, is that my parents turned the show on and apparently watched it. Note to self: ask them about this. Because it turns out the Smothers Brothers show, despite the innocent, even cherubic, faces of Tom and Dick, was about a lot more than silly-funny. It was chuck full of sexual, political, drug, and counterculture references that turned off some viewers but mostly turned off the CBS standards and practices department, who conversely (and perversely?) fought to unplug the most insidious of the references. I say "most insidious" and not "the worst", because as Bianculli describes it and my innocent 10-year-old mind remembers it, most of the dangerously funny songs and skits from the show now read as innocent and commonplace as "heck", "darn", and "hip". As Tom (the brother most persistent in pushing the envelope) explains, the battles were never about the ability to say or show "dirty" things on the show, but about the ability to express ideas, which are indeed far more insidious and hard to control than just fleeting naughty words or images. Another element of the show that made it seem dramatically different was the format. Bianculli contrasts CBS's willingness to push the standards envelope with "All in the Family" just 24 months after the Smothers Brothers were canceled ("fired", corrects Tom) with its in-the-trenches battle against the Brothers: "'All in the Family' made sure to balance various points of view (for every bigoted Archie Bunker remark, there was a liberal counterargument from his 'Meathead' son-in-law), and to use Archie's venom-spewing yet cuddly character as a double-barreled weapon. Liberal viewers could get and enjoy the show's overall message, and laugh at Carroll O'Conner's Archie; conservatives could miss the message entirely and laugh with Archie. Yet when Tom made an antiwar joke on 'The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour', he wasn't hiding behind a character." (p, 346) This is a telling point, and while the content may seem tame today, that level of frank seriousness about serious issues in a comedy show sounds startlingly fresh and even otherworldly in today's smarmy innuendo- and "reality"-driven TV content today; even "serious" programs today don't take their content as seriously as did the Smothers. Now I have added the DVDs of Seasons 2 and 3 to my Netflix queue to re-watch the show with opened eyes, and I am curious what I will see more of: silly-funny, or serious? My natural suspicion is that by focusing on the censorship battles Bianculli has exaggerated the impact of the controversial material. After all, a history of a silly-funny TV show is not likely to sell many books. But Bianculli has extensively interviewed participants of the events from all angles: CBS executives, TV critics, comedy and musical guests on the show, behind-the-scenes producers, writers (Rob Reiner and Steve Martin got their start here), and directors, and of course the Brothers themselves. So he has the opportunity to show all sides of the controversy fairly, and appears to do so; for example Bianculli's descriptions of Tom's aggressive and annoying attitudes in some of the pitched battles make him a distinctly unlikeable and at times unheroic character. In the end, though, and perhaps most telling, Bianculli reveals that throughout the three-year run of edits and cuts, CBS affiliates in Canada showed every original unaltered episode. The Smothers Brothers were doing startinly serious and important comedy that was too dangerously funny only for American network executives.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Chad Bearden

    David Bianculli's adoration for Dick and Tommy Smothers practically leaps off the pages of what turns out to be a quite entertaining and informative look at the comedy duo and their largely forgotten impact on the way comedians have used the medium of television to comment on society. The author probably uses the phrase "the most important moment in Smothers Brothers history" ten or twelve times, but his exhuberance is so earnest that it comes off as quaint rather than hyperbolic. For those with David Bianculli's adoration for Dick and Tommy Smothers practically leaps off the pages of what turns out to be a quite entertaining and informative look at the comedy duo and their largely forgotten impact on the way comedians have used the medium of television to comment on society. The author probably uses the phrase "the most important moment in Smothers Brothers history" ten or twelve times, but his exhuberance is so earnest that it comes off as quaint rather than hyperbolic. For those with short memories, it would be easy to dismiss The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour as just another variety show in an era where seemingly anybody with a SAG card could be given one. But beyond that immediate impression you may have of the brothers being a standardly wholesome clown and straight man, you may remember that Tom and Dick spent the better part of their original three seasons on the air (1967-1969) rocking the boat in a way that no one had ever really done before. In these pages, David Bianculli gives a rather detailed and fair account of the behind-the-scenes antics of Tommy Smothers and the motley gang of rabblerousers he'd gathered to produce the show (brother Dick went along for the ride, but was never the instigator his older brother was). The author also paints a pretty vivid portrait of the television landscape of the late 60's and the role it played in that turbulent era. Television these days can be pretty racy, and political ideology is in no short supply on whatever channel you turn to. But how many people would credit The Smothers Brothers with paving the way in a time where escapist Westerns were the most popular genre on all three networks? Tommy and Dick Smothers spoke out against the war in Vietnam. They made it a point to slip as many drug jokes into each show as they could. They constantly pushed against the divisions between the races: few people realize they beat 'Star Trek' to the first ever interracial kiss when football player Rosey Greer kissed Mama Cass during a skit making fun of their primary Sunday night competition, 'Bonanza'. They hired writers like Rob Reiner, Steve Martin, and Bob Einstein (Super Dave!) and featured music from the likes of The Who and The Beatles. They ran a fake presidential campaign in the real world 40 years before Stephen Colbert would do the same. And they forcefully pushed back against network censorship in a battle that would clear a path for future generations of television humorists, but at the expense of a red-hot career trajectory. Bianculli covers all of this quite brilliantly, even if he sometimes sounds like a love-sick school girl. His passion for his subject is backed up by a truly interesting story, which is presented here very succinctly.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Blog on Books

    We always knew that Tommy Smothers was the more political of the famous Smothers Brothers comedy duo, but perhaps we never knew just how stridently he fought to maintain it. In 1967, (pre-cable) television was not the place for making snide, clever or obtuse political references on an entertainment variety show. At least so thought the well ensconced executives who ran the Tiffany network, CBS. WIth guests like Joan Baez, David Steinberg, Pete Seeger and The Who (not to mention in-house talent l We always knew that Tommy Smothers was the more political of the famous Smothers Brothers comedy duo, but perhaps we never knew just how stridently he fought to maintain it. In 1967, (pre-cable) television was not the place for making snide, clever or obtuse political references on an entertainment variety show. At least so thought the well ensconced executives who ran the Tiffany network, CBS. WIth guests like Joan Baez, David Steinberg, Pete Seeger and The Who (not to mention in-house talent like Steve Martin, Pat Paulsen, Mason Williams ("Classical Gas") and Glen Campbell), Tom and Dick Smothers produced a Sunday night, prime-time variety show that was made for the counter-culture times (drugs, anti-war, anti-cop, etc...) The trouble was, CBS didn't feel like inviting push-back from it's myriad of constituencies, ranging from big-name sponsors to the eventual Nixon White House. Thus the brothers found themselves in endless battles over content with the network censors such that each show, each skit had to be reviewed by various people in the food-chain to determine it's appropriateness in the days leading up to each broadcast. Such machinations ultimately created a war between Tom and the network that, by 1969, ended in the termination of the show altogether. Television writer, David Bianculli (Teleliteracy: Taking Television Seriously) has painstakingly gone back through every episode, internal memos, court transcripts (they sued CBS for breach of contract) as well as conducting interviews with everyone from the brothers to Lorne Michaels (then a writer for Smothers' competitor "Rowan & Martin's Laugh In") to CBS executives, former managers and others, in assembling the ultimate Smothers Brothers story. (Unfortunately, it took nearly fifteen years for Bianculli to finish the book between other projects and a heavy case of self-admitted procrastination.) While much of the material that was considered `too hot for television' back in 1967-69 would seem undramatically harmless today, it is clear that the brothers were pushing the limits of network television content by 60's standards. To witness what they went through in combining comedy and politics and the effect it had on the times (the Vietnam War, LBJ, the Beatles, etc.) one cannot help but draw a straight line between their show and the work of modern day cable satirists like Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert and John Stewart, who would not be where they are today without the work of Dick and particularly, Tom Smothers.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Paul Pessolano

    If you are looking for a book that is funny, nostalgic, and informative this book will satisfy you. The book will have special appeal to those who grew up in the Folk Era with The Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul, and Mary, and of course, THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS. The book gives the reader a glimpse of their lives before they became folk singers/comedians. They grew up without and a father, and a mother who came and went through several marriages and spent a lot of time in the bottle. The brothers, at an If you are looking for a book that is funny, nostalgic, and informative this book will satisfy you. The book will have special appeal to those who grew up in the Folk Era with The Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul, and Mary, and of course, THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS. The book gives the reader a glimpse of their lives before they became folk singers/comedians. They grew up without and a father, and a mother who came and went through several marriages and spent a lot of time in the bottle. The brothers, at an early age, were sent to a Military School. This was a short lived experiment that had the brothers being bounced between relatives and their mother. They started their act during high school but had little success. They continued their act after high school with pretty much the same results. Almost broke, they were able to mix their folk music with comedy, Dick playing the straight man, and Tom providing the comedy. Who can forget Tom's famous line, "Mom liked you best". Their success continued to grow but they were still playing in small venues and college campuses. It was only when CBS was desparately looking for a summer replacement show to put up against the unbeatable "Bonanza" that "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" was put on the air. The show did better than anyone expected. A lot of the success came from the new acts and biting political satire that became a standard on the show. Some of the acts that performed on the show were: The Turtles, Jim Morrison and the Doors, The Mamas and the Papas, The Who, and Pete Seeger. Some of the famous writers, musicians, and actors to receive their start on the show were: Steve Martin, Rob Reiner, Mason Williams, and Pat Paulsen. Who can forget Pat Paulsen's run for the Presidency. The book is full of the better moments and routines of the show, but the book mainly focuses on the Brothers fight with CBS over censorship. A long and heated battle that went on for years that was finally won by the Brothers, but even though they won the war they really lost the battle because they never became a force in the media again. One of their best routines, and it is in the book is, "My Old Man", in which the Brothers sing about the profession of their father. Dick takes on a tongue twister, a daringly high risk one: "My old man's a cotton-pickin', finger-lickin' chicken plucker." "What do you think about that?" Tom snickers and replies, "You better not make a mistake"> Enjoy this book, it is well done and is history.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.