Tom Smothers, renowned comedian and one-half of the legendary Smothers Brothers, known for their groundbreaking TV show, passed away at 86. The National Comedy Center, on behalf of his family, confirmed his demise on Wednesday, revealing that Tom Smothers succumbed to cancer at his home in Santa Rosa, California.
His brother and comedic partner, Dick Smothers, expressed deep gratitude for the lifelong journey they shared, both on and off the stage, spanning over 60 years. Tom’s role in the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, which debuted in 1967, proved pivotal in television history. The show’s keen observation of pop culture, featuring emerging rock stars like The Who and Buffalo Springfield, and its daring sketches addressing societal issues, resonated strongly with young audiences.
Despite initial skepticism, the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour defied expectations, reaching No. 16 in ratings during its first season. However, its unapologetic approach invited conflicts with network censors. The brothers used their platform to criticize “the Establishment,” oppose the Vietnam War, and portray hippie counterculture positively.
CBS eventually canceled the show in 1970, accusing the brothers of not submitting episodes for timely review by censors. The Smothers Brothers sued CBS, winning $775,000, and their struggles were chronicled in the 2002 documentary “Smothered: The Censorship Struggles of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.”
Tom Smothers, born on February 2, 1937, on Governors Island, New York, had a career that spanned various endeavors. His comedic legacy extended beyond television to the stage, where he starred in the musical comedy “I Love My Wife,” and even into the wine business with Remick Ridge Vineyards.
In recent years, the brothers continued to entertain, showcasing their enduring popularity. Tom Smothers’ impact reached far beyond laughs, as he fearlessly used humor to push boundaries and address critical social issues.
Survived by his brother Dick, wife Marie, children Bo and Riley Rose, and grandson Phoenix, Tom Smothers leaves behind a legacy of laughter, rebellion, and unyielding creativity that resonated with audiences for over six decades.