DCS: tom smothers

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Much like Lou Costello, Tom Smothers was a character. His stammering naiveté was a concisely conceived and performed character. That’s right — a character.

Tom was a star competitor in track and field at San Jose State College, as well as a competitive unicyclist. Tom, along with his younger brother Dick, set out to be a folk musician. He didn’t think he was good enough, so he decided to introduce comedy into the act — something he though he was particularly good at.

After an unsuccessful sitcom on CBS, Tom negotiated a variety show as a vehicle for Dick and himself. The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour premiered on the CBS network in 1967 and Tom fought with network censors for the entire run of the show. He slyly introduced controversial topics —  like drugs, sex, the Vietnam War, politics — using his innocent, wide-eyed “Tommy” character, much to CBS’s chagrin.

Tom grew more and more politically active. He befriended John Lennon and even was featured on Lennon’s single “Give Peace a Chance” in 1969. Tom was an outspoken advocate for all things he considered to be worthy causes. He also was a harsh critic of his contemporaries not using their own fame for righteous causes. He once came to blows with now-disgraced comedian Bill Cosby after years of Tom’s needling over Cosby’s lackadaisical stance on political issues.

Tom maintained a keen head for business, managing his career to much financial success. He toured regularly with his brother and offered his comedic talents and recognition to promote a number of commercial products. He constantly strived to keep the Smothers Brothers live act fresh. In 2008, he became the tour’s opening act as “Yo-Yo Man,” almost silently demonstrating a heretofore unknown talent of yo-yo trickery. Tom even ventured into the winemaking business.

In early 2023, Tom announced that he was suffering for lung cancer. He succumbed to the disease in December of the same year. Tom Smothers was 86 years old.



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