Tom Smothers, one half of the Smothers Brothers musical comedy duo, died on Dec. 26 due to cancer. He was 86.
Smothers’ younger brother and co-star of “Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” Dick Smothers announced that Tom died at home with his family.
Dick Smothers said in a statement, “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. Our relationship was like a good marriage — the longer we were together, the more we loved and respected one another. We were truly blessed.”
Tom and Dick Smothers were known for their musical comedy act in which they performed folk songs on acoustic guitar and double bass, respectively, and bantered together. Elder brother Tom was known for his signature line, “Mom always liked you best.”
The siblings are also remembered for infusing social commentary into their humor; “Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” which ran for three seasons on CBS, became controversial for its political critiques and sympathy to counterculture amid the Vietnam War era. The show was suddenly canceled by CBS in 1969.
Thomas Bolyn Smothers III was born on Feb. 2, 1937, on Governors Island in New York Harbor. He began performing alongside his younger brother at an early age, eventually incorporating comedy into their folk performances. Before landing their own show, the brothers were featured on “The Tonight Show” with Jack Paar, “The Garry Moore Show” and “The New Steve Allen Show.”
Journey Gunderson, executive director of the National Comedy Center, also released a statement on Smothers’ passing.
“Tom Smothers was not only an extraordinary comedic talent, who, together with his brother Dick, became the most enduring comedy duo in history, entertaining the world for over six decades – but was a true champion for freedom of speech, harnessing the power of comedy to push boundaries and our political consciousness,” Gunderson said.
His statement continued, “Tom was a true pioneer who changed the face of television and transformed our culture with ‘The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,’ which satirized politics, combated racism, protested the Vietnam War, and led the way for ‘Saturday Night Live,’ ‘The Daily Show,’ today’s network late night shows, and so much more. We were proud to bring Tom and Dick out of retirement and reunite them on stage in 2019 to celebrate their legendary careers, and we are honored to preserve Tom’s remarkable work and legacy here at the National Comedy Center for generations to come.”
Both Tom and Dick Smothers were inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 2010. Tom was belatedly awarded an Emmy in 2008 for his writing contributions to “Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” after choosing to remove his name from the ballot for the 1969 Emmys out of fear of stirring controversy. Steve Martin presented the commemorative award in 2008.
Smothers’ survivors include Marcy Carriker Smothers, his children Bo and Riley Rose Smothers, grandson Phoenix, sister-in-law Marie Smothers, and several nephews and a niece.