A Reboot of Comedy Classics

Host, Dave Schwensen, and his friends Kelly, Tom, and Logan have chosen some of their favorite comedians from the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. They take a look at how these comedians got started, their most successful comedy albums, and their lasting influence today!


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Introducing The Smothers Brothers

Introducing The Smothers Brothers

Tommy and Dick Smothers, also known as the Smothers Brothers, quickly rose to fame after appearing on the Jack Parr Show in 1961. Their musical comedy act was one that hadn’t been seen before and it quickly led to several of their own television shows including the most famous Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Although there were only 3 seasons, it was the show to appear on. Do you remember The Who exploding drum incident? Remember when George Harrison made an impromptu visit? Listen in as Dave, Kelly, and Tom tell us about the rise and fall of the Smothers Brothers.

Listen to their 1962 album The Two Sides of The Smothers Brothers HERE

See George Harrison on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour HERE

Follow our show hosts!

Logan Rishaw

Instagram: @loganrishaw

Twitter: @logansaidthis

Kelly Thewlis

@kellythewlis on FB, Twitter and Instagram

Tom Megalis

http://www.tommegalis.com/

https://www.facebook.com/tom.megalis

https://www.youtube.com/tommegalis

http://linkedin.com/in/tommegalis

Dave Schwensen

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DaveSchwensen

Twitter: @thecomedybook

Facebook “How To Be A Working Comic” Page:

https://www.facebook.com/How-To-Be-A-Working-Comic-129300133778009/

Dave Schwensen:
Hi, welcome back to What's So Funny! I'm Dave Schwensen. Today we're going to talk about one of my favorite comedy teams, and I'm going to have my favorite comedy team talking with me about this Kelly Thewlis and Tom Megalis. How are you guys?

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh, hello.

Tom Megalis:
Oh my gosh.

Dave Schwensen:
Hello. Yeah.

Tom Megalis:
Kelly, that's so nice.

Dave Schwensen:
Guess which one is Tom?

Tom Megalis:
Well.

Kelly Thewlis:
You'll never guess.

Tom Megalis:
You know what though? Wait a minute, though. Kelly could be a guy's name and Tommy could be a girl's name.

Kelly Thewlis:
It's true.

Dave Schwensen:
Okay. Now that you completely messed up everyone including me, we better do this individually. Hello, Kelly. How are you today?

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh, hello, Dave. It's good to hear from you.

Dave Schwensen:
Oh, well it's good to be heard. Thank you. Tom, how are you, my friend?

Tom Megalis:
I'm doing great. I mean, if Kelly is here, I'm going to just tag along. I wasn't really invited. I wondered how you got on this, but I didn't want to pursue that.

Kelly Thewlis:
I'm so sorry, Dave. I don't know how he got in here.

Dave Schwensen:
All right.

Tom Megalis:
I take care of her cat. I take care of her cat. That's how it works.

Dave Schwensen:
All right. Well, I had enough of this comedy team because I'm ready to move on to talk about the comedy team that's going to be the subject of our show today. That is the Smothers brothers.

Tom Megalis:
Juicy. This is a juicy one.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh, boy.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah, Tom and Dick Smothers, the Smothers Brothers.

Tom Megalis:
Pioneers. Pioneers in some ways.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah, yeah.

Tom Megalis:
Can we say that?

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. You can say that. I really want to emphasize too how important they are to the comedy industry. A lot of people may not realize that. I have found that some of the younger comedians today are not that familiar with the Smothers Brothers, and I'm kind of shocked by that.

Kelly Thewlis:
I have another revelation to share with you that might shock you, Dave. I am one of those comedians.

Dave Schwensen:
What?

Tom Megalis:
Really?

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah, you know what? I had heard of them through, I mean, so many things. So many of the greats have referenced them as either inspirations or actual job references. I mean, so many of the comedians we've talked about on the show even had worked on their shows, the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. I mean, they've really been in so much of the fabric of so many of the comedians we talk about on this show and comedians I'm fans of. But I had like embarrassingly, now that I've done my research, I have never gone back and actually watched any of their material until now. I cannot believe what I've been missing.

Tom Megalis:
It's a pretty cool style. It's a pretty cool style. Isn't it, Kelly? I mean what they did at-

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh yeah. Oh yeah.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah, yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. They were so important. Like I said about what... As a matter of fact for comedians today, they should know who they are because there was such an influence. But the reason I think a lot of the younger comedians, Kelly, may not be as familiar with them because after they were fired from network television, they kind of disappeared for a while. They kind of lost their popularity, actually stopped performing for awhile and never carried on. But for the late 1960s, they were the top of the heap. They were right up there. We're talking about freedom of speech, what you can say. They were groundbreakers. I mean, just as important as George Carlin, Dick Gregory, and some of these others. That's what we're going to talk about today. Tom and Dick Smothers.

Dave Schwensen:
When I work with the young comedians in my workshops and my books and everything, and I talk to young comedians, I say, "I don't know anyone that's ever been an overnight success." Okay. The comedians I've talked with, worked with, they've all taken years to come through open mics and opening acts and build themselves up. I really look at the Smothers Brothers as kind of an overnight success. They hit it big immediately within a couple years.

Tom Megalis:
They were in the club, and they were seen in the clubs working. Their music comedy act, which is kind of weird, and I think Kelly, this is probably what we throw a lot of younger people that you would think, oh, they're musicians. And they kind of were musicians slash comedians. It was a weird combination for sure.

Dave Schwensen:
They started out as folk singers.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
I mean, that's the thing. We're going back to like 1959. Okay. I mean, you got to go back into your music history books that people like Bob Dylan and they were all copying [crosstalk 00:04:15]-

Tom Megalis:
Pete Seeger.

Dave Schwensen:
Pete Seeger. Yes. They were all... Peter Paul and Mary. Folk singers were the big happening fad at that time. And Tom and Dick Smothers were part of a folk singing trio or quintet, whatever it was. They were college students up at San Jose up in Northern California. So they were up in San Francisco playing the folk music clubs and singing.

Tom Megalis:
And they weren't bad. I mean, they were right in the mix of sounding pretty good. From what I heard early on, they sounded as good as anybody.

Dave Schwensen:
Well, like the Four Freshmen, the Kingston Trio, if anyone's familiar with that type of music, that's what they were doing. However, I think one of their partners or two of the partners in the group left. Tom and Dick were just the two of them. Tommy played guitar. Dick played the standup bass. They continued with their folk music career, but they started talking. They would come out on stage and they would start riffing on maybe what was going on in the news, what was going on in San Francisco, what was going on in the club. And it turned out, they were pretty funny. They had this brotherly sense of humor. They knew how to work together, and it happened very fast.

Tom Megalis:
I guess that was what was really popping. I mean, when you see them on their TV show, which I think is their pivotal work. When you finally see their show happening, that style developed where Tommy was this kind of goofy guy and Dickie was the straight guy and you could see that it probably was popping in the clubs.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. What's their first album? Was that both sides of the Smothers Brothers?

Tom Megalis:
Yeah, two sides. Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
Because you listen to it, the first side is really a comedy album. The second side is music, folk songs, and they're harmonizing and they're good at what they do. But what set them apart, what made them famous was their comedy.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. It's The Two Sides of the Smothers Brothers. And that album is two sides, literally.

Kelly Thewlis:
Now, I think their first album... And again, I come at this from someone who's just been doing research on [crosstalk 00:06:13] knows to much about them.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah, talk from experience, Kelly. Take us back.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. I think their album, the Smothers Brothers at the Purple Onion in 1961 was technically their first album.

Dave Schwensen:
You're correct. That's righ.t.

Kelly Thewlis:
I think it was just a live performance. It was their first professional performance, I believe, was there in '59. And then they recorded an album there in '61. So that's sort of their first album. But then I think the one that everyone really knows and associates them is the one that you're talking about, the kind of anchor of this episode of our podcast, it's The Two Sides of the Smothers Brothers in 1962.

Dave Schwensen:
Can I give you a little inside information about the Smothers Brothers first album-

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Kelly Thewlis:
Please.

Dave Schwensen:
... recorded live at The Hungry I? It wasn't really recorded there.

Tom Megalis:
Oh man. What? This scandal.

Dave Schwensen:
They recorded there, but it didn't turn out that well. It didn't sound that good, the acoustics or something. So they went on and recorded that album at a different club. Sorry I don't know where it is. I used to know this maybe in Texas, maybe in Arizona.

Kelly Thewlis:
Interesting.

Dave Schwensen:
Something like that, but they called it Live at The Hungry I out of gratitude for the Hungry I for giving them their break. They wanted to give them some kind of shout out, and that's what they did. I think maybe the opening track might have been recorded there, but the other ones, the tracks were recorded in different clubs. So how about that?

Tom Megalis:
That is good little scoop there because it could have been something that well, just forgot to turn the mics on. Sorry, man. I mean that was early technology.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes. Yes. But you know, it was one of their first performances as a duo and it was released as an album, a major record company. I can't remember who they signed with and it sold. It sold. The Smothers Brothers really hadn't been doing it that long and they were all of a sudden stars. Oh, I think they appeared on the Jack Paar Show.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. You know, there's this great line that Jack Paar said after they played on his show. He joked with them. He said, "I don't know what you guys have, but no one's going to steal it." It was such a unique act that they were doing.

Dave Schwensen:
They really considered themselves, I think, musicians. Almost like jazz musicians. They could play off each other. They get a feeling. He said the act was structured. They had background musicians with them. They always had a piano player who was like another straight man. Sometimes they had a trio with them and they would all kind of work off. And Tommy said they would all be coming after him because he was playing the dumb character. So he had all these different straight men. But he said they had a structure, but they could riff like jazz musicians. They get in a feeling, they get in a flow of something and they went with it. So that's what was so fun about seeing them. Because honestly with the Smothers Brothers, you never really knew what they were going to say.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
And I think one of the interviews, Tommy said they got their own sit-com. I don't know if anyone remembers that. I don't even know if there are any clips of that. I've seen clips of the past.

Kelly Thewlis:
I definitely don't remember that.

Tom Megalis:
No, no. No.

Dave Schwensen:
I don't think you would. It was back in 1965, I think.

Tom Megalis:
I didn't even know they had a show before their Smothers Brothers show.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. This was the Smothers Brothers show, I think it was called. It was a sitcom.

Tom Megalis:
This was before '67. This is in '65.

Dave Schwensen:
Oh, yeah. This is 1965.

Tom Megalis:
Oh boy.

Dave Schwensen:
Think about it, their first album came out in '59. They did the Jack Paar Tonight Show. I think about 1960. This is all happening in 1965. They're handed a sitcom, but they took away their comedy tools because they were musicians. So they didn't have the bass with them. Tommy didn't have his guitar. And if I remember correctly, Tommy played an angel.

Tom Megalis:
Oh, that's crazy. That's crazy. That's crazy business there, man. It's TV getting in the way.

Dave Schwensen:
Dickie was trying to lead a regular, like a sitcom family life and his brother Tom or something was an angel, came down and Dickie was the only one that could see it. It sounded like a real mess. It just sounded like a mess. I know after that, that's when Tom Smothers really became, I don't want to call him a control freak, but yes he was. He was not going to give control over their act to anyone else ever again after that.

Tom Megalis:
I know Dickie said that the comedy and the show and the act was everything to Tommy, but Dickie said, "But for me it was just one little part. I had a life, I had a family, I had other things and it was not everything to me."

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah, I think that was [crosstalk 00:10:25].

Tom Megalis:
For Tommy, it was like everything. He was a control freak. And it went on to kind of be the demise, a little bit, of the show at the end.

Kelly Thewlis:
Of their entire career really.

Tom Megalis:
Of their entire career. Yeah.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah.

Tom Megalis:
You would think.

Dave Schwensen:
But yeah, after their short-lived sitcom, it was on for one season, it got canceled. I think it was '66. So really the next year in 1967 is when they have their next offer. That was the very famous Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

Kelly Thewlis:
It's interesting. Have you guys seen the... There's a great documentary out called Smothered and it's all about the Smothers Brothers versus the censors.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah, yeah.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh my gosh. It's so interesting.

Tom Megalis:
Cool documentary.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. Well they-

Tom Megalis:
It really gets into the show.

Kelly Thewlis:
Well, they brought on some of the CBS executives at the time on the documentary and they said that the reason that they even had the show is because Bonanza was just such a hit and they were up against them in the time slot and they just needed anything to fill that time slot. They knew they didn't have enough time to put together.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah, Sunday night.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. They didn't have enough time to put together like a narrative show. They knew they needed to go with something cheap, like a sketch show or a variety show. They liked the Smothers Brothers because they had such that clean cut, wholesome look.

Tom Megalis:
Oops.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. Right, exactly. They didn't do their research, I guess, on their personalities. But they liked their look of them. They said at the time it was this time just like fantasy shows, which goes into what their sitcom was a little bit too.

Tom Megalis:
Escapism. Yeah.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. It was Bonanza. It was Bewitched.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah, it was a sitcom. Yeah.

Kelly Thewlis:
It was-

Tom Megalis:
Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres.

Dave Schwensen:
[crosstalk 00:00:12:04]. Come on, they had all these shows and here was Tommy Smothers playing an angel.

Kelly Thewlis:
Right. Yeah.

Tom Megalis:
They were all escapism shows, pretend shows.

Dave Schwensen:
If you look back, again you got to go through your history, you have to look back at this stuff. And the other variety shows they had in 1967, when we're talking about these old guys wearing tuxedos and smoking cigarettes and having a drink. We're talking about Dean Martin, Rudy Vallee. We talked about him in an earlier show. He was in the thirties, he sang through a megaphone. They were the older generation. And then you got these two guys, the Smothers Brothers. Now they're the same age as like the Beatles and The Rolling Stones and The Who. Nobody at that time, that age had a show like that. So they put these guys and it just... Wow. I mean the younger generation all of a sudden had a show to watch.

Tom Megalis:
Well, Rob Reiner talks about in that documentary, that Kelly, you were referencing, how it was... I think it was Rob Reiner who worked as a writer, said it was a show about now instead of a show about the past or something.

Dave Schwensen:
That's great.

Tom Megalis:
It was dealing with it right now, what was happening in our world? And it made CBS nervous.

Kelly Thewlis:
Well, you got to remember, this is a decade before SNL came out.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes.

Kelly Thewlis:
I mean, this is even at the kind of start of Second City, that theater was just sort of getting started in Toronto around the same time. I mean, there just wasn't this voice for that generation yet. It had not been established.

Dave Schwensen:
That's why the Smothers Brothers are so important.

Tom Megalis:
And it was the now idea is very much current thinking. Like now we like stuff that's about now, right now. You have an idea, you put it on your iPhone. The Smothers Brothers were doing these shows one a week. So it was really pretty current, pretty right in your face.

Dave Schwensen:
When they started the show... I mean, this was the whole thing about the Smothers Brothers. They played the game at first to make sure they got on the air. So they're original writers. We're talking about all these great writers they had. These young guys, Rob Reiner, Steve Martin, John Hartford, Mason Williams. Who else?

Tom Megalis:
Super Dave. Bob Einstein.

Dave Schwensen:
Bob Einstein. Okay. Those were the writers. They may not have been there in the very beginning, I don't think. They brought in these older guys in the beginning to pacify CBS. They had the young writers in the room who hated the old writers. I remember reading this. I read a book on the Smothers Brothers TV show with long time ago. They also brought on older acts in the beginning. I remember reading, they had like... On one show, they might have had something like Martha Ray or they might've had-

Tom Megalis:
I think Jack Benny was on the show. Weren't some of the older even comics that anointed it and said, "Hey, this is cool young stuff."

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. Bob Hope, they brought in the ones to get the old audiences.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. George Burns.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes. And they played very family oriented stuff. It was, again, the days when the whole family sat around watching. Because they watched the Ed Sullivan show. That was on Sunday nights. Then they'd all watch Bonanza. Those were safe shows for kids to watch with their parents and the Smothers Brothers started out that way to get an audience. But then...

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. I think they said about the 10th show, they started shaking it up.

Dave Schwensen:
Well, they started talking about their politics.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. Vietnam and everything. Man, the drug culture.

Dave Schwensen:
They were anti-war. Lyndon Johnson was the president.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. And making it funny, which nobody had seen, especially not on television, just talking about these political issues and making it funny. I mean, that's...

Tom Megalis:
Racism. There was a couple bits about this Irish folk song bit.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh, yeah. That's great. Yeah.

Tom Megalis:
Remember that? And it was like, "Well, why aren't there black people and Jewish people and Greeks? Why?" He's like, "Because it's an Irish song, Tommy. It's an Irish song." And he goes, "Well, it seems kind of racist to me." It was pretty good. I mean, that was kind of pointing it out. Then they added a bunch of Greek and Croatian and Jewish names at the backend.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. Everything that was going on in the late sixties. Like you're talking about, Tom, about racism and...

Tom Megalis:
Just the drug culture.

Dave Schwensen:
The drug culture. The Vietnam war was raging at that time. And the country was divided. I mean, big time. Also, Lyndon Johnson was the president and Richard Nixon would be the next one. He was running for president. Both those presidents, from what I understand, called CBS to get the Smothers Brothers off the air.

Tom Megalis:
That's awesome.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. Which is wild. I mean, it's so hard to think about it in today's lens. I mean, now every comedian is making jokes about the president. I mean, that's just-

Tom Megalis:
And he's still trying to get them off the air too.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yeah. Right. I mean, it's just the constant... Political jokes are just weaved into our fabric now. Right? We just are always seeing that sort of content. But back then it was just revolutionary. They had this great joke where Tom says, "Okay, you can always tell who's running the country by the clothes people wear." And he's like, "You mean some people can afford more clothes and others can have less?" And he goes, "Yes, ordinary people have less on." And he goes, "Well, who's running the country?" And he goes, "The morons." Just blatantly calling the leadership of the country at the time morons. I mean, it was fantastic and just completely like nothing like anyone had seen.

Tom Megalis:
Remember the Pete Seeger thing? They were not going to let that on the air.

Dave Schwensen:
People may not know who Pete Seeger was. Now he was another big folk protest musician back into what, the forties and the fifties before Bob Dylan.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
He was before Bob Dylan. And Bob Dylan was known as a protest singer in the sixties. Pete Seeger was before. He was banned from television, I think, in the fifties. They said they had enough of what he was singing, anti-government. So he didn't have any television appearances for like 10 years. Then the Smothers Brothers brought him on and he sang an anti-Vietnam war song.

Tom Megalis:
And I think that cut that bit. Didn't they?

Dave Schwensen:
They cut it. And then Tommy Smothers brought him back and had him do it again. I think he got it on the second time.

Tom Megalis:
And it was about the... He was inspired from seeing our soldiers or the guys in Vietnam-

Dave Schwensen:
It was like waste deep in the big muddy or something like that.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. That was the lyric, "Waist deep in the big muddy."

Dave Schwensen:
Vietnam War was the first one to be brought into people's households-

Tom Megalis:
Yeah, and that may have started it.

Dave Schwensen:
It's the first one to be televised. Vietnam War was the first one televised on the evening news five, six o'clock at night. People sat down and they were showing that day in Vietnam.

Tom Megalis:
So you can't blame the Smothers Brothers for going, "Wait a minute."

Dave Schwensen:
[crosstalk 00:18:27] just said we had let's get back to I Dream of Jeannie. Let's go back to Bewitched. The Smothers Brothers were addressing this. Matter of fact, I can't remember who the person was on the show, but they wanted to show film of Vietnam in the background while they sang a song or something.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh, it was Harry Belafonte.

Tom Megalis:
Harry Belafonte. Yeah. Good one, Kelly.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. That's good. I'm impressed, Kelly. And CBS banned it. I'll tell you what else was really lousy. If you read this too, they cut that from the show and instead of showing it, they showed a five minute political commercial for Richard Nixon. That's really just [crosstalk 00:19:01].

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh, wow. Oh, I didn't know that.

Dave Schwensen:
Oh yeah. They just rubbed it right in their faces. It was a war between CBS and the Smothers Brothers.

Tom Megalis:
And Tommy loved it, man. I think it was David Steinberg said, "Tommy loved going after him. He liked fighting him. He had a lot of fight in him, man and he just liked going up against CBS and pushing them."

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. But it burned him out.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. Well, it clearly did because they were done, and I know we're going to talk about David Steinberg in another show, but man, he was a big part of why that went down.

Dave Schwensen:
He was the reason, I think, that they got canceled. [crosstalk 00:19:36] they were fired.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. His sermons.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes. He would do these religious sermons. And they told him they're not allowed to have him on to do it again. That's it. So they said, "Okay." So they invited him back on. While they were filming it, Tommy goes, "Hey, David, would you like to do a sermon for us?" He goes, "Sure," and he did it. And they sent the tape out to the affiliates or something and no, CBS pulled it all back and that episode was never shown. That episode was never shown.

Tom Megalis:
They had to deliver the tapes to CBS in New York to okay it, to look at them. And Tommy didn't do it. He didn't send it.

Dave Schwensen:
One time he didn't.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah.

Kelly Thewlis:
And that was finally their album.

Tom Megalis:
One time he didn't and that was it. Right?

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. They used that in the contract to fire them.

Tom Megalis:
We got them. He said, I think the guy... Who was it? Somebody at CBS said, "We got them."

Dave Schwensen:
Yes.

Tom Megalis:
That's all they needed.

Dave Schwensen:
All the affiliates got it and they got to make their own choice if they were going to air it or not or what they were going to cut out and what they were going to leave in which horrified Tommy Smothers. He's like-

Tom Megalis:
And he held it back. He was up in San Francisco. He held it back.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. I have the tape with me in San Francisco. Oops.

Dave Schwensen:
But he used to turn in scripts to the censors with swear words in it. So they would get so involved canceling out the swear words, they couldn't understand what he was really trying to say. [crosstalk 00:20:48].

Tom Megalis:
Oh, man. Decoys. Decoys. That's brilliant.

Kelly Thewlis:
Wow.

Dave Schwensen:
Oh, it was just a major, major war with him. The thing is too, they brought the counterculture, whatever you call it, to prime time. They're the first ones. Not Saturday Night Live, not Second City. The Smothers brothers. I mean, you're sitting in your living room. You're watching like The Who. Okay. They were never on TV like that. And the Buffalo Springfield and the Jefferson Airplane and all these bands that were in San Francisco. This is the sixties. And the writers, like you mentioned, all of them before. Steve Martin was one of your writers and they would come out and do bits. They would do bits.

Tom Megalis:
On his show, you could see the beginnings of Steve Martin, his like little magic act, which it was just funny. He's silly, ridiculous, a little surreal. And you could see Steve Martin 1968 emerging, you know?

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah.

Tom Megalis:
And it was pretty cool. But they tried to get them on breach of contract or they were trying to get the... When they went to court, the Smothers Brothers were like, "Hey, you breached our contract."

Dave Schwensen:
Well, they sued.

Tom Megalis:
And they won. I think they got some money.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. He won.

Tom Megalis:
That's like unbelievable. They got an Emmy. After they were canceled, they get an Emmy. That's awesome. Right?

Dave Schwensen:
Well, that's the other thing too about the Emmy. Tommy Smothers was part of that, right? He was like the head writer, Tommy Smothers. Okay. With all these writers we talked about. He took his name out of the running, so his name was not on the Emmy nominated list because he didn't want the networks, the censors to hold it against the writers because he felt they deserved it. So when they won the Emmy, Tommy never got one and it wasn't until probably 40 years later, 30 years later they did a special Emmy thing. I think Steve Martin presented Tommy Smothers with his Emmy 40 years after the show was canceled.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh, wow. That's cool.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. Very cool. This is how big the Smothers Brothers had gotten in 1968. The Beatles sent their promotional clips. Hey Jude and Revolution debuted on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

Tom Megalis:
Well, I know that John Lennon was a huge fan of the Smothers Brothers.

Dave Schwensen:
Tommy Smothers plays guitar and sings on Give Peace A Chance with John and Yoko. Tommy Smothers is part of that recording.

Tom Megalis:
That's awesome, man.

Dave Schwensen:
They were doing a bed in and Tommy... You can see the clips. Tommy Smothers sitting on a bed with John and Yoko and there's others there too. A bunch of people, big chorus singing Give Peace A Chance.

Tom Megalis:
He was part of the counterculture.

Dave Schwensen:
He was.

Tom Megalis:
I mean if you think of it, this was a comedian, a show that was on the air that became part of the fabric of the new young movement and this counterculture. And that's why he was embraced and beloved by Lennon and other people that were doing the same thing. War is Ugly, Give Peace A Chance. And through comedy, they were peeling it back, going look at how ugly this war is. Hey, and guess what guys? There's nothing wrong with drugs. We're talking about roaches in this. You think you're talking about roaches in your house. So I think that they're hugely important. But to your point, Dave, maybe that was it. They burned out, man.

Dave Schwensen:
Well, no, I know what happened. Honestly, I've talked to Tommy Smothers.

Tom Megalis:
You've talked to them four times. You know.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes, yes. I'm not going to say I'm friends with the Smothers Brothers at all. I interviewed Tommy for my book, How To Be a Working Comic. I interviewed Dickie for [crosstalk 00:24:03].

Tom Megalis:
Well, that's awesome.

Dave Schwensen:
And I've seen them a few times in concert.

Tom Megalis:
That's amazing.

Dave Schwensen:
I've actually gone backstage and hung out. But the thing is, Tommy told me this. It's like they fought the higher ups. I fought the law and the law won kind of thing. CBS won that fight and they got fired and they lost their national platform. I'm not lying when I say they're just as important in free speech as George Carlin and Dick Gregory and some other names will come to me, of course, after we finish the show. That's how important they were at that time. However, they lost their national platform. They didn't have it after that. They lost their television show, and they were pretty much blackballed by the big corporate people. The Smothers Brothers were dangerous. You don't want to hire them. They'll say something wrong.

Dave Schwensen:
And Tommy also told me though, I said, "What happened?" I asked about him and his brother Dick. I said, "I heard you guys didn't get along. I heard you guys were fighting a lot." A matter of fact, when I did meet them, I met them separately. They wouldn't come in the same room with each other, but that could be something else.

Tom Megalis:
Wow.

Dave Schwensen:
Maybe they were eating dinner or something. I have no idea.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah, maybe.

Kelly Thewlis:
Maybe.

Dave Schwensen:
But the thing is, I said, "What happened?" Because they didn't perform for like three or four years. Well, he said they were blackballed, but he said also the problem was he got so involved fighting the censorship, fighting CBS, fighting everybody. So he said, "I forgot how to be funny." He blamed himself totally.

Tom Megalis:
Like Lenny Bruce. Like Lenny Bruce.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. He said, "I wasn't funny anymore." He said, "Dick went back and had his life and everything." Because Tommy said, "I just couldn't be funny anymore. I'm not funny." And he said he took it too seriously. He really should not... He looks back on it. When I talked to him, he was looking back on it 40 years ago saying I should not have been as annoying as I was.

Tom Megalis:
Interesting. Interesting.

Dave Schwensen:
He was a real pain and he knew it and he was suing everybody. And he was just a whatever. He said he wasn't funny.

Kelly Thewlis:
I had heard the same thing in an interview that I did not conduct with the Smothers Brothers.

Dave Schwensen:
You can read mine.

Kelly Thewlis:
Unlike Dave, I'm not nearly as lucky as that. But no, it was in that documentary. They talked about how they had said like, "Look, Tommy, you've got to start focusing on your own performance again in the show." The writers, they'd said you're losing your performance. Dick especially. He was like, "Look, you got to start thinking about it because all you're doing is fighting the censorships, all you're doing is battling the executives." I mean, like we've mentioned before, the actual president of the United States was like attacking them. I mean, they had everybody after them. At that point, he just lost how to be funny, like you said, Dave. He started doing political rants on the show that just lost their comedy. Because they always had these sort of ranting, but they were funny and they had lost the humor in it.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. But he wasn't even doing that on stage anymore. They stopped performing. Everyone thought the Smothers Brothers had broken up. And he was just filing lawsuits against CBS.

Tom Megalis:
Oh, man.

Dave Schwensen:
And giving interviews about how wrong this was and talking about free speech and censorship. That was his life. And he finally had to. But then eventually, they went back out on the road. They started getting some more recognition. They won a couple of awards. I don't have those listed in front of me, but they were like for free speech and George Carlin Awards, things like that. They were starting to get recognized for how important they were to the comedy industry. The few times they've gotten together since they retired, what'd we say, Tom? We said like 2010, we thought they retired.

Tom Megalis:
2010. Looks like they called it a day May 16th, 2010. That was the end of it. After 51 years. 51 years.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah. But like the National Comedy Center up in Jamestown, New York, I know they were up there not too long ago within the last year or two.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. '19, I think. Yeah.

Dave Schwensen:
Okay. Yeah. They're sitting there together and they're being interviewed, they're talking about their career and everything. And they're donating, they used to be known for their red blazers they would wear. They gave those to the exhibits and their bass and their guitar. Oh, I think a lot of their papers, a lot of their comedy material, notes like that. Nobody did what they did on television. Again, they deserve so much credit for fighting censorship, free speech, all those things that comedians really believe in. That generation of the Smothers Brothers. Something's not right, you want to speak about it. And that's what they did.

Tom Megalis:
That's a big thing to fight, not to be censored. Also in that documentary, I remember a line, I can't remember which writer it was, but it was really a brilliant line. Once censorship starts to seep in, then you think about it when you're creating. And once you start censoring yourself, it's sad and dreadful and you're doomed. So as creative people, the last thing you should be thinking about when you're creating something, whether you're comedy or art or music or film is, "Hey, am I going to get something for this?" I'm like, "You shouldn't have that in your mind." Tommy and they were just doing this work that, this is funny, this is good, and we need to say something and we'll fight them. So it's pretty cool, man.

Dave Schwensen:
Okay. To end this episode, I probably shouldn't do this, but I did reach over with my book. I'm sorry. Because I did interview Tommy and I'm like, "Okay, I want to read." He did tell me a joke. And it's perfect of how the Smothers Brothers worked. Okay. It's a conversation between Tommy and Dick. Tommy says, "Take that back." Okay. Because they're always insulting each other. And Dick says, "No." And Tommy said, "Well, here's 50 bucks to apologize." And Dick says, "That's disgusting. That's a bribe." What's Tommy say? "No, it's not. It's a contribution." So that's the joke that Tommy gave me. And it's true. That kind of sums up how they felt the politics and what was going on in Washington and everywhere else.

Tom Megalis:
Awesome.

Kelly Thewlis:
And it's so relevant and funny still today. I mean, that's what's so great about them.

Dave Schwensen:
Yes, it is.

Kelly Thewlis:
I didn't know very much about them and I was just absolutely surprised by how still timely and funny their content is.

Dave Schwensen:
Well, Kelly, that just makes this whole episode that much more relevant.

Tom Megalis:
Yes.

Kelly Thewlis:
Yes.

Dave Schwensen:
I'm so glad we had the opportunity to talk about the Smothers Brothers because yeah, just how important they are. But you know what? I'm going to bring this comedy team to an end right now.

Tom Megalis:
Oh my gosh. It was so much fun.

Dave Schwensen:
Yeah.

Kelly Thewlis:
This was.

Dave Schwensen:
I really enjoyed this one. I can't wait to do it again. But I'm going to say goodbye to Kelly Thewlis. Goodbye, Kelly.

Kelly Thewlis:
Oh. Good-bye.

Tom Megalis:
Hello and good-bye.

Kelly Thewlis:
Good-bye. Good-bye Dave. Good-bye Tom.

Dave Schwensen:
Good-bye. We'll see you next time. Tom Megalis.

Tom Megalis:
Yeah. Goodbye and thank you. This was a lot of fun. Yeah. I hope we don't get canceled.

Dave Schwensen:
Worse yet, we're going to get fired. All right. That's it. I'm Dave Schwensen. You've been listening to What's So Funny! Thank you so much for listening to this episode about the Smothers Brothers. We had a lot of fun and until we talk again, keep laughing.

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