Tommy Smothers has no doubt what would happen if he tried to put “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” on television today.
“We’d be off in a second,” he said. “Even faster than before.”
The often raucous variety show was canceled by CBS in 1969 after the network grew uncomfortable with Tommy and Dick Smothers’ social commentary, including opposition to the Vietnam War.
Its legacy is explored 10 p.m. ET Wednesday in a TV Land documentary about political content in television — “Inside TV Land: Primetime Politics.”
Smothers said he’s frequently approached by people who ask him whether he wishes he were on television now because he could say anything he wanted.
“They seem to miss it,” he said. “The dirty words are flowing, the sex is flowing and the violence, but there certainly is no social comment, except for the corners of the television spectrum, which is Jon Stewart and Bill Maher. Not in prime time.”
The pressure not to offend politically is much worse now, he said.
“People are afraid,” he said. “I’m even nervous now.”
Maher and Michael Moore “are my heroes,” he said. “At one time, in people’s eyes, that’s what I was doing.”
The perpetually youthful Smothers is now 67. Brother Dick — the one mom always liked best — is 65.
They still perform about 120 dates a year, at casinos and performing arts centers. They also have a lot of corporate gigs.
Isn’t there a certain irony to the Smothers Brothers, those rebels of another era, getting a lot of requests for corporate appearances?
“I know!” Smothers said. “And I’m a Nader supporter!”