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Tom Smothers, One Half of The Smothers Brothers, Has Died, Aged 86.

Summary

  • Tom Smothers, one half of The Smothers Brothers, has sadly passed away at the age of 86 after battling cancer.
  • The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, their popular variety show in the 1960s, launched the careers of many future stars and featured iconic musical acts.
  • Smothers had a successful career in comedy and music. He received a special Emmy Award in 2008.


As one half of The Smothers Brothers, Tom Smothers was a comedy icon, best known for working with his brother, Dick, on their 1960s variety program The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. It was announced today that the legendary star is the latest to sadly pass away this year, as confirmed in a statement by his younger brother. Smothers was 86.

Following a battle with cancer, Smothers died on Tuesday at his Santa Rosa home in California. Dick Smothers released a statement, through a spokesperson, to share the sad news. The statement said:

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.

The Smothers Brothers were not only pioneers of their craft, but their variety show, which ran for 72 episodes between 1967 and 1969, also provided a platform for many future stars to get their first break. This included Rob Reiner and Steve Martin, among others, and the show also featured some of music’s’ most iconic future artists, such as The Who and Buffalo Springfield. Tom and Dick were fired from the show after its third season, despite the series being one of the most popular on television and another season already being renewed.

Related: 10 Best Classic Sitcoms of the 1960s


Who Was Tom Smothers?

Tom Smothers wearing a waistcoat, holding a guitar

Born in the Fort Jay army post hospital on Governors Island in New York City, Smothers was the son of homemaker Ruth and U.S. army officer Major Thomas B. Smothers. His father died as a prisoner of war of the Japanese near the end of World War II, and in the years following that the family moved to California.

Starting his career as a folk musician, Smothers never believed he could be a professional musician, but did have a love of comedy. His first appearance on TV came in 1961 when he appeared on The Steve Allen Show as a cast regular. Several years later, he and his brother Dick were given their own sitcom, The Smothers Brothers Show, which ran for two years from 1965, but left Smothers feeling that the show was not right for them. Sticking with CBS, the pair negotiated their way to The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, which soon became a huge hit, despite Smothers’ constant clashes with censors over the inclusion of references to religion, sex, drugs and the Vietnam War.

As well as becoming increasingly outspoken in a political sense following the show’s cancelation, Smothers appeared in several films, such as Brian De Palma’s Get to Know Your Rabbit in 1972, and also appeared in an episode of the popular series Tales of the Unexpected. Decades later, the brothers also became immortalized with an appearance in the 21st season of The Simpsons.

In 2008, Smothers was the recipient of a special Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series, which was presented to him by Steve Martin. Originally, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was given the award in 1969, but Smothers did not want his name to be among the nominated writers, believing that it would hinder the show’s chances of winning.

The Smothers Brothers reunited in 2023 for a brand-new tour together, but in June it was revealed that Tom had been diagnosed with stage two lung cancer and needed to undergo treatment. Our thoughts are with Dick, the rest of the family and others who knew him at this time.

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