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Comedy Icon, Tom Smothers of Smothers Brothers, passed away at 86

Tom Smothers
Tom Smothers (Credits: The Wrap)

Tom Smothers, renowned as one half of the comedic duo the Smothers Brothers, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 86 after a battle with cancer, as announced by the National Comedy Center on Wednesday.

In a heartfelt statement, Tom’s brother and comedy partner, Dick Smothers, expressed, “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 Smothers

Tom Smothers (Credits: NPR)

Born as Thomas Bolyn Smothers III on February 2, 1937, in New York City, Tom Smothers and his brother initially gained recognition as a folk group duo. Their act gained popularity in clubs, and they released several albums.

In 1961, the duo made their debut on national television with “The Jack Paar Show,” followed by appearances on other shows such as “The Judy Garland Show” in 1963 and “Burke’s Law” in 1964.

“The Smothers Brothers Show” marked their first television series, airing on CBS from 1965 to 1966. This led to their next venture on the network, “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” a variety show television series that ran from 1967 to 1969.

Amid the Vietnam War era, the show achieved fame for its humor but also stirred controversy with its political critiques. Disputes with network executives over the show’s content resulted in its abrupt cancellation. The brothers were later awarded a settlement after a court ruled that the cancellation violated their contract.

In the subsequent years, the brothers hosted a brief revival of their variety show and several TV specials while continuing to release comedy albums.

In 2008, Tom Smothers received an honorary Emmy award, four decades after declining the honor amidst the controversy surrounding their variety special. The Smothers Brothers were inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 2010.

The National Comedy Center paid tribute to Tom Smothers, describing him as an “extraordinary comedic talent” and a “true champion for freedom of speech, harnessing the power of comedy to push boundaries and our political consciousness.”

“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,” the U.S. museum dedicated to comedy stated in a release.

Tom Smothers is survived by his children Bo and Riley Rose Smothers, grandson Phoenix, Marcy Carriker Smothers, sister-in-law Marie Smothers, and several nephews and a niece.

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