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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Tom Smothers, half of iconic Smothers Brothers musical comedy duo, dies at 86

Tom Smothers, the comedian and musician who rose to fame in the 1960s as one half of the iconic Smothers Brothers performing duo, has died, his brother said in a statement. Smothers was 86.

“Tom was not only the loving older brother that everyone would want in their life, he was a one-of-a-kind creative partner,” said Dick Smothers in a statement published Wednesday by the National Comedy Center. “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.”

Dick Smothers said his brother died peacefully on Tuesday at home with his family, according to the National Comedy Center statement. His death followed a recent battle with lung cancer, which was diagnosed at stage II.

Tom and Dick Smothers broke new ground with their hit show, “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” which aired on CBS and won an Emmy in 1969.

As folk singers and comics, the brothers conjured laughs and stirred controversy. Tom Smothers played guitar and Dick Smothers played bass as both delivered zingers on a range of topics. They were known for a trademark sibling rivalry bit and the accompanying one-liner, “Mom liked you best!”

Along with their music and comedy, they didn’t shy away from confronting the political issues roiling the nation at the time.

The duo “satirized politics, combated racism, protested the Vietnam War, and led the way forSaturday Night Live,The Daily Show, today’s network late night shows, and so much more,” the National Comedy Center wrote in its tribute.

The brothers reflected on their iconic career inan interview with “CBS Sunday Morning”last year.

Although Tom said in the interview that he didn’t necessarily consider himself to be political while the “Smothers Brothers” variety show was on the air, he described himself as socially conscious, and noted that the show’s other writers — a team that included Steve Martin and Rob Reiner — were too. The brothers looked back fondly on the show and its impact on audiences, as well as their relationship.

“People laughing is holy,” Tom said. “And if you can be part of that, and control it, and create it, it’s the best thing ever.”

Dick added, “When someone said, ‘What’s the happiest time in your life,’ it’s standing on that stage with my brother a few inches away on my right and having that feeling with that audience. That defines my whole life. There’s nothing better.”

Journey Gunderson, the executive director of the National Comedy Center, praised Smothers’ talent as an entertainer as well as the brothers’ trailblazing role in melding sketch comedy and performing with political satire.

“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 in a statement.

Tom Smothers is survived by his wife, Marcy Carriker Smothers, two children, Bo Smothers and Riley Rose Smothers, and a grandson, Phoenix, as well as a sister-in-law and other nieces and nephews. A private memorial service will be held in 2024.

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