Tommy Smothers wishes he hadn’t been so confrontational, says Peter Jones in Filmfax. He and his brother, Dick, had one of the top-rated TV comedy shows in the late 1960s, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and couldn’t resist using that platform to express their countercultural views on Vietnam, drugs, sex, and other hot-button topics. CBS censors warned them to tone things down, but they didn’t—and so they were famously fired. Smothers still believes he fought the good fight. “We were in our 20s and passionately caring, and that viewpoint, in hindsight, turned out to be the correct moral position,” he says. But now, at 72, he wishes he’d been more careful. “Harry Belafonte, when he was doing our show, said, ‘Tom, I’ve been in voter registration and civil rights for all my life, and I’m against the war, but be sure you don’t do something to lose your platform.’ I said, ‘Don’t worry, not me. I’m smart. I won’t.’ And of course I did.” Getting fired, he now admits, sidetracked his career. “The ’70s disappeared for us. It was difficult. In fact, I lost my sense of humor for a couple of years.” Smothers finally realized he was an entertainer, not an activist. “There is only so much you can do. So in hindsight, it might have been a gift in disguise, our little personal tragedy.”
Smothers’ self-inflicted wound
February 12, 2009
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