Tommy Smothers, famed for political satire, dies at 86 

Tommy Smothers, famed for political satire, dies at 86 

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Tommy Smothers, half of the influential mid-century Smothers Brothers musical comedy duo, died Tuesday at 86, his younger brother and creative partner Dick Smothers confirmed.

The elder Smothers died at his home in Santa Rosa, Calif., following a bout with cancer, Dick Smothers confirmed in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.

The brothers’ show, “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” premiered in 1967 amid major political unrest in the U.S. The brothers’ clean-cut aesthetics formed a deliberate contrast with their then-boundary-pushing political satire, which included veiled jokes about drugs, sex and American involvement in Vietnam. It also helped launch the careers of television and comedy institutions, such as Rob Reiner and Steve Martin, the latter of whom presented Tommy with a special Emmy Award in 2008.

The duo became icons of the late ’60s youth counterculture in their own right, with Tommy participating in the recording of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” with other figures, such as Yoko Ono and Timothy Leary.

The show’s content led to frequent clashes with CBS censors and infuriated then-President Johnson, who reportedly demanded network president William Paley intercede. In response, the brothers booked folk legend Pete Seeger, who performed an antiwar song that was cut from the initial airing. The show was canceled in April 1969, three months after the inauguration of Richard Nixon, another frequent target. The brothers successfully sued CBS for breach of contract in 1973 over the cancellation.

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

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