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Tom Smothers, famed comedy duo, dies at 86

Comedian Tom Smothers of the Smothers Brothers has died at 86. His controversial comedy was influential and they are returning to the stage.

Tom Smothers, one half of the famous Smothers Brothers comedy duo, has passed away at the age of 86. His brother and professional partner, Dick Smothers, confirmed that Tom had died at home after a battle with cancer. The two brothers were known for their pioneering satirical comedy, which was showcased on their CBS variety show "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" from 1967 to 1969. This show was famously taken off the air by CBS due to the brothers' political critiques, defense of civil rights, and opposition to the Vietnam War.

Born in 1937, Tom and his brother Dick began performing together after attending San Jose State University. They initially thought of themselves as folk singers before breaking into TV with their music and comedy. The "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" became a hit, featuring a mix of music, skits, and political commentary. The brothers often faced criticism for their candid approach during their comedy hour, but they took freedom of speech seriously.

Their brand of comedy was highly influential, with early writers on their show including Steve Martin, Lorne Michaels, Rob Reiner, and David Steiner. After their show was canceled by CBS, the brothers successfully sued the network to show they did not breach their contract. However, the program never returned to the air.

Looking back, their series was considered controversial given the family-friendly landscape of the era. The Smothers Brothers addressed serious topics such as the war, presidential policies, and social issues that were not typically discussed on prime-time TV.

Tom Smothers was known for fighting most of the battles when it came to addressing these controversial topics. Despite the challenges they faced, the brothers announced a return to the stage with a tour scheduled for 2023. A private memorial service for Smothers is planned for 2024.

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