/ The Las Vegas Adventurer
Las Vegas — By Lynn Goya on November 6, 2009 at 4:08 pm

Review: Smothers Brothers Burn Bright

When the two brothers, still slim and fit in their early 70s, walk onto a blank stage lit only by two spotlights highlighting a guitar and a bass fiddle, one wonders if the fire that burned The Smothers Brothers’ careers 40 years ago still flames.   When I saw their show a nearly a decade ago, they were still very, very funny; still fought over which brother Mom liked best; but stayed away from any commentary about the current president in power, the two wars we were fighting or the growing economic inequality within the country.  smothers brothers

It seemed that the heavy fist of the Establishment had left its mark on the left-leaning duo when it swatted them off the airwaves in 1969 in the midst of the 3rd season of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, a show that topped the charts and is still considered one of the most influential television shows of all time. CBS had thought it was booking a folksy, singing/comedy team that would host a traditional variety show.

What they got instead was a televised weekly rebellion as the brothers brought on (or attempted to bring on) acts too controversial for other shows like Pete Seeger, black-listed from television since the 1950s  and Joan Baez who announced on the program her spouse’s imminent imprisonment for resisting the draft. The left, at that time, was far left of the Democratic Party. Democratic president, Lyndon Johnson, and then Republican president, Richard Nixon, were the butt of numerous routines.  Shocking segments brought racial inequality, social unrest, the “Silent Majority,” and the Vietnam War right into the country’s living rooms.

CBS fought back, cutting segments, blue-lining routines and finally requiring the brothers to present the finished show to CBS executives 10 days before its scheduled air date.  What is often lost in the controversy over the show is how funny the siblings are.  Their careers began with appearances at the Purple Onion in San Francisco in February 1959, and their  first national television debut on The Tonight Show with Jack Paar in 1961. Over the years they made many guest appearances with Johnny Carson and others. In the early ‘60s, they recorded the first of 12 top-selling comedy albums.

They have made audiences laugh for 50 years, now, performing to sold-out audiences in Las Vegas and around the country as the longest-lived comedy team in history. Their continuous coast-to-coast concert tours often include performances with symphony orchestras. The ever-popular YoYo Man (Tom) and the Voice of Yo (Dick) travel and appear with the Smothers Brothers in concert.

My fifteen-year old, jaded in my opinion by today’s infinitely cruder comedy but with a brother of his own, laughed as hard as any in the grey-haired crowd. Although The Smothers Brothers paved the way for Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and South Park, today their voices remain clear.  They still sing simply lovely folk tunes (one of which they actually finished in last night’s performance – a first for me).  But they also get their jabs in, showing that although the flame may be banked, the embers still burn bright.

The Smothers Brothers Comedy Duo

November 6-8

8 p.m.

The Orleans Showroom (inside the casino)



Image provided by the Smothers Brothers.

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