Dangerously Funny

Dangerously Funny

The Uncensored Story of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour

Book - 2009
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"Dangerously Funny" presents a rollicking history of the rise and fall of the wildly influential '60s TV show, and it's lasting influence on the cultural landscape.
Publisher: New York : Simon & Schuster, 2009
Edition: 1st Touchstone hardcover ed.
ISBN: 9781439101162
1439101167
Characteristics: xvi, 382 p., [16] leaves of plates : ill. ; 24 cm

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ryankegley
Jun 17, 2018

If I’ve ever seen an episode of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, I can’t recall a time or place in which it might have occurred. The show, lasting only three seasons (from 1967 to 1969), was over before I was born. I don’t recall it airing on (at least when I would have had access to it) Nick at Night or TV Land, which showed reruns of many of Comedy Hour’s contemporaries. My parents would have been old enough (12 when the show premiered), but both were from conservative Midwestern Catholic families who would have been unlikely to choose it over Sunday night’s biggest show at the time, Bonanza.

Still, I knew enough about the the Smothers Brothers and their show — talented singers and musicians who could do folk music straight but were better when they lampooned it, the signature “Mom always liked you best!” line, the infamous Who appearance, Tommy Smothers playing guitar with John Lennon (and getting name-checked in the fourth and final verse) in the Montreal hotel room where “Give Peace a Chance” was recorded, getting folk singer Pete Seeger on TV for the first time in nearly 20 years after being blacklisted in the 1950s — that when I heard about David Bianculli’s book I immediately added it to my list.

What I didn’t really know, and what Bianculli (probably best known as television critic and occasional guest host for Terry Gross’ NPR program Fresh Air) wonderfully details in his book “Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” is just how groundbreaking, cutting-edge, envelope-pushing, and status-quo-challenging Tom and Dick Smothers’s variety show really was. At a time when television networks (remember, there were only three back then) actively avoided issues in their programming, Comedy Hour insisted on doing exactly opposite. Lampooning a sitting U.S. president, criticizing the government and its policies, addressing hot-button issues, even something as seemingly benign as musicians performing unreleased songs — these are so commonplace today that we would scarcely have anything on late-night television without them. But in 1967, all of that was unheard of.

The show, under the driving force of older brother Tommy, and with its stable of young writers (including then-unknowns Steve Martin and Rob Reiner), worked tirelessly and ceaselessly to push the boundaries of what was considered permissible in television satire. Of course, it all seems so tame now. But Bianculli, by deftly placing the show in the context of its time and giving the reader a real sense of what America was like in the late ’60s — politically, morally, societally — brings vividly to life why the show was so threatening to middle America, so infuriating to CBS and its censors, and why, despite a still-sizeable viewership and winning an Emmy award for its writing, the show was abruptly cancelled.

Read the rest of my review at Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/126841215

s
suekuku
Oct 17, 2014

Excellent book on the not only the show but the times -- and, my how they have changed!

Sometimes, when hearing about this before, I wondered why Tom fought so hard. But now, reading this book, I have great respect for him and his ideals.

Now I want to see these shows again, as I was in grade school when they aired and all the political content went over my head or was "explained" by my dad! :D

g
gveck
Oct 15, 2010

Not entertaining at all, no insights about the people or the times. Reads like a calendar of the Smother's Brothers guests over the 3 seasons. Dry and boring. Request the HCL library DVD:
"Smothered : the censorship struggles of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" It's WAY better and only 90 minutes long, with live performances.

m
Margaret_Ellen
Mar 22, 2010

Very talky. Interesting for those who actually watched the original show.

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Margaret_Ellen
Mar 22, 2010

Margaret_Ellen thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

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