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Tom Smothers was one-half of the Smothers Brothers.

Arts and EntertainmentTom Smothers was one-half of the Smothers Brothers.

Tom Smothers, half of the Smothers Brothers and the co-host of one of the most socially conscious and innovative television shows in the history of the medium has died at the age of 86. The National Comedy Center said in a statement Wednesday that Smothers died of cancer at his home in Santa Rosa, California, on Tuesday. Tom was a one-of-a-kind creative partner, and everyone would want him in their life. Dick Smothers said that he was grateful to have spent a lifetime with his brother on and off stage. The longer we were together, the more we were loved and respected by one another.

It was a surprise to many who had assumed CBS had low expectations when it aired "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" in the fall of 1967. Receive Southern California news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories. The Smothers Brothers would prove to be a turning point in television history, with its sharp eye for pop culture trends and young rock stars such as The Who and Buffalo Springfield, and its daring sketches. The ratings for the first season of the show were 16. After years of battling with the brothers over the show's creative content, the network abruptly canceled the program in 1970, accusing the siblings of failing to submit an episode in time. He jokingly thanked the writers that got him fired when he was awarded an award for his work on the show. At the 2008 Emmy Awards, Smothers said that it was hard for him to stay silent when he heard that peace was only possible through war. He dedicated his award to people who refuse to be silenced and who feel compelled to speak up.

During the three years the show was on television, the brothers constantly battled with CBS's censors and occasionally outraged viewers as well, particularly when Smothers joked that Easter is when Jesus comes out of his tomb and if he sees his shadow, he goes back in. Pete Seeger performed his song "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" on television for the first time in years. After the show was canceled, the brothers sued CBS for over $30 million. The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour had battles with the network.

His father was a Navy major and he was born on Governors Island in New York. The family was sent home when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor after their father was transferred to the Philippines. He died in captivity after being captured by the Japanese during the war. Tom and Dick had seemed unlikely to make television history before the show started. They would quickly break into a traditional folk song, and after playing several bars, Tom would mess it up and then claim he meant to do that. As Dick, the short-tempered one, he berated him for failing to acknowledge his error, he would scream, "Mom always liked you best!"

They continued their shtick on their show, but also surrounded themselves with a talented cast of newcomers, both writers and performers Smothers received the lifetime Emmy in 2008 for his contributions to the crack writing crew, which included Rob Reiner, Mason Williams, and Steve Martin. Bob Einstein was a stuntman who had a recurring role as Officer Judy, a dour Los Angeles police officer who once cited Liberace for playing the piano too fast. The hippie earth mother in the segment "Share a Little Tea With Goldie" always appeared to have been drinking something more than just tea leaves. When Tom was a student at San Jose State University he formed a band called the Casual Quintet and encouraged his younger brother to join. The brothers continued on as a duo after other musicians dropped out, but they began to intersperse comedy with folk music. They appeared at the Purple Onion in 1959 and stayed for two weeks. One night he had a cancellation, and we went on. Their comedy albums were big sellers and they toured the country. After CBS canceled the Comedy Hour, ABC picked it up for a summer run, but they didn't bring it back in the fall. In the 1970s, the brothers went their separate ways and Smothers got into the wine business. When people heard Smothers Brothers wine, they thought of Larry, Curly and Mo Vineyards, so I changed the winery's name to Remick Ridge. He and his brother reprised their role in the musical comedy "I Love My Wife" on Broadway for two years before they went back on the road. Smothers said in 1997 that they were not in everyone's face long enough to really get old.

The show was brought back by CBS after a successful 20th anniversary, but the magic seemed to be missing and the show was quickly canceled. It stayed on the air for a bit, allowing him to demonstrate his skills with a yo-yo while he and his brother kept up a steady patter of comedy. The bit stayed in their act for a long time. That's right.

The late Bob Thomas and former Associated Press journalists contributed to the report.

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