Up Close and Personal
The Las Vegas Magazine
By  Marsala Rypka

With over 42 years in show business, the Smothers Brothers are saluted as comic geniuses and time-honored legends whose career has surpassed all other comedy teams in history.  Their first professional appearance was at The Purple Onion in San Francisco in 1959, and from 1967-1969, they hosted their own prime-time comedy hour.  Steve Martin and Rob Reiner got their start as writers on The Smothers Brothers show and there, Martin got the opportunity to try stand-up.  Guests included legends such as Jack Benny and Milton Berle, but the show broke new ground appealing to the hip counterculture by featuring rock groups such as The Who, The Doors and George Harrison.  Tom and Dick made us laugh while challenging us to think about what was happening in the world.  They took a stand against censorship, and their social and political commentary eventually got them fired from CBS.  The Museum of Broadcasting in New York has produced a retrospective and seminar on their work.  The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour is now studied in universities across the country as an important factor in the revolutionary changes of the U.S. during the Ď60s.  Theyíve had 12 top-selling albums and continue to tour coast-to-coast  - sometimes with symphony orchestras Ė and headline in Las Vegas, Reno and Lake Tahoe.

            In Up Close and Personal, Tom and Dick were interviewed separately to see how similar Ė or different Ė these two brothers really are and to get the scoop on who mom really loves best.


Las Vegas Magazine:  How would you describe yourself?

Tom Smothers:  Iím someone whoís doing the best he can.

Dick Smothers:  Iím a student of life.

LVM:  What is something about yourself that most people would be surprised to learn?

Tom:  Iím not as bright as some people think, and Iím smarter than others think.

Dick:  I have a fear of public speaking and not living up to peopleís expectations on a professional level.  Iím not a comedian, Iím a straight man.  I help construct the funny, but I donít go around being a funny man.  Tommy, whoís the funny one on stage, is much more serious and introspective than I am, but that part of him never shows on stage.

LVM:  What are you passionate about?

Tom:  Other than my family, thereís nothing Iím passionate about like I was in my youth.

Dick:  My physical, mental and spiritual well-being.

LVM:  What makes you angry?

Tom:  Iím angry at how the First Amendment is being abused.  In the Ď60s, the Smothers Brothers were very outspoken about changing the world.  Today the people are cynical and no one has any spirit.  Now, during the strangest time in the history of the world, we consume ourselves with trivia in the news.  We have the illusion of freedom of speech, but nobody as saying anything important.  Every time they take a poll, I wonder if theyíre polling the Jerry Springer audience.  People would rather use the First Amendment to talk crude and rude.  Thereís a litany of things we need to speak out about like foreign policy and whatís happening to the environment.

Dick:  Insensitivity and selfishness.  We have a line in the show that says if you donít work on your relationships, you donít have them anymore.

LVM:  How do you relax?

Tom:  Play golf and play with my kids, Reilly Rose, whoís six and Bo, whoís nine.  And I enjoy my vineyard in Sonoma.  When Dick started it in 1977, we were partners, and now I own it.  Itís called Smothers Winery/Remick Ridge Vineyards, named in honor of our grandfather.  We make a world-class Cabernet.

Dick:  I love hiking at Red Rock Canyon, kayaking and reading a good book.

LVM:  Are you funny off stage?

Tom:  I canít get a laugh in my own house.  Once I asked Bo if he thought I was funny.  He said, ďYeah Dad, but I just donít get it.Ē

Dick:  Iím whimsical and play on words.  I donít do it to annoy.

LVM:  What would you change about your life?

Tom:  I wish Iíd tried some grander things and tasted more of it.

Dick:  Nothing.  I canít change it so itís not fair to look back because I know how interrelated every single event is upon something else.  If I erase the bad things, then that would erase the good as well.  My life has been so blessed, although I havenít always handled it in the best way.  Lately, Iíve been thinking about the worthiness of our success.  I was going to be a teacher because I have a great affinity for little kids and look what happened.  God took an average person and blessed me with so much.

LVM:  What do you fear? 

Tom:  Not sleeping.  Iím an insomniac.  Also losing my timing and not being funny anymore.  If that happened, Iíd have no other skills to fall back on.

Dick:  That we have the power to destroy the planet.  Other than that, I believe fear restricts you so Iíve done a lot of risk-taking sports.  Iíve raced cars professionally, done aerobatic flying and ski-raced.

LVM:  Who are your heroes?

Tom:  People who stand up for the truth like Ralph Nader.  Itís disheartening when rare people like him get slapped down.  Also Joan Baez and Mother Theresa.

Dick:  Winston Churchill, Billy Graham and Winnie the Pooh.  Because Pooh just lets things happen Ė like Forrest Gump, he just beís.  Iíd like to be Tigger with a little bit of Pooh, Ďcause Iím a bouncy-bouncy type, with a little bit of philosophical added to the mix.

LVM:  What trait do you dislike about yourself?

Tom:  Not enough follow-through.

Dick:  Procrastination.

LVM:  What are you most proud of?

Tom:  That my brother and I took this small, vaudeville, comedy team and did better than we expected.  In the early years, we spoke up to the networks, didnít back down and tried to put commentary of the times and passion into our art.  We got fired from the same network for the same reason that Bill Maher did.

Dick:  The Bible says weíre not to be proud, so Iíd say I feel good about our career Ė that we did what we wanted to do, had fun with it and that it meant something to a lot of people.  But there are so many things more meaningful than a career.  Iím proud of my six kids.

LVM:  What is your greatest extravagance?

Tom:  Going out to dinner.  I usually pick up the tab.

Dick:  My quest for health and wellness.

LVM:  What are your favorite books?

Tom:  Reading is one of my favorite pastimes.  I loved Golf in the Kingdom by Michael Murphy and Iím reading a delicious book right now called The Dream of Scipio, by Iain Pears.  I also enjoy reading the Harry Potter series with my kids. 

Dick:  I swing from spiritual, self-help books to mysteries.  Everything from The Story of St. Paul to Silence of the Lambs and books by Mary Higgins Clark.  I can see myself in an old-age home.   Because of my lack of memory, theyíd only have to give me one really good spiritual bookÖ I could keep re-reading it and keep discovering new truths.

LVM:  What is one of the greatest challenges youíve faced?

Tom:  Being dyslexic.  I worked hard to overcome it and gain confidence.

Dick:  Never mind, Iíd better not talk about that.

LVM:  How would you describe your brother?

Tom:  Dick takes big bites of life.  He has a lot of qualities I wish I had.  He introduced me to golf, sailing, wine and good food.

Dick:  Tom worries a lot.  Heíll say he has to worry for both of us.

LVM:  How are you and your brother similar?

Tom:  Weíre not.  Growing up, mom used to say that if she put us in a Cuisinart, sheíd probably have one perfect son, but individually we were both very flawed.

Dick:  Weíre both concerned about life, society and people.

LVM:  How are you and Tom different?

Dick:  Thereís the talker and the quiet one.  I just go blah, blah, blah, and give you way too much information.  Tommy doesnít do that.  I annoy him to the end.

LVM:  If you had one with, what would it be?

Tom:  I get depressed about the world condition.  I wish I had more joy and faith in the outcome of things.

Dick:  To do the whole thing all over again.  I like the idea of soulís immortality.

LVM:  Do you have a favorite quote?

Tom:  Power without wisdom is tyranny and wisdom without power is pointless.

Dick:  Wherever you go, there you are. lvm

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