Tom Smothers – Lecture at The Commonwealth Club of California – August 22, 1969 –
It was a while ago, fifty-one years to be exact. Seems trivial now but at the time it was one more bone of contention in a contentious decade that seemed to spread over every aspect of our lives.
The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was an American comedy and variety show television series hosted by the Smothers Brothers and initially airing on CBS from 1967 to 1969.
The series was a major success, especially considering it was scheduled against the major NBC television series Bonanza, with content that appealed to contemporary youth viewership with daring political satire humor and major music acts such as Buffalo Springfield, Pete Seeger, Cream, and The Who.
But it was not without controversy. And as time went on, the controversy intensified and the animosity between the network and the Smothers Brothers became more frequent.
The 60s were a decade laced with hot-button issues and The Smothers Brothers were smack in the middle of it. In the enviable position of having a wildly popular TV show, and a forum for some of the best and most biting of satire available via mainstream media, CBS were none too pleased that even their entertainment division was becoming a bastion of perceived radicalism. Bad enough that their news division was becoming increasingly alienated by the Vietnam War as well as the civil unrest sweeping major cities across the country. It was next to impossible to censor or reprimand Walter Cronkite, but The Smothers Brothers were relatively easy targets and on April 4, 1969, CBS pulled the plug – cancelling the show, replacing it with Hee-Haw.
The backfire from the cancellation was swift and heated. It raised a disturbing question; was America becoming the very thing it was established fighting against? Was Freedom of The Press in jeopardy – was mass communications in danger of being censored into oblivion? It was only going to get worse before it got better – although it’s still a bone of contention to a lot of people for a lot of varied reasons – 1st Amendment, Freedom of Speech, the right of dissent – it’s the same issue.
But in 1969 it was about The Smothers Brothers and the Vietnam War and the Military-Industrial complex. Here is Tom Smother’s lecture at the Commonwealth Club lecture from August 22nd of that year.