NOT on DVD: The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour

"The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour," which ran from 1967-69, should be on DVD on the basis of historical interest alone: It was one of the most controversial and groundbreaking programs ever aired on U.S. television. But there is loads of entertainment value, too.

Steve Martin made his debut on the show and comedy regulars included Don Novello (later Father Guido Sarducci on "Saturday Night Live"), the so low-key you may wonder if he has a pulse Pat Paulsen, Rob Reiner and others. And just check out some of the YouTube videos below for the mind-boggling array of musical guests. (Trivia: That Who performance, with the huge explosion at the end courtesy of Keith Moon overfilling his bass drum with explosives, permanently damaged guitarist Pete Townshend's hearing.)

One of the most prominent of these is Pete Seeger. The folk star had been kept of television for years as a result of McCarthy-era blacklisting, but was booked onto the show at the Brothers' behest (Johnny Cash also bravely booked Seeger on his show).

And, not only did Seeger get airtime, he controversially used it to sing his tune "Waist Deep and the Big Muddy"--a scathing indictment of the Johnson Administration's Vietnam policy. The song was censored on Seeger's first appearance, but he was allowed to perform it during a subsequent visit. The tune still has a lot of resonance today, as the U.S. finds itself in another quagmire. (Interestingly, I just paid a visit to the Smothers Brothers' official site and saw that they are supporting an effort to nomintate Seeger for a Nobel Peace Prize.)

It was that anti-war stance, and the regular criticism and poking-fun at Johnson and Richard Nixon that ultimately got the popular show canceled

I don't know what sort of behind-the-scenes rights/business shenanigans are keeping this show off disk, but they need to stop!

In the meantime, I guess all we've got are bootleg snippets like those featured below and "Smothered," a 2002 documentary about the show's colorful history.

Pete Seeger

George Harrison

The Who

Harry Nilsson

Peter, Paul and Mary/Donovan/Smothers Brothers

Buffalo Springfield

The Hollies

The Byrds

Simon And Garfunkel

The Association

Steve Martin



Pete, in his comments to this post, mentioned the Mason Williams' hit "Classical Gas," which had its debut on the "Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour." Williams, also a comedian, was a writer for the program and helped launch Steve Martin's career. "Classical Gas" became a hit record after it's debut on the Smothers' show, and you can see a video of it here:


  1. Thanks for focusing on the Smothers Bros. I grew up watching that and no doubt that's one reason I am so warped today. Do you remember when Mason Williams first appeared on the show to play his wonderful guitar/instrumental piece "Classical Gas," which went on to become a hit? The visual accompaniment, as I recall, was a quick-cut tour through great art, and the shots went by so fast that it almost appeared animated. I remember being blown away by that. Is that anywhere online? I'd love to see it again. it was quite cutting edge back then.

    Cheers! Love your blog.


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