Just Who Did Mom Always Like Best? Tom & Dick Smothers Would Joke on ‘The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour’
The Smothers Brothers were folk singers — Tom on acoustic guitar, Dick on string bass — who served up comic repartee between songs. Born less than three years apart, their brotherly squabbles while performing standards from the American folk catalog struck a chord with anyone who grew up nose-to-nose with a sibling. Tom was insecure and “slow,” Dick acted “superior” and played the straight man. Tom’s signature line was “Mom always liked you best!”
They first appeared as a folk duo in 1959 in San Francisco, soon becoming a popular club act. They recorded several comedy albums for Mercury Records, notably Curb Your Tongue, Knave! (1964). An appearance on The Jack Paar Show in 1961 led to a sitcom in 1965 titled The Smothers Brothers Show, in which Tom played an angel who comes back to Earth to look after his brother Dick. It only lasted one season, but in 1967 they returned with a better formula in The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour on CBS.
The show started out as a moderately more “hip” musical-comedy, but as sentiment grew against the Vietnam War, it became a voice for the counterculture. Top comedy writers including Steve Martin, Rob Reiner and Albert Brooks introduced edgier comedy material that kept the network censors, advertisers and local affiliates on alert. Eventually, CBS pulled the plug on the show, blaming the Brothers’ refusal to submit material in time for review by censors. The boys sued for breach of contract and won, but their show would not return.
Over the years since, Tom and Dick have returned to TV on many occasions, including a remake of The Smothers Brothers Show in 1975, a short-lived sitcom titled Fitz and Bones in 1981 and a 20th-anniversary special celebrating The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour that led to a one-year extension of the series.
They also continued to tour, performing their act. In 2010 they announced their retirement at the Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas; that same year they were inducted in the Television Academy Hall of Fame. Still unsettled is who Mom loved best.