NOTE — I only got to meet, not interview, Tom and Dick Smothers — The Smothers Brothers — after their performance at Le Club, a long gone nightclub in Tierra Verde, Florida, just south of St. Petersburg. But it was great fun so I am posting this review I wrote at the time; it has never appeared online. It was originally published by Ray Martino in Steppin’ Out magazine, a free, entertainment biweekly for which I not only wrote occasional stories, but also did editing and layout. Those were much simpler times! — Bob Andelman)
From the Purple Onion in San Francisco, circa 1959, to Le Club at Tierra Verde in 1983, Tom and Dick Smothers have come a long way and yet not very far at all.
The song is called “Boil the Cabbage Down,” and as Tommy would later admit, “the song sucks!” Before getting to that point, a familiar patter between the Brothers interrupts the song.
“Take it, Tommy!”
“I wasn’t emotionally prepared,” Tommy laments, google-eyed. “When we were starting, I was hoping my brother wouldn’t ask me to take it, but he couldn’t read my mind, so it isn’t his fault.”
“Nobody cares how you feel” Dick Smothers blasted, upset that his brother didn’t accept the song lead smoothly. “You’re making a fool out of me and a mockery out of the whole show!”
Tommy grinned and said, “That’s my job.”
TOM SMOTHERS excerpt: “I wasn’t emotionally prepared. When we were starting, I was hoping my brother wouldn’t ask me to take it, but he couldn’t read my mind, so it isn’t his fault.”
It certainly is. Anyone who paid to see the Smothers Brothers, years after their last regularly scheduled television appearance, knew to expect Dickie as the arbiter of straight lines and logic, Tommy as the “punch brother” dealing a constant string of off-the-wall pervasive silliness.
As it always has, the comedy of the Smothers Brothers relies around music, mostly old songs like the Spanish “Cuando Calliente Sol,” where, Tommy segues into a clucking out Johnny Lee’s “Looking for Love,” to their classic interpretation of “The Impossible Dream” from Man of LaMancha, wherein a stage classic becomes the theme of Deliverance as Tommy and the piano player replace dueling banjos with a guitar and a set of ivories.
The routines seem slightly familiar, mostly because the style and delivery hasn’t changed after all these years. After another argument about some moot point, Tommy asks Dickie, “Did you tape it?” “No.”
“Then,” came the response, in a Nixonian lurch and shake of the head, “I didn’t do it!” Two packed shows at Le Club’ demonstrated the still-strong appeal of the folk-singing duo. They didn’t disappoint, performing a tight, entertaining program with lots of big yuks.