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Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour"

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  869 Ratings  ·  178 Reviews
An unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at the rise and fall of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour -- the provocative, politically charged program that shocked the censors, outraged the White House, and forever changed the face of television.

Decades before The Daily Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour proved there was a place on television for no-holds-barred politica
ebook, 400 pages
Published December 1st 2009 by Touchstone (first published 2009)
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Bill  Kerwin

Clearly written and organized, and very informative. Bianculli had the advantage of full access to the Smothers Brothers, and it shows.

Any of you remember that Firesign Theatre album title, "Everything You Know is Wrong"? Well, I found out this was true of my memory of the whole Comedy Hour controversy. I thought the series ended because of the Vietnam War, Pete Seeger's "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy," and pressure from the Johnson White House, when in reality it had more to do with falling rati
Richard Derus
If you remember the Smothers Brothers, read this book for a tiptoe thru the tulips (I know it was on a competing show, but timeliness was the aim) buried under the neiges d'antan. If either phrase has left you scratching your wig-holder, look THAT up in your Funk and Wagnalls.

But don't read this rather dense, somewhat longwinded recap of the three-season run of the Smothers Brothers's show. It will mean little to you, and the density of the behind-the-scenes material won't fascinate. The author
Dec 18, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first three-quarters of this book rates five stars, but the last quarter, which should have been omitted, turns into a political rant in which Bianculli offers idiotic opinions and lame-brain conclusions. Bianculli obviously sees the canceling, or firing, of The Smothers Brothers as some kind of conspiracy and some kind of right-wing conspiracy at that, rather than what it was--Tommy Smothers self-destructiveness spiraling out of control. Rather than spending so much time trying to uncover b ...more
Ray Charbonneau
I'll bet there's an interesting story here, but it didn't make it into the book.
Lane Willson
Nov 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fired not Canceled and other irrelevant distinctions of the Genius Tommy Smothers
I just finished Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” by David Bianculli. It is a wonderful recounting of Tom and Dick Smothers overcoming the death of their father in a POW camp on Bataan, and the revolving door of men in and out of their mother’s life. I laughed and laughed, and Mr. Bianculli does a wonderful job of capturing their rise to fame that at first seemed like as
Laura de Leon
I've only discovered the Smothers Brothers fairly recently, and I've never seen their show (I was 18 months old when it went off the air). After reading this book, I'd really like to fix this.

I knew them as funny folk singers. I'd heard they had a political bent as well, as many folk singers of that era did. I had no idea what they'd accomplished on their show, and how much more they tried to do, but were stopped by CBS and the censors.

I really enjoyed the look at the brothers as people, and I p
A. Bowdoin Van Riper
If you grew up in the United States, and were born after 1960 or so, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour may be the most significant television program you’ve never heard of.

It ran for only three seasons (1967-1969), but in that time it was television’s premier showcase for up-and-coming musical acts and topical humor. It booked some of the leading musical acts of the late sixties—Donovan, Jefferson Airplane, Joan Baez, and the Who—and broke the 17-year network-television blacklist of folksinger
Aug 08, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: hippies and baby boomers
Dick: People don't tune in to us to listen to us argue!
Tom: Some of them did.
I was one of those people who tuned in between '67 and '69 to listen to Tom and Dick Smothers argue and sing and make me laugh on "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour." David Bianculli's book, "Dangerously Funny", traces the Brothers' career, but spends most of it's pages examining the evolution of Tom's enlightenment as an anti-establishment proponent in the sixties and his constant battles with the CBS censors
Sep 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is more than the story of the three year run of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. It is also the story of The Smothers Brothers. If you like the Smothers Brothers, it is a treasure trove of info about how the act was started and how it was shaped.

I listened to one or two of their comedy albums over and over, as a kid. I didn't see their show, except in re-runs and documentaries, but since I have a brother, their comedy was very funny to me.

Later in life, when I learned that Tommy (G
Since we inhabit this realm called "Good Reads" and not, say, "Middling to Fair Reads", I am yanked back into reality by that realization.

David Bianculli's Dangerously Funny... is not, as it stands, an inherently "un-good" read, but neither is it particularly scintillating.

I blazed through it, and enjoyed it, but only because the subjects of '60s pop and political culture, issues of creative control and free speech and censorship of art/media, social control and corporate mentalities, TV of th
Sep 28, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember watching the Smothers Brothers in the 80s and liking them, though I was too young to get a lot of their jokes. I've been listening to some of their albums again and loving them, so I figured this book would be a great companion to that. The brothers were and continue to be a fascinating duo. But the book doesn't quite carry me away. There are a lot of facts I had no idea about, but Bianculli spends too much time (for my taste) getting into the nitty-gritty of the multitudes of specifi ...more
John G.
Mar 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humorology
I never saw the show, born in 67, but I have an intense interest in stand-up and subversive comedy. I enjoy comedy and it's history and it appears the Smothers Brothers were way ahead of the game. I always thought these guys were kinda fuddy duddy and square, that's not the case at all. These guys, especially TommY Smothers, were rebels and anti-establishment all the way during the crazy days of the 60's. They used their show to express unpopular sentiments and were targeted as a result. This st ...more
Aug 31, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm having a hard time reading this book. I grew up listening to my dad's folk records, especially The Kingston Trio, The New Christy Minstrels, and the Smothers Brothers, and I still love the music and humor of the Smothers Brothers. But it is hard for me to learn the "inside story" of their comedy hour, and I find myself losing respect for Tom in particular--who I remembered as being just so gosh-darn funny when I was younger, but comes across in these pages as self-righteous and preachy.

Dan Ryan
Dec 04, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Anecdotal, without including enough fun anecdotes.
John Behle
Went on too long. Too much of who was mad at who and when. I was ready for the final page turn, close that back cover and exhale a "whew."
May 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you're interested in this sort of thing, and you should be, this is well told. The attempts to force the Nixon connection at the end get strained, but there's a lot of gold in here.
Dec 23, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If the term "variety show" comes up today, it's most likely in a debate over Jay Leno's move to prime time television. Otherwise, it brings to mind names like Ed Sullivan, Sonny and Cher or even Donny and Marie, along with whatever smile or cringe they may produce. While variety shows tend to reflect or even contribute to popular culture, few have lasting impact.

One exception is The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, which aired on CBS from 1967 to 1969. Featuring the comedy duo of Tom and Dick Smot
Barry Hammond
Dec 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-researched, detailed backstory on how one of the most inventive and progressive prime-time TV shows ever presented got scuttled due to political and censorship issues. Covers both sides of the story and puts things in historical perspective to give us the insider scoop on how a show that was an "irritant" like a grain of sand, became a pearl over time. An important piece of media history well-told. - BH.
Maryann MJS1228
Dec 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, television
David Bianculli's love for the Smothers' Brothers Comedy Hour fuels Dangerously Funny so it's no surprise that this a 400 page admiration of the 1960s variety show rather than a critical assessment or a dispassionate history of the show. You'll find a mini biography of Dick and Tom, details about specific shows, and play-by-plays of the shows battles with the CBS censors.

Tommy Smothers emerges as a canny businessman and spotter of talent, committed to his beliefs but also surprisingly driven to
Todd Stockslager
Jun 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pop-culture
The Smothers Brothers show was on CBS from 1967 to 1969, so I would have been about 10 years old when saw what I remember just as silly-funny sketches and musical guests, the kind that a 10-year-old kid could listen to and laugh at without reserve or puzzlement. More interesting to me now, after reading Bianculli's book, is that my parents turned the show on and apparently watched it. Note to self: ask them about this.

Because it turns out the Smothers Brothers show, despite the innocent, even ch
Feb 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I was much younger, I saw the Smothers Brothers in concert. They were fun and goofy, playing up the whole Mom- liked-you-best bit. I had NO idea of the past they had and how influential they were.

The story of their show - what they went through, the trails they blazed, the trials they endured - is remarkable. It's probably 90% Tom and 10% Dick as far as drive goes, and the book does a great job of showing the evolution of a relatively normal variety show to one that pushed the envelope and
Chad Bearden
David Bianculli's adoration for Dick and Tommy Smothers practically leaps off the pages of what turns out to be a quite entertaining and informative look at the comedy duo and their largely forgotten impact on the way comedians have used the medium of television to comment on society. The author probably uses the phrase "the most important moment in Smothers Brothers history" ten or twelve times, but his exhuberance is so earnest that it comes off as quaint rather than hyperbolic.

For those with
Paul Pessolano
Jan 28, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are looking for a book that is funny, nostalgic, and informative this book will satisfy you. The book will have special appeal to those who grew up in the Folk Era with The Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul, and Mary, and of course, THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS. The book gives the reader a glimpse of their lives before they became folk singers/comedians. They grew up without and a father, and a mother who came and went through several marriages and spent a lot of time in the bottle. The brothers, at an ...more
Blog on Books
Mar 29, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We always knew that Tommy Smothers was the more political of the famous Smothers Brothers comedy duo, but perhaps we never knew just how stridently he fought to maintain it. In 1967, (pre-cable) television was not the place for making snide, clever or obtuse political references on an entertainment variety show. At least so thought the well ensconced executives who ran the Tiffany network, CBS.

WIth guests like Joan Baez, David Steinberg, Pete Seeger and The Who (not to mention in-house talent l
Feb 21, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of pop culture and free speech
Shelves: nonfiction
I was ages 13 to 15 while The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was on the air, so my reflections are tinged with the first understandings of early adolescence. I remember watching this ground-breaking show, but know also that there were weeks we went to Grandma's to watch Bonanza on her color television. I think I was a bit behind others of my generation to appreciate the new rock music scene, though I was very tuned in to the anti-war movement (blame the Catholic school and nuns for both). I remem ...more
Steven Dzwonczyk
I was pretty young when the Smothers Brothers were on TV, and I have only vague memories of it, though I'm fairly sure my family probably wouldn't have watched it when it was up against "Bonanza" and later up against "Laugh In". (I actually do remember watching "Laugh In".) Listening to "Dangerously Funny" helped to clear some of the cobwebs from my memory, including my confusion of Dan Rowan and Dick Martin with Tommy and Dick Smothers.

Tommy Smothers, I came to find out, was the older of the b
Kathleen Hagen
Dangerously Funny, the Uncensored Story of the Smothers Brothers’ Comedy Hour, by David Bianculli, Narrated by Johnny Heller, Produced by Tantor Media, downloaded from

This book is about the rise and fall of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. It appealed to kids and young people below age 30. I was definitely in that age range and I remember the wonder of such wonderful satire on television. The publisher’s note says it as well as I could say it:
Decades before The Daily Show, The Smot
Jan 15, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a good account of a show that was way ahead of its time, though that's almost hard to fathom by today's standards. Though The Smother Brothers Comedy Hour, came about before my TV-watching time started, I knew about the Smothers Brothers early on because my dad was a huge fan. Whenever they made a TV appearance, we were tuned in. I always thought they were amusing to pretty funny on the comedy scale, but until recently had no idea of the role they played in television, censorship, and po ...more
This book brought back a lot of memories as I grew up with the Smothers Brothers. I found the censoring of the times very interesting. We forget how strict TV used to be. The author details the start of the Smothers Brothers, mostly about their stint with CBS and the censors, and where they are today. Their CBS time was during the Vietnam War and Tom, especially was very anti-war, very liberal. His intent was to use the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour as his pulpit. The author is obviously in agre ...more
Andy Miller
Feb 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
True to its title, this book is not a biography but about the Smothers Brothers tv show, focusing on the censorship battles between Tom Smothers and CBS. I enjoyed reading the descriptions of the individual shows, I was in junior high when the show was on and I was suprised at how much I remembered, though at the time I do not think I was completely aware of the significance of some of the controversies, I do remember Pete Seger's song Big Muddy water which was one of the highlights of the censo ...more
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