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

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  657 ratings  ·  155 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 Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
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
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.
Aug 31, 2011 Mike rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
Lane Willson
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
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
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
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.
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
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.

This book was mostly on my radar since I would hear it mentioned whenever the author, David Bianculli, hosted a segment for NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross. I'm glad I picked it up.

In certain ways, it is hard to comprehend how much television has changed. Shows like The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour would be watched by nearly 40% of the TV watching public and at its peak 30 million people. The ability of the show in its earlier seasons (of the small total of three) to reach such a broad group o
After the Charlie Hebdo shootings, reading this book on the rise and fall of the politically daring adventure known as the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was particularly striking. Bianculli does a wonderful job of putting the three-year run of the show, starring Tom and Dick Smothers, into the larger context of the tumultuous late 1960s. The show involved a who's who of soon-to-be superstars _ The Who, Steve Martin, The Doors, Janis Ian, Glenn Campbell, Judy Collins _ many of them discovered and ...more
As a fan of David Bianculli from Fresh Air on NPR, as well as a fan of the Smothers Brothers, I was very excited to read this book. I was NOT disappointed. Bianculli is a fan of not only television, thus having a wealth of insight, but also of the Smothers Brothers. Sometimes being a fan is not an asset to a tome about the object of one's admiration. In this case, it is. The meat of this book involves recaps about the majority of the episodes of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and you can alm ...more
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.
I remember vague reruns of "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour." Not full episodes, just clips here and there that I must have seen in syndication. But I always thought they were funny. Clean funny, just a little risque and a little "subversive."

I knew there was a big problem with CBS censoring their show and that they lost their show because of it. I didn't know the details.

Bianculli gets into the details, but in such a way that they're easy to read and understand, not tedious and boring like so
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."
Dan Ryan
Anecdotal, without including enough fun anecdotes.
Dangerously Funny by David Bianculli is not a funny book but a serious book about topical humor running afoul of thin-skinned people in offices of authority. The Smothers Brothers had a long career on stage and in clubs when they moved onto television. The vast expansion of their audience swept in many who were not receptive to some of the Brothers' political and social barbs. The result was a behind-the-scenes censorship war ending with the abrupt cancellation of a still-popular variety show. T ...more
Russell Sanders
As a child of the Sixties (and somehow got through the era totally oblivious to its immense social change,) I've spent my life exploring the impact that the Sixties had on us and American culture. So when I saw this book, and having loved The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, I had to read it. It is an exhaustive analysis of the political and social content of the show, how the Smothers (particularly Tom) were influenced by the world around them, and the controversy that the show caused that lead t ...more
Paul Pessolano
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
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
Andy Miller
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
This is the kind of book that I occasionally find in the library that I would never read otherwise. It is mostly chronological description of two-and-a-half seasons that the Smothers Brothers had a TV series on CBS with some pre- and post- history, with a focus on what they did that was advanced (in some sense) for the time and the things that got them in trouble with CBS and others - usually the same things.

Because of the focus on their being "dangerous" there is perhaps not as much about the i
Kasa Cotugno
It's always easy to sentimentalize the past -- the light is always gold, things were more innocent, at least that's all true if the remembered time were really so halcyon. Jon Stewart recently pointed out that the best time for most adults occurred when they were children. Adults have a different take on the times. The late 60's were full of turmoil, change, not all of it for the best. But that could be said of any era. The Smothers Brothers grew with the times and tried to make their show more ...more
I was too young to appreciate the controversy that the Smothers Brothers caused when their show was on the air, but I remember watching it every week and enjoying it quite a bit. My very conservative father controlled the TV dial in those days and apparently he enjoyed the show too, otherwise we wouldn't have watch it, so CBS may have greatly misjudged mainstream tastes when they pulled the plug on the show.

In any case, I have been a lifelong fan of the comedy duo and thus I am a somewhat biased
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
I didn't know who the Smothers Brothers were before reading this book, I read it because George Clooney is making a movie about them, and their television show was controversial. In reading about the Smothers Brothers, their show, and their constant battles with the CBS censors during the turbulent times of the 60s the author does a fantastic job of connecting this to our own times. The Smothers Brothers were inspirations for several television shows and it'll make you roll your eyes to hear how ...more
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