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HOME > Biographical > 100 New Yorkers of the 1970s > EASTSIDERS TOM & DICK SMOTHERS
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Stars of I Love My Wife on Broadway


As the Smothers Brothers, they were perhaps the funniest, most original American music and comedy team to come out of the 1960s. Their 10 albums sold in the millions, and for three seasons they had the most controversial show on television, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. When CBS abruptly canceled their contract in 1969 for seemingly political reasons, they became a cause celebre by suing the network and winning a million dollars in damages. After 18 years of performing together as a team, they retired their act in December, 1976, saying that their brand of satire had been "stated," and that repetition would bore them. The brothers parted on friendly terms, each determined to make his mark separately as an entertainer.

This past Labor Day, they were reunited as a comedy team — not on television or in a nightclub, but on the stage of the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on West 47th Street, where they instantly breathed new life into the long-running musical I Love My Wife. Cast in the roles of two would-be wife swappers from Trenton, New Jersey, they insisted on being billed not as the Smothers Brothers, but as Dick and Tom Smothers. However, anyone who laments the demise of the Smothers Brothers act should catch the show before the six-month contract runs out on March 4. Dick Smothers, as Wally, a smooth-talking pseudo-sophisticate, and Tom Smothers, as his naive, bumbling friend Alvin, a moving man, wear their roles as if they had been written for no one else.

"I like theatre and I'm going to do more of it," said Tom, 42, during a recent dressing room interview after a matinee performance. His brother Dick, 40, had other plans. "As soon as this show is over, I have to go back to California and do some bottling for my winery. And I want to do more auto racing. I race for American Motors. As far as making a career in acting on Broadway: no. I think I could work at it and become a fairly decent actor, but while I'm making wine, I want to play in cabaret theatre and dinner theatre. It's fun, and it keeps you sharp. Broadway isn't a place you should learn. What we're doing is apprenticing on Broadway.

"But that's how we got our television show," protested Tom. "We'd never done a television show before."

In spite of the box office success of their Broadway debut, Dick cannot help feeling disappointed that, as always, he is cast as the straight man. His character Wally is a foil to the lovable, slow-witted Alvin. "............
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