Decades before The Daily Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour proved there was a place on television for no-holds-barred political comedy with a decidedly antiauthoritarian point of view. In this explosive, revealing history of the show, veteran entertainment journalist David Bianculli tells the fascinating story of its three-year network run---and the cultural impact that's still being felt today.
Before it was suddenly removed from the CBS lineup (reportedly under pressure from the Nixon administration), The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was a ratings powerhouse. It helped launch the careers of such comedy legends as Steve Martin and Rob Reiner, featured groundbreaking musical acts like the Beatles and the Who, and served as a cultural touchstone for the antiwar movement of the late 1960s.
Drawing on extensive original interviews with Tom and Dick Smothers and dozens of other key players---as well as more than a decade's worth of original research---Dangerously Funny brings listeners behind the scenes for all the battles over censorship, mind-blowing musical performances, and unforgettable sketches that defined the show and its era. David Bianculli delves deep into this riveting story to find out what really happened and to reveal why this show remains so significant to this day.
©2009 David Bianculli (P)2010 Tantor
“A fast-paced, informative reminder of the importance of speaking out.” (Kirkus)
The big question with this book has to be: is it really worth my time to listen to a book about a fight over a television show from 45 years ago?
Well, Bianculli makes a valiant effort to argue that the answer should be yes, and the truth is I found this story remarkably interesting. There are deep questions here about the role of speech and censorship and media and national political divisions and youth culture, and drugs and all of that, and I'm amazed at how much this story comes off as an archetypal story of rebellious free spirits fighting for their freedom of expression against a tyrannical corporate and political structure trying to restrain them. Certainly that's how Tom Smothers saw things. Somehow "freedom" has become a watchword of the right; this book helps remind us that it's properly the province of the left.
That being said, it's still the inside story of a fight over what to put on television 45 years ago, and I can't help but think that it was not worth my time. Moreover to round out the book, there's a fair amount of filler on things like the Smothers' early career, earlier battles over television censorship by Jack Parr and others, and the Smothers' influence on later comedians. Honestly, I think this could have been a really good magazine article. But it's not a great audiobook.
Hyperbole is the Best Thing EVER!!!!
No for the author and yes for the reader
Bianculli is a TV critic, so this is his core knowledge base. The bulk of this book is basically a play-by-play for every show. It can be very informative, but also very tedious, but that I can forgive because it seems to me that it's how a TV critic would think.
The big issue is that he tries to over-sell the product.
He uses extreme exaggeration. The easiest way to describe this without spoiling anything is in the final chapter when he tried to proclaim the shows influence on today's television/comedy scenes, linking it to every possible show he can. He says they influenced Flight of the Conchords, who are from New Zealand, were born a number of years after the show was cancelled and most importantly and have never made such claims. Just because there are two of them and they sing, doesn't mean that they were ever influenced by Dick and Tom. And would Stephen Colbert have ever attempted to get on the ballot in South Carolina without Pat Paulsen having done so in 68? Of course he would have. He contradicts this claim by listing other people who had run as part of a humor bit. He uses this method elsewhere in the book too, but that begins to border on spoilers.
He also plays the conspiracy card by trying to incriminate Nixon in their being fired. Despite owning up to the fact that he could find no proof, he then spends a lot of time using logical fallacies to tie a man who had been in office for barely 3 months to their being fired.
And he makes too many unsubstantiated claims. I imagine that some of them are true and some of them are not, but because he does it so often, I come away wary of all his claims
He's a critic and not a historian and that shows. Opinion is not stronger than fact and he seems blissfully unaware of that.
More like who would I add. Is it possible that Dick Smothers was so inconsequential to the show that after the book shifts into the history of it, he deserves only a few passing mentions? I doubt it.
At the end of the day, Dick and Tom have cultural relevance. But what is the value of that cultural relevance? After reading the book, I am still unsure. I am quite sure its nowhere near the level that the author states.
I'm not an avid audio book consumer, but I do have a few years of at least 30 hrs/week of podcast consumption. So please take those facts into consideration.
First, the book gives exactly what the title says, except, well... Censorship just isn't as good as it used to be, so 'uncensored' means more like 'I let my 8 year old listen to this'. And I did just that while we were on a trip with his grandparents (who by the way LOVED the book). Don't be concerned about catching a crude joke by today's standards. Second, it is accurate through multiple sources in all accounts, and explains conflicting accounts as points of view, which endeared me, personally.
Lastly, while the reader was very good, there were points (probably between takes) where the readers volume rose and fell. I didn't notice it so much while listening with headphones, but through a car stereo I had to adjust the volume up and down a hair every so often.
I was a child when I saw this show. I found the behind the scenes very interesting.
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