Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"Dangerously Funny"

The title of the new book about the 1960s TV program the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour written by Terry Gross's TV critic, David Bianculli, is "Dangerously Funny." A good title, I think, for a book that could turn out to be a real sleeper, though, for all I know, everyone is predicting it to be a best seller. Doesn't feel like it though. Those events are just a bit too passe, too much like a tiny footnote that may not be all that worth recalling. I mean I remember the Smothers Brothers and their TV show. I remember when Pete Seeger sang his song "We were -- knee deep in the Big Muddy, but the big fool said to push on." It was a thinly disguised reference to the tragic foolishness of the Vietnam fiasco and to that most beloved of presidential fools - LBJ. For those of us watching at home it didn't seem like that big a deal (or did it?), but to the Johnson Administration, where everything, however minor, threatened national security (LBJ paves the way for RN, thank you very much!), it was just short of treason. Soon, the Smothers Brothers would be off the air and everyone would be blaming LBJ and his lackeys for putting the pressure on William Paley and CBS to get those boys out of sight. It was all pretty amazing. Another bizarre story from the 60s.

Well, as David Bianculli repeatedly told all of us gathered at the Lincoln Square Barnes and Noble last night, it took him 15 years to tell the story of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, a show that he thinks made Saturday Night Live and Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and many others possible. It was a labor of love apparently, as he not only revered the show but stays in close touch with the Smothers Brothers themselves. He even writes the liner notes for their special DVD releases of the highlights from their three seasons. Tom is now 72 and Dick 70, David shared in answer to a question about them, and says they continue to tour the country doing their act and they're still, according to Mr. Bianculli, pretty darn funny.

The best part of the evening, though Bianculli was marvelous in sharing his enthusiasm for the boys, were the clips he showed of Pete Seeger and Mason Williams (Tom's partner in crime and composer of the popular Classical Gas) and Steve Martin (a writer and occasional performer in the 3rd season) and a bizarre clip of the Who smashing their instruments on the stage and blowing up Keith Moon's drum kit. All part of the good fun of the 60s, lovingly revived by that most trenchant of TV critics, David Bianculli. Boy, at this rate, I can get all my amusement for free at the local Barnes and Noble! What a great deal! And so convenient!

No comments:

Post a Comment