I was living in Britain and Australia when 'The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour' aired in the States, so I didn't have a chance to watch it regularly. I'm aware of the controversies which accompanied this programme, and which only make me that much keener to track down all the episodes. Despite the 'Comedy Hour' title, this was actually a variety series featuring impressive guest performances by some major music acts across a wide range of musical styles and genres.
This synopsis is specifically a review of the 18th episode of the 3rd series of 'The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour', one of the few episodes which I've seen ... and a distinct letdown, compared to the much better 16th episode produced only a few weeks earlier. One strong point here is the performance of Bob Einstein -- the underrated brother of the overrated Albert Brooks -- in his recurring role as LAPD motorcycle cop Officer Judy, who was perpetually trying to arrest Tom Smothers on various ridiculous charges. Einstein consistently played this role with a deadpan face, a deep monotone voice and sunglasses which concealed his eyes ... thus making it easier for him to keep a straight face during his often hilarious material. (Bob Einstein usually wrote his own scripts, and is equally as underrated as a gag writer as he is as a performer.) In this episode, Officer Judy tried to give a summons to guest star Liberace for driving his piano beyond the speed limit. To see if Liberace is drunk, Officer Judy orders him to blow into a balloon. Liberace complies, then shyly asks if he can keep the balloon.
This episode also features what is apparently the only-ever television appearance by a folk-singing duo cried Hedge and Donna Capers: rather daringly for the time, they were also an interracial married couple.
I usually despise the political impressionist David Frye, although I wish I'd been present during his legendary nightclub performance when Frye (as Richard Nixon) and Peter Cook (posing as a BBC reporter) ad-libbed an entire press conference. For this 'Smothers' episode, guest star Liberace(!) narrates a fairy-tale skit taking place in the Middle Ages. Frye appears on a balcony as an elderly bespectacled king who sounds like Lyndon Johnson. ('My fellow Amurricans, I come here tonight with a heavy head.') The king has decided to retire (surely 'abdicate' is the word?), and he wants his entire kingdom searched in a quest for a fitting successor. To conduct this quest, he chooses his minstrel Dick (Smothers, singing "me-me-meeee!") and his jester, Tom Fool (Tommy Smothers, looking ridiculous in cap and bells).
Liberace purrs his way through some unfunny narration -- "They searched high, and they searched low. And sometimes, they searched when they were feeling normal." -- while Dick and Tom search the kingdom for LBJ's successor. They have an Excalibur-like sword in a stone, which only the man qualified to rule the kingdom will be able to draw forth. The first candidate is a knight with a southern drawl (Frye again, channelling George Wallace). After some unfunny dialogue involving the word "pussy-footing", Frye/Wallace attempts to draw the sword, and fails. The next candidate is one Sir H: Frye yet again, this time imitating Hubert Humphrey. He too fails.
Inevitably, along comes a knight resembling Richard Nixon. (No prizes for guessing that this too is Frye.) I've always loathed Frye's depiction of Nixon, which seems to border on the pathological. Here, we get a very unfunny ending to the skit: Frye/Nixon is about to attempt to draw the sword, when Dick stops him from trying ... while telling Tom Fool that this man MUST be crowned the new king because he's the only candidate left! A crowd of peasants carry off the new ruler on their shoulders: Frye copies Nixon's victory gesture, then asks "Sock it to WHO?" in Nixon's voice.
This just isn't funny. If the cleverest thing the Smothers lads and Frye can come up with is to allege that Nixon only became President because there was nobody else available, then they really don't deserve to be considered political satirists. I'll give the Smothers siblings credit for being the ONLY prime-time act to attempt topical material at the time, but this sort of satire is very blunt indeed. My rating for this episode: just 5 out of 10.
0 of 1 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?