I know going into this piece that not too many readers are going to be familiar with the two men in this photograph, Tom and Dick Smothers. This goes way back in time to a television series that was cancelled in early 1969, months before the Manson/Tate hoax slammed the door on the anti-Vietnam War movement of that era. I enjoyed the boys, even as I recognized the only true comedic chops belonged to “Tommy” on the left. Dick on the right was a man with a light sprinkling of talent, a bass player who could sing, but not very well. He was used as Tommy’s straight man. He also, later in his career, took a shot at acting. He was not very good at that either.
I sat down to watch this panel discussion of the boys and their television career last week, and quickly realized that the whole thing, the origins of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and how it went off the rail and became a vehicle for anti-war protest was … nonsense. No one gains such a high-profile as that without support from high up. More about that later. First …
It took me a long time to understand this concept, not in the mechanics, but rather how embedded it is in our landscape. The idea that people spring up from grassroots to oppose those in power is intriguing. It can happen, does happen, but we never hear about them. Those who are allowed the spotlight are controlled. Otherwise, no notice. Every Democratic political leader – Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Nancy Pelosi … is controlled opposition. If they strike us as insincere and lacking authenticity, it is because that is what they are.
The Dave McGowan (fake death 11/22/2015) book Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon was fake opposition about the fake opposition in the music business during this same era. No musician of that time came to prominence without high-up support. He wrote about their fake deaths as if they were not, like his own … fake. (I am linking there to the Weird Scenes Facebook page. I was allowed to post one time, mentioning that McGowan’s death was faked, and was quickly banned – within minutes! I even said in my comment that I only had a little time to make my point, so pay close attention.)
It is true to this day – no one in the music business rises to fame without support from above. Many lack real talent, and thousands of people who have real talent have to do something else for a living. You’ll find them having day jobs while playing small venues like bars and coffee shops – if you love real musical talent, that is where to look.
Comedy is a little harder – laughter can be faked, but real audience delight is something we can sense. There are plenty of fakes around. Louis CK, Dave Attell, Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman, Ricky Gervais, Bill Hicks, Mark Maron, Patton Oswald … are not that funny! Audiences can be guided by power of suggestion, but I don’t see much in the way of people who are naturally funny. I enjoy Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Letterman, Conan O’Brien, John Mulaney, Brian Reagan … they seem gifted and come across as genuine.
Have I offended everyone now? Do I seem smug in castigating our current offerings in comedy? Relax. It is just my opinion. It is all subjective.
The Smothers Family
Tommy Smothers was, in my opinion, naturally funny, and the only reason that the Smothers Brothers act had any steam at all. His facial expression, childlike fake hurt feelings and feigned stupidity all combined to cause genuine laughter. For me, anyway.
The Smothers Brothers today operate the Remick Ridge Vineyards. That name, Remick, is a key behind their success. But let’s go back to the beginning.
Tom (February 2, 1937, age 82) and Dick (November 20, 1939, 79) were the sons of Thomas B. and Ruth (nee Remick) Smothers. Thomas Sr. was a U.S. Army Officer, hence the boys were both born on Governor’s Island, New York. That was a then an Army base, and was a military base going way back in time, even before the Revolution.
I am going to do a little genealogy here, with the reader’s understanding that I’m not very good at it, and also that there is a lot of guesswork on my end with smoke and mirrors on the other. Tom and Dick’s father, Thomas Bolyn Smothers was a major in the army, and a graduate of West Point. His generations go back only a few, to maybe 1795, when I arrive at “unknown unknown” as parents. His profile is managed by Erica Howton, a name that rings a bell. There is no “Smothers” in ThePeerage.Com, but there is a Smithers. I won’t guess on that matter.
It gets interesting. Here is the official story, from Find A Grave:
Graduated from West Point, Class of 1929. [Thomas Bolyn Smothers] became member of the 45th Infantry Regiment, Philippine Scouts. Report date: 7 May 1942, he was held at Hoten POW Camp (Mukden) Manchuria 42-123. He survived the Bataan Death March only to die on a Japanese Hellship, they were en route to Korea, when a Allied pilot [sic] mistakenly bombed the ship, he was a victim of friendly fire. He was buried at sea. There is a monument at Fort William Mckinley, Manila, The Philippines. His family was awarded the Purple Heart Medal & Bronze Star Medal. He left three children: Tom, Dick & Sherry and wife, Ruth Remick Smothers.
It is always dicey to imply a fake death on someone when indeed the death might have been real. I have a slight problem with this one, and so tentatively offer that problem, with all due respect to the family: No body.
Further, the family moved to Redondo Beach, California after the war. That is an exclusive beach community in southern Los Angeles, though they could easily have lived far away from the more exclusive properties. It is hard to be in the present and try to imagine someplace now as it was then. I suspect, however, that the move, from Governor’s Island to Redondo Beach, might well have followed the career of Major Smothers, still alive at that time and engaged in some other Intelligence function. Not everyone can just move from one coast to the other, from a military compound to a beach community.
In this sense, the careers of Tom and Dick Smothers might well have belonged with all the others in McGowan’s Weird Scenes – military brats, connected to military intelligence.
The real diamond in the Smothers background is the mother, Ruth Remick Smothers. Her lineage goes back into the 1600s in New York state, and of course, in it is contained a “George Washington Remick.” That is a common thing I have encountered quite often in the peerage, that first and middle name. (The Remick line is also managed by Erica Howton.) I did not find the name “Remick” in the peerage.
We are told that the Remick Ridge Vineyard was owned and managed by Ed Remick, Ruth Smothers’ father. I can only surmise that since it is now owned by Tom and Dick Smothers, they inherited it, and further, that it has been in the family for generations. Vineyards in Sonoma Valley are treasure troves, and no one could afford to purchase on a mid-range entertainer’s salary. I have found that, federal reserve notes aside, real assets stay in the families. They have real value and do not change hands. The term for this sort of asset control among wealthy families is “landed gentry.”
In other words, the Smothers Brothers were juiced. (Just out of curiosity, I looked up the ancestry of actress Lee Remick. She too was juiced, but this is where I stop, as I would be dealing with various family trees and looking for cross-connections. I’ll leave the genealogy right there, as I have already gotten confused. Better minds must work that stuff.
The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
I went searching for an appropriate clip from the TV show, and settled on the one above because at five minutes it is short enough that readers might actually watch it. There is a treasure trove of Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour material available, enough that I might spend some tired evenings watching them. Much of it was original and funny. The show had very good writers, and strong production values.
The clip above was considered avant–garde for its time, the young lady, Leigh French placing the word “Hate” across the weather map, and then changing it to “Hope.” She daringly makes references to “hot hordes,” a play on words speaking of girls on the California beaches, and of marijuana … then a verboten subject. She was pushing the envelope.
The show, when it came on, was aimed at younger viewers ages 15-25, and so got me where I lived, then 18. I and my classmates eagerly waited each episode and chatted them up each week. The controversy around the show made it all the more interesting. Styles had changed during that time, young people with longer hair and hippie-like costumes. Unknown to us, this sort of new fashion was handed us from above, a product of the music scene introduced by Vito Paulekas and his Laurel Canyon dancing girls, and slowly expanded on us as if a natural grassroots phenomenon. It was not an accident.
The show itself was handed to us as a natural event as well. However, the cast of characters was too good to be spontaneous. Writers included Albert Einstein (“Albert Brooks”) and his brother Bob (Super Dave Osborn), Steve Martin, Mason Williams (Classical Gas), Rob Reiner and Don Novello (Father Guido Sarducci). Musical guests paraded through – Jefferson Airplane, Peter Paul and Mary (themselves controlled opposition), Steppenwolf and even Pete Seeger, long banned from American television. The Beatles even used the venue to introduce Hey Jude and Revolution, the first of the musical video genre. George Harrison stopped by now and then – that doesn’t normally happen with ordinary programming. It was as if the mildly-talented brothers were magnets for people with real star power.
They had us. How could they not given such a parade of talent? And then, just as abruptly, it was all taken away. The show was cancelled in the spring of 1969. It would reappear now and then, but the magic was gone. Tom and Dick went back to live performances. (I saw them many years ago in Billings, Montana and saved a poster advertising the performance, long since lost.)
The assumption behind the rise and fall of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour is that it started out mildly counter-cultural, and then got wild and carried away, part of the anti-Vietnam war movement. Given what we know now about Tom and Dick, wealthy landed gentry, only lightly talented, having no barriers before them to attaining national fame, it is safe to say that the show was given to us to herd us into one place for a beating. That is the whole point of controlled opposition, to lead us … nowhere, dash our hopes, leaving us with a feeling of fugue, nowhere to go with our best and brightest instincts.
I think of Tom and Dick Smothers as the Bernie Sanders of my youthful era, put in place to show the way out, but in fact going nowhere by design. They played victims very well, engaging in a lawsuit with CBS and landing a large settlement for cancellation of the show before the contract expired. That does not read well … that is, it adds to the idea that the show and the Brothers Smothers were a natural phenomenon, but it smells more like a fake script. I have seen fake court proceedings all around me since my awakening years back, and this has that odor about it.
But I must say, it was fun. I enjoyed every episode and found Tommy Smothers delightfully entertaining. I even thought he played a mean guitar. It never occurred to me that the boys had turned to comedy because they could not do music very well, and that while offering some very funny material, probably none of it was original. It does not work that way for improbable success stories of members of the landed gentry. They did not happen on us by accident. They were part of the scripted events of the late 1960s, designed to bring us up and then tear us down, to destroy that word that Leigh French wrote across that chalk board above … HOPE.
19 thoughts on “Controlled opposition smothers real dissent”
Bolyn as in Boleyn? Martha Washington is descended from Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne, whom Henry VIII had beheaded. Their mother was a Howard who was related to the other queen who lost her head, Catherine Howard.
There is a book called ”THE ROYAL DESCENTS OF 900 IMMIGRANTS
to the American Colonies, Quebec, or the United States” if you’re interested —
At $150 it is a little more than I care to spend. It is like a reference work, however, so maybe I can request it at my library.
And yeah, on the Bolyn name, I wondered about that too, but I await people who are better at genealogy. I miss Kevin Starr.
They may have been there to “kill Bonanza” (playing opposite on an other network) so baby boomers could stop loving (sex, drugs & rock and roll) life, the illusion of freedom and laughing at the clowns in Washington D.C.; and start hating Nixon as fascism/police state once again “came out” of the closet for all to see.
Hating Trump (following the Obama love-fest) is a rerun. Emotions (subconscious manipulation) remain to this day the coin of the realm of ALL TV programming.
Bonanza was a differnet, older demographic, so Smothers went in underneath. Hate Trump Love Obama is really powerful, as you say, and so discouraging.
In “conservative” media of course those emotions are flipped.
But yes in the mainstream it seems that Trump’s role is to blackwash things like criticizing the press, global warming skepticism, anti vax, anti immigration etc. And make it socially unacceptable to express certain views. Especially for younger people, who have a strong need to be cool and fit in.
Mark good piece. Curious why you think your readers won’t be familiar with Tommy and Dick Smothers? I’m 53 and and get a sense I’m bringing up the rear in what I loosely consider an indoctrination. Your takes on all things Smothers et al is refreshing and in my opinion right in the pocket. Controlled opposition made perfect sense once exposed to the term a year or two ago probably on this site. Instantly weaving flawless tapestry of maddening tangled webs all at once. Surprised it took you a little while to grasp the concept though. Thank you for separating fact from fiction naming names of the past and present talent or lack thereof out there. Saves me from having to knock on Amy Schumer’s door and tell her myself. After I let her seduce me of course. Please immediately add Jimmy Kimmel to the fiction list and tell him I said Hi rhymes with Bye. Regarding the music industry I grew up a huge fan of the rock group KISS. Embarrassment set in after the original members did a farewell tour in 2000. The original four have not been together since then nor have I been to a concert of theirs since. I’ve also suspected the original 4 members have been replaced by doppelgangers still using their same names a time or two during their careers. Comparing pictures over the years eye changes of higher/lower or closer/ farther apart at times during their careers bothers and confuses me. They are huge money makers so here we are at their End of the Road Tour scheduled to last the next 3 lip syncing years with the 2 replacements using different names. I would love to get your opinion/analysis if there has been more than one Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley since 1974?
Once on Kimmel’s show Matt Damon wandered on stage dressed up as Patriot quarterback Tom Brady. It was delightful, as all three, Brady, Kimmel and Damon share the same facial plates, members of Straight’s “Matt Damon Batch.” I call them Bokanovsky Brats. As such, there are no limits to their show business success, though they all have severe limits on real talent.
Controlled opposition is an easy concept to grasp. It was Lenin who supposedly said the best way to control the opposition is to “lead them ourselves.” What was hard for me to see is that it is the entire landscape, not just part of it. I just watched a clip yesterday of Rachel Maddow tearing into a climate change/AIDS-HIV skeptic, and was suprised at how shallow and manipulative this supposed Oxford grad is. She is part of the “left,” lesbian, having her own national venue, controlled opposition. I wonder if she went to Oxford, if she is really gay. I know she is not a lefty. That’s how it works everywhere. If you see them on a high platform, you can instantly know they are fake.
KISS was not my thing, and highlights our age difference, 15 years. I would not be surprised, given their heavy makeup, if different actors stepped in and out of the shoes on stage. But I emphasize that with famous people there are often body doubles used just to ease the public appearance burden, allowing them a quieter life. Even Rush Limbaugh has a body double. McCartney is two people, but there were others too, for instance, seen getting in and out of a limousine while the real one(s) leave via an alley exit. Last night I watched McCartney (Mike, our current Macca) in a sit-down chat with Carl Perkins, and was suprised at how agile he was playing guitar left-handed. He really has mastered it over time. It set me back on my heels to see him with some real musical chops, the reason, I suppose, why he was chosen over the original cute and short crooner to be the Paul we all know.
Anyway, I just don’t know enough about KISS to want to dive into it, as it sounds like a project. But you are welcome to use this forum to publish your own ideas. It’s a generational thing.
Good call on Maddow. Note the term spent at the LSE spook school in London , 1992 https://news.stanford.edu/pr/94/941213Arc4011.html
Anyone have any thoughts on Doug Stanhope?
I’m curious about his level of connectivity. Bill Burr also. For myself, they are number 1 and 2 in the comedy world, but at times they seem controlled. I don’t want to believe that, but hard not too. Another current conundrum is Owen Benjamin and his fallout with Joe Rogan. Perhaps, like the best music being found in small coffee shops and pubs, that is where we shall find the best comics.
I wonder sometimes if one way to tell if someone is juiced is by the praise they receive from their peers. Stanhope and Rogan are said to be “brilliant” but I’ve never thought twice about them or laughed at their jokes.
PS: Your comment went to moderation because you are a first-timer. You’ll not have that issue again.
Is comedian Bill Burr related to Aaron Burr (former US vice president)?:
There is far too much guessing with this genealogy business. Is Bill Burr related to Aaron Burr? How can we know unless we go through the entire family tree, and even then can we trust it? A video our friend Annette gave me says that Ancestry.com is controlled by the same people who are harvesting DNA … worth a watch, and thanks Annette.
Here’s one, however: Comedian Amy Schumer is related to NY Senator Chuck Schumer. How do we know? She says so.
Owen is apparently doing a slow red pill express. He just recently started realizing Alex Jones is a intel fraud and huxter. He’s on the Jews are running the world bullet train (sort of, he’s got yahood blood himself) and doing the muzzies are out to get us slalom right now but hopefully he can pull himself out of the weaponized dialectic.
Yes it looks like Mr. B is fully earning his keep, the thing is when he gets into his obligated set it doesn’t come off the same. It comes off like when you go see a live band and they’re playing one those certain old songs that they must and you can tell they’d much rather be doing something off their new album, it’s like that. Still even though he may not like it he still answers when the piper calls. But oh well these people are our entertainment and they can be enjoyed safely when viewed through filtered lenses.
I know what you mean. I’m not as big on Rogan as I am Stanhope. Doug has a Vegas special on the way. We’ll see what he brings after laying low for a bit. He offends me at times, but I still prop him up as one of the best. To me he pulls off the crude and vulgar thing better than most, especially with “60 inches of AIDS on any given Sunday.”
Love that bit
Mark I somewhat agree. Stan can’t hold candle to Bob. The Stanny walks like Carlin has Will Ferrell/Michael Keaton mashed potatoed face all while The Doug wears The Jerk’s wardrode. 60 inches of Aids on any given Sunday? What does 152.4 centimeters have to do with football? Oh wait I get it. The male bonding psyop. Guess that one’s dying a slow death. Burr is no Raymond since his pea head never grew after birth but his Dennis Hopper resemblance/presence did. Bill has talent if TV prompter is handy. With Stan there’s no hope. Sake twisted for Mr. Crowley’s fake? Between the 2 of them Bill Burr is #1 and Doug Stanhope is a number two.
Comedy is subjective. What entertains me does not necessarily travel, and same with you. I don’t like the dark angry stuff much. George Carlin fit me well during that period of my life, but now I look back on him as just an actor well trained to project some anger on ordinary people, as we all suck.
Funny I was just watching some Stanhope a week ago as I do a couple years ago and came to the conclusion that yes he is controlled. You can tell by all the guys like Burr, Stanhope, and dare I say it, a ton of comics mostly jewish. But they all run a lot of the same subject matter in their bits. All the talking points of TPTB the comics inject it into their script. Ive been seeing for years that Burr likes to joke talking about how the world is overcrowded I saw once he told that joke and talked about people need to start dieing basically, the crowd didnt find it funny so he spent another 20 minutes trying to hammer down and explain why he felt that way he worked and worked on it until he finally got a couple laughs. It was a sad thing to see. You can tell with guys like rogan stanhope, burr and those guys by how long theyve been around theyve been around forever and all seemed to start together all knowing one another. I look at it just like I look at the salons of old of course the agents are gonna be mingling together and knowing one another and we see the same with those guys they go all the way back to the 90’s. TPTB try to give them that low key edge as if they are ground roots by having them appear as if they arnt mainstream but these guys are as tainted as ever.
Funny, the ones you mention are the ones I don’t care for, too edgy, not real funny. Carlin, too, as he aged, stopped being funny. but these guys, Burr, Stanhope, Rogan (along with Louis CK) are thought of by other comics as geniuses in interviews I have heard. We have comedy radio here in Denver that I keep on for lack of anything better. I turn these guys off as soon as they come on. Downers.