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Dick Smothers Wants to Compete on ABC's 'Dancing with the Stars' -- And I Think It's a Great Idea
December 19, 2011  | By David Bianculli  | 1 comment

Back in the 1960s, before starring with brother Tommy on CBS's The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Dick Smothers sang and danced as Tweedledee, to his sibling's Tweedledum, in a 1966 TV musical called Through the Looking Glass. Later in the Sixties, Dick competed in automobile races, driving Formula B race cars.


And five decades later, Dick Smothers is still dancing, and still driving, but in different directions.

In 2011, the former race-car driver spent four months on the road, piloting a 21-foot Winnebago Rialta with only the loosest of itineraries, discovering himself in the process.

And for 2012, Dick Smothers is eager to dance again -- and would love nothing more than to do so as a 73-year-old contestant on ABC's Dancing with the Stars...

He's been watching the dance competition series, Dick told me yesterday, since "the very first year" (in 2005), and would love to be auditioned, and selected, as the next cycle's representative for the older set.

"I've been listening very carefully to Len [Goodman, one of the show's three judges], the guy in the middle, and his critiques for as long as the show's been on, and I've been taking them all to heart.

"So I've been working on parts. I haven't been dancing full dances -- I've been working on parts that make up the dance. Your shoulders, your posture, your back, your footwork, don't stick your butt out... In Sarasota, I have a teacher who has group classes and single classes."

In preparation for Stars, just in case he gets the opportunity to compete, Dick also is taking a class in ballet fitness, where he's the only man in a roomful of women. He's doing, he says, "all the things that will give me a leg up."


And even though he was the straight man in the Smothers Brothers, I'm pretty sure he was aware how tutu funny that sounded.

Dancing in the Stars, should he be cast (the program is selecting contestants now for the first cycle of 2012, which premieres Mar. 19), would be the next stop on a journey that has taken Dick to unexpected places since he and his brother retired their act in 2010, after 50 years as a performing duo.

What else has Dick done with his time off, besides taking dance lessons? This summer, he hit the road -- but not as a touring act. Just as a tourist. He visited family out West, but drove from Florida with no set timetable or route.

"This is the first time in my life," he says, "that I could go somewhere by myself without any constraints, other than my imagination and circumstance.


"I felt a little bit like Huckleberry Finn and Jack Kerouac put together. Except the difference between me and Jack Kerouac was, I didn't want to get high, and I didn't want to get laid. I just wanted to find out who in the hell I am after 50 years in show business."

He ended up renting a house for two months in Eugene, Oregon, using that as a home base to visit children and grandchildren (and Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour head writer Mason Williams, who lives there) while driving in all directions to explore. And before that, he visited friends in Las Vegas, then drove to Sonoma to visit older brother Tom.

"We had a wonderful three days together, just amazing," Dick says. "Visiting my brother was like someone visiting an ex-wife, where they had a real stressful life together -- but since the stresses were gone and they weren't in each other's face every day, you saw why you liked them so much. Tommy and I got along really great."

[In the photo at the top of this column, that's Tom at left, and Dick at right, on the roof of CBS Television City, where they used to have offices back in the Sixties while starring in The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. They were touring the facilities in 2008, for the first time in decades. The photo was taken by Jessica Kozzi, who, since then, has married my son, Mark. Nice photo, Jess.]

The entire travel experience, for Dick, was transformative.

"If I wanted to stay somewhere, or change my mind, I didn't have to check with my travel partners," Dick says. "I didn't compromise once...

"I think I discovered who I wanted to be, and who I was naturally -- and David, at this stage of my career, more people are recognizing me, and wanting to come up and be with me, than ever before. I'm a little puzzled by that. But I'm a different person now..."

All in all, Dick concludes, "It was a great summer. And now, if I get on Dancing with the Stars, I can go out as Dick Smothers, as Dick Smothers, and not just as a brother."

I think Dick Smothers would be great on Dancing with the Stars.


And hey -- if an Internet fan base can generate enough interest to get Betty White on Saturday Night Live and give her a whole new experience of show-biz stardom as she approaches 90, why can't Dick Smothers benefit from the same sort of popular groundswell? Spread the word.

I know Dancing with the Stars host Tom Bergeron is a Smothers Brothers fan, because he actively sought, and conducted, an interview with Tom Smothers and me on ABC's Good Morning America when my book Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of 'The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour' came out in 2009.

I also know that ABC Entertainment Group President Paul Lee is a Smothers Brothers fan. He attended the 2000 Aspen Comedy Festival where Tom and Dick were honored, and he was nice enough to invite me to his table, back when he was running BBC America, to watch another comedy act.

And to drop yet another set of names, now that my book has just been optioned by George Clooney and Grant Heslov's Smokehouse Pictures, the Smothers Brothers may be about to enjoy their largest profile in decades. So why shouldn't Dancing with the Stars give a Smothers brother a shot?

Dick Smothers always has been eager to try new things, and dedicate himself to mastering them. Here he is, in a YouTube clip from 1969, driving a Formula B race car at St. Jovite -- after chatting with fellow racing enthusiast James Garner -- and giving play-by-play of his race, which is shot from his point of view, like a Sixties-era version of Top Gear:

Dick Smothers was a competitor then, and wants to be a competitor now.

I want to go on the record as saying I think it's a great idea, and that Dancing with the Stars would benefit from an entire generation's good will, stored up with fond memories of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and its three-year run as the hippest, hottest, most controversial show on television.

Besides, Dick Smothers is likely to charm the judges. He's used to currying favor from authority figures.

After all, as any Smothers Brothers fan is well aware, mom always liked him best...




Mac said:

Dick Smothers' solo career as a singer was the obvious and best way to separate himself from Tom. This is well known territory to you David, but some readers may want to know a bit about this. Dick's attempts were tried via the TV show, with mixed results. Dick's best chance was with Mason Williams' "Saturday Night at the World", a pretty ballad with a kinda spacy title that should have pleased the masses during a time when "The Girl From Uncle"'s Noel Harrison could have a respectable middle of the road hit with Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne". But Harrison couldn't push a singing career further than that, and Dick's single got lost in the vortex of radio hits, circa 1968. When Simon & Garfunkel were trying to oust the Beatles' quarterly chart topper, there was just little room for Smothers. So how to account for Mason's own fluke instrumental, "Classical Gas"? The Smothers' TV show aided Williams, but couldn't help Dick. I speculate that "MacArthur Park", an equally fluke vocal but from a guy who couldn't sing (Richard Harris) had a similar bombast of brass as "Gas" at the same time that sounded great both in mono on radio and amazing at home in stereo. "Park" and "Gas" shared more than a few of great LA musicians behind them. Dick's little single that might just couldn't get enough steam.

[Very well retold, and analyzed. Thanks. And yet, how to explain "Someone left the cake out in the rain"? - DB]

Comment posted on December 20, 2011 8:06 AM

Eileen said:

He'd be a perfect contestant. And I suspect there are enough of us "Boomers" out there who loved the Smothers Brothers, that he would be a can't miss. I stopped watching the show a few seasons back, but I'd tune in for Dick's turn on the dance floor.

Your comments about "Someone left the cake out in the rain" made me laugh out loud. If you ever have a chance, read Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs. MacArthur Park was listed in his book as the worst record ever made. That may be debatable, but his book is hilarious.

This from a man who admits he knows all the words to Annette's "Pineapple Princess", but can't remember his ATM pin #.

[Thanks, Eileen. But much as I love Dave Barry, I disagree. Worst lyrics ever? "Umbrella Man." And thanks for the encouragement about Dick Smothers. Pass it on! - DB]

Comment posted on December 20, 2011 12:39 PM

Scott Corbett said:

Dick Smothers would be great. As a teen I could not wait for "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" to come on. Even though I had been a big fan of Bonanza, I couldn't change the channel when Tommy and Dickie were on. I have seen them several times live since they were blackballed for standing up for precious American freedoms that many on TV take for granted now. TV shows are all about ratings, and Dick has an enormous following that would be a great draw once again... Dick will capture a huge audience. Can't wait to watch.

[Thanks, Scott. I couldn't agree more, and hope his wish comes true. - DB]

Comment posted on December 24, 2011 9:27 AM

Maurice Millett said:

Dave, as a former high school classmate and long-time friend, I can attest to Dick's passion and innate sense of timing with everything he undertakes to do. He may be thought of as the "STR8MAN" of the famous brothers team, but we who were fellow high school Madrigal Choir members (meeting in annual choir reunions every year from 1997 until our choir director, Mr. "M" passed away in 2009) will confirm that Dick is, was, and ever will be a very funny man. Any guy that will parade the halls of the Stockton, CA hotel in a nightgown that he made in Home Ec. will not be timid about competing in Dancing. I have watched Dick charm his many fans with personal exchanges followig the numerous Smothers Brothers concerts that I have attended. I have little doubt that he would equally charm the judges and fans of Dancing if given that opportunity. Go get'm Dickie!!

[Great to have you visit! And spread the word -- this grass-roots campaign needs all the momentum it can get. - DB]

Comment posted on December 26, 2011 1:58 AM

Trish said:

Would love to see him back on TV!

Comment posted on December 29, 2011 8:31 PM

Bruce Bonds said:

I would LOVE to see this happen!
A Smothers Brother on Dancing with the Stars!

I grew up watching the Smothers Brothers and I am a VERY BIG fan.I would not have known about this request if not for Dick's son Steve sending me the link via Facebook.. (Steve is a childhood friend of mine and a VERY GOOD PERSON in his own right). But it doesn't take a family tie to see The Groundswell of support beginning for Dick Smothers to be on Dancing With The Stars!,
I only watch the show when one of MY stars are involved and Dick Smothers is right there with Betty White and Steve Martin in my book!
Count me in and a few million other BOOMERS as well to tune in!
From his stints on Laugh In and the many other shows that he has enlightened appearing with his comic grace and charm,
Who else could Dance and entertain better than a Smothers Brother?? This is a no- brainer and a natural fit. With the banter skills he shared with his brother on a daily basis, Dick is more than ready to battle wit with the likes of Len and company!
Loaded with decades of talent under his belt, how could he not be a headline attraction for the baby boomer fans like me?
Showcasing his talent and bringing back great memories and shared connections with Steve Martin, the Doors, Peter Paul and Mary and Jimi Hendrix, he brings an undeniable LEGACY!
His participation could possibly entice Betty White to accept the standing invite from DWTS (they have tried to get her on for some time now).
I think that if Dick were to be on the show along with Betty White - ALL OF AMERICA - would surely tune in to see two masters at work! showing talent never dies and proving age has no barriers..
With the right choreography I believe Betty could compete along with Dick Smothers and light up America!!
I would tune in for Dick alone as his talent stands alone bringing back a time that is not lost as long as Dick can sing and Dance!
And with America's current issues who could be better than "OUR first Amendment hero" Dick Smothers!
So play it straight! and let everyone see why mom likes him best.. or curb your tongue knave..!
God Bless his funny bone!
Bruce Bonds

[Thanks, Bruce. Keep spreading the word! - DB]

Comment posted on December 30, 2011 12:39 AM

Jenn said:

Love the idea!! Have been a huge fan since I was a kid and my mother introduced me to their Mom always liked u best album. Even seen them once on stage in the 80's. They are awesome!!!!

Comment posted on December 30, 2011 11:16 AM
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I'd like to see just about anything that Tom and Dick want to show us. Politically acute, well informed, incisive and witty....why does either of them HAVE to dance...I a boomer who would watch and listen for the joy of hearing someone not raised on Teabonics and idiocy.
Oct 26, 2013   |  Reply
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