It’s a small booth on the far corner of the NATPE exhibition floor, but baby boomers and TV connoisseurs are beating a path to space No. 108 this year to shake hands with a Smothers brother.
Dickie Smothers aims to launch the next chapter of his long career in comedy with the interstitial series “A Minute with Dickie Smothers.” Smothers and his partner, producer Lisabeth Begin, aim to distribute the minute-long spots to local broadcast stations for inclusion as part of newscasts. The spots feature Smothers offering a humorous take on pop culture, getting older, healthy living and a range of other news-friendly topics.
At 75, Smothers is a long way from the era when he and older brother Tommy helped bring the 1960s counterculture into mainstream TV with CBS’ “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.”
The show was famously axed, despite its popularity, in 1969 when the Nixon administration put pressure on CBS because of the show’s cutting satirical commentary about the Vietnam war, among other other issues. “Comedy Hour” proved a hotbed of comedy writing talent stars in the making, with Steve Martin, Rob Reiner, David Steinberg, Lorenzo Music, Stan Burns and Carl Gottlieb counted among its staffers.
“I think I want to start the first one by sliding into the camera and saying ‘Hi I’m Dickie Smothers and I’m not dead yet,’ ” Smothers joked.
Smothers, who now lives in Sarasota, Fla., still does the occasional TV or film role but he’s spent most of the past 20 years focused on staying sober after a long battle with alcoholism. His commitment to the tenets of recovery have given him the motivation to try the “Minute With” venture. Another focus is telling anyone who will listen that he has one more dream he hopes to realize: appearing on “Dancing With the Stars.”
“I just don’t want to stop,” Smothers said. “Life is so great after I got sober. These are such bonus years, I thought why should I sit around on my ass having coffee with friends.”
Having long been associated with a brother act, Smothers is also eager to try something on his own, in a format that he controls. “Minute With” is being offered to stations with sponsor avails built-in, and there will be a social media component, according to Begin. The company’s launch was timed to coincide with the NATPE confab: so far, Begin said, she has interest from at least five TV stations.
“I’m not Tony Robbins. I’m not Dr. Phil. I’m not trying to cure you,” Smothers said. “I just want to share nuggets of widsom and witty things. Something to make you smile. I think there’s so much for the baby boomers to hear about recovery, about becoming a senior.”
Smothers said he’s touched by the number of people who still reach out to him as fans of the Smothers Brothers, even nearly 45 years after their most high-profile TV show ended. The brothers made their mark in the early folk music scene as a musical-comedy duo (Dickie played standup bass) and gradually gained fame through nightclubs and appearances on “The Tonight Show” when Jack Paar was at the helm.
“The biggest surprise of me being around today and being alive is how much people want to share their memories of us,” Smothers said. “I don’t want to disappoint them. I want them to like what they see and hear.”
As for his pursuit of “Dancing With the Stars,” Smothers would like ABC and the show’s producers to know that he’s fervently hoping for a phone call. “Ever since I saw Jerry Springer on the show,” he said “it’s been my dream to be on ‘Dancing With the Stars’ — and win.”
Here is a vintage clip of “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.”