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The Smothers Brothers’ Tom Smothers was one half of the comedic co-hosts for one of the most socially conscious programs in the history of television.

On Wednesday it was reported that he had died at age 86.

The Associated Press reported:

The National Comedy Center, on behalf of his family, said in a statement Wednesday that Smothers died Tuesday at home in Santa Rosa, California, following a cancer battle.

“Tom was not only the loving older brother that everyone would want in their life, he was a one-of-a-kind creative partner. I am forever grateful to have spent a lifetime together with him, on and off stage, for over 60 years,” his brother and the duo’s other half, Dick Smothers, said in the statement. “Our relationship was like a good marriage — the longer we were together, the more we loved and respected one another. We were truly blessed.”

When “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” debuted on CBS in the fall of 1967 it was an immediate hit, to the surprise of many who had assumed the network’s expectations were so low it positioned their show opposite the top-rated “Bonanza.”

But the Smothers Brothers would prove a turning point in television history, with its sharp eye for pop culture trends and young rock stars such as the Who and Buffalo Springfield, and its daring sketches — ridiculing the Establishment, railing against the Vietnam War and portraying members of the era’s hippie counterculture as gentle, fun-loving spirits — found an immediate audience with young baby boomers. The show reached No. 16 in the ratings in its first season.

It also drew the ire of network censors, and after years of battling with the brothers over the show’s creative content, the network abruptly canceled the program in 1970, accusing the siblings of failing to submit an episode in time for the censors to review.

Smothers Was Always Outspoken

The AP also noted, “Nearly 40 years later, when Smothers was awarded an honorary Emmy for his work on the show, he jokingly thanked the writers he said had gotten him fired. He also showed that the years had not dulled his outspokenness.”

“It’s hard for me to stay silent when I keep hearing that peace is only attainable through war,’ Smothers said at the 2008 Emmy Awards as his brother sat in the audience, beaming. He dedicated his award to those ‘who feel compelled to speak out and are not afraid to speak to power and won’t shut up and refuse to be silenced.”

Thanks for the laughs and the many memories, Tom Smothers.

RIP

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