On December 20, 2009, David Bianculli appeared on my radio show to discuss his book, “Dangerously Funny,” about the Smothers Brothers’ TV show. In the wake of Tommy Smothers’ death this week, I’m reposting the conversation here.

Bianculli’s book coincided with the 40th anniversary of the Smothers Brothers being fired by CBS. Despite their show being a major ratings success — knocking the long-running “Bonanza” out of the top spot on Sunday nights — their material was deemed too dangerous by the network, which was getting pressure from people in high places, including the White House.

For all the blather today about “cancel culture,” with comedians complaining they can’t say anything without receiving backlash, the Smothers Brothers’ battles with CBS serve as proof that the phenomenon is not new. It’s just that performers in the 21st century don’t know enough about show business history.

On my show, Bianculli explained how the Smothers Brothers (Tom in particular) didn’t shy away from fighting for what they believed in and getting in the network’s face on the air. They poked fun at their censors, re-introduced America to Pete Seeger after a 17-year blacklist, developed a relationship with and got support from The Beatles at the height of their fame, and eventually earned the respect of President Lyndon Johnson.

Listen to our conversation here.

Previously on Harris Online…