For the new generation of players, this sort of thing looks hopelessly dated and ridiculous but it’s worth noting that for a really long time, this VHS video was one of the only pieces of yoyo instruction available anywhere in the world.
The Smothers Brothers are a comedy duo that began performing together in the late 1950s. Brothers Tom and Dick Smothers built a generally clean but often subversive comedy act that slipped in a lot of left-leaning political views, social commentary, and other sub-culture references that audiences at the time either loved or hated. They were cutting edge for many years, and when they landed “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” on CBS. According to Wikipedia “it started out as only a slightly ‘hip’ version of the typical comedy-variety show of its era, but rapidly evolved into a show that extended the boundaries of what was considered permissible in television satire.” The show featured many writers and series regulars who went on to successful comedy careers, including Steve Martin. The show also presented the top musical acts of the day, many of whom were shunned elsewhere on TV due to the nature of their music, including The Doors, Joan Baez, Buffalo Springfield, Jefferson Airplane, Pete Seeger and a stunning performance by The Who which climaxed with the literal explosion of their drums.
“The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” became as controversial and influential as it was popular, satirizing politics, racism and the unpopular Vietnam War among other topics. Despite the show’s success, in April of 1969, the Smothers Brothers were fired by the CBS Television Network. “Smothered – The Censorship Struggles of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” a film by director, Maureen Muldaur, documents the Brother’s struggle against censorship and, as a lawsuit later determined, the wrongful firing by CBS.
Comedy and variety pioneers, excellent performers, and an entertaining yoyo player…the Smothers Brothers give us an excellent glimpse into the very early days of yoyoing, and a rare look at reclusive yoyo demonstrator Dan Volk who appears here as “The YoYo Master”. (Editors Note: He’s reclusive enough that he lives in Cleveland, probably about 20 minutes from me, we have friends in common, and I’ve never met the dude.)