After 32 years of the bickering brother act, Dick and Tom Smothers have achieved a comfortable marriage.
Marathon touring, persistent bids for a television series, successful commercials, a flourishing winery, the search for a movie, new families - the Smothers Brothers have discovered a secret to longetivy: Once you've got the formula, think carefully before you mess around with it."We've found that if we work separate jobs, we're just ordinary," said Dick Smothers from his room at a resort in Desert Springs, Calif., where the brothers were in the midst of a national tour.
The question was: Is it hard to remain professionally joined at the hip for more than three decades?
"We think being unique is the most important thing in the business. You have a brand or a stamp of who you are. We just feel better working with each other."
So the on-stage arguments are basically bogus.
"We have fun on stage," said the younger Smothers (Dick is 51, Tom is 53). "Our relationship is like an old marriage, a lot of fighting and no sex."
The brothers also have been working with CBS, which canceled their original, madly popular "Smothers Brothers" TV show after the network disapproved of the comedians' weekly pokes - satiric, funny, but pokes nonetheless - at the powers-that-be.
After a fling on NBC, the duo returned to CBS for a short-lived series of variety shows in 1988 and 1989 and development of a situation comedy.
The sitcom probably won't materialize, and Dick doesn't seem sorry. At one point in the process, he was to be the host of a mythical TV game show, with his unemployed brother (Tom, of course) being hired on as a Vanna White-type character.
"We were just trying to come up with some premises," said Dick.
Instead, the brothers may turn to syndication and the a.m. market, for a mix of news, weather and comedy.
"We're working on a morning show, to compete maybe against `Today,' `Good Morning America' and the CBS show. Maybe it would be syndicated. We'll do it with a little bit more comedy and less pompousness . . . still put in the same information, try to fulfill the same needs. People are getting ready to go to work, start their day. We'd give them news, weather, interviews, but do it the way we would do it. We could lie a lot, too, we're comedians. We're just like politicians; read my lips."
A possible title: "Wake Up, America."
Although the brothers feel secure casting their lot in life together, they now live on opposite coasts, the result of Dick's marriage several years ago and two new children (he has six in all, aged 1 to 30). Dick even signed the Sonoma Valley, Calif., winery over to Tom.
"I did it for about 10 years and then when I got married I decided to move to Virginia. I'm gone so long I wanted my wife to be home, where she felt comfortable. I couldn't run a winery from Virginia, so I transferred it over to Tom, and he's doing a good job with it."
Tom, too, is a newlywed. "Got married Sept. 9 . . . and they're still married."