Variety shows once ruled the airwaves of America, much like the reality shows and talent shows of today (both of which had their antecedents in the 50’s). The variety show was a smattering of everything from comedy sketches, musical groups, song and dance, animal acts, to plate twirlers. The Doors appeared on the major variety shows of the day, including The Smothers Brothers show.
Tommy Smothers and Jim Morrison
The Smothers Brothers were controversial because in their comedy they poked fun at “the establishment” and they clearly sided with the baby-boomers. If Ed Sullivan was known for censoring his guests the Smothers Brothers were known for giving their guests free reign, and their show was known for their cutting edge guests. They were the first network program to have Pete Seeger on since his blacklisting in the 50’s. Seeger’s appearance was also controversial because Seeger played “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” an anti-war song that was interpreted as being an insult to President Lyndon Johnson. The Smothers Brothers were also popular with the youth of the day because they were playing the rock groups other shows weren’t, like The Who, Cream, Buffalo Springfield, and, of course, The Doors. In the opening segment of the show The Doors appeared on, Tommy and Dick come out and Tommy started to put on a gas mask and motorcycle helmet, Dick asks Tommy what he’s doing and he replied “getting ready to go to college.”
The Smothers Brothers Show was also a breeding ground for a new generation of comedians. Writers on the show included Steve Martin, Rob Reiner, Don Novello (who would later become Father Guido Sarducci on Saturday Night Live), Bob Einstein (Super Dave Osborne), Albert Einstein (later Albert Brooks), and Pat Paulsen.
On December 6, 1968 The Doors videotaped their appearance on the Smothers Brothers Show (some Doors sources have it as December 4, 1968). The Doors performed “Wild Child” and “Touch Me.” The segment featuring “Touch Me” is famous for a couple of reasons. The first is that The Doors appeared with part of “The La Cienega Symphony” brass and stringed instruments brought in for the recording of the “Soft Parade” album. The second is that Doors guitarist Robby Krieger very noticeably has a black eye. A lot of rumors have surrounded the black eye, from a bar fight to a car accident, but Krieger recently said it was from a “tussle” with Jim. The Smothers Brothers Show aired on December 15, 1968.
Originally published December 6, 2012. This article appears in “The Doors Examined”.
Addendum: If you would like to know more about The Smothers Brothers’ censorship trials and tribulations, watch “Smothered” on Youtube.