Tom Smothers might play the goofball when he's teamed on stage with his brother, Dick, but when the spotlight is off, the show business veteran is surprisingly contemplative about his craft, which he's been practicing for more than four decades.
"We're probably the last true comedy team still out there," the 67-year-old Smothers said in a telephone interview from his hotel room in Toronto, where the Smothers Brothers appeared earlier this week. "Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, even Martin and Lewis - all gone. But Dickie and I are still out there. How about that?"
The Smothers Brothers will appear tomorrow night with the Toledo Symphony in the Stranahan Theater.
One reason comedy teams are few and far between is that they often involve dueling egos, Smothers said.
"It's very difficult working as a duet because of the egos and the stress involved. It's a complicated dance."
In fact, the on-stage bickering that is the source of so much humor in their performances isn't all make-believe, Smothers said.
"About six years ago we actually went for counseling," he said. "Things had become very volatile, and we weren't talking to each other. The counselors helped us sort things out. They convinced us we should treat each other as professionals, not brothers."
So are they buddies now?
"Well, we're coming to Toledo together," he laughed.
The brothers made their debut as a duo in 1959, starting out as folk singers, with Tom on acoustic guitar and Dick on stand-up bass. Though they harmonized beautifully - and still do - they soon began peppering their performances with humorous fake arguments that helped transform them into a wildly successful musical comedy act.