11 May 2008

Happy Smothers Day

The original plan was to honor only Dick Smothers,
because Mother liked him best.
But Tommy was included at the last minute.

Today marks one of the most meaningful of all holidays, a celebration of people to whom we owe a great, great deal. Indeed, we couldn’t have made it without them. You know who I’m talking about.

When I was a kid, you couldn’t have an Elementary School Talent Show without seeing at least two or three sets of brothers hop up onstage, strum a couple of tennis rackets, and lip-synch to a Smothers Brothers album. Kids who had no brothers frequently tried to imitate the Yo-Yo Man. Backstage, you had to hold a tennis racket up to your face, just to keep from getting hit in the eye with a yo-yo. If you got stuck on the bill between two only-children, chances were that you’d wind up with a double concussion, caught in the yo-yo crossfire.

So just imagine: If there were no Smothers Brothers, there would be no Smothers Brothers albums. And all those kids who had no talent would have been forced to stay out of the Talent Show. And I would not have learned the true meaning of show business.

We owe them more than that, of course. Through the Smothers Brothers, Middle America began to realize that the times were a-changin’, and that even polite, well-groomed young people might oppose the war in Vietnam (for example). The Brothers let it be known, far and wide, that political opinions and social relevance were no longer the exclusive province of the rude and unkempt youth of America. The Smothers’ rebellion was less dramatic, perhaps, than the roughly simultaneous May 1968 student uprisings here in France (which we cannot take two breaths without being reminded of). Yet its impact was lasting.

The Smothers were suppressed by CBS. Thirty years later, so was I. I was a fool to think any other outcome was possible. I should never have gone to work there. The Brothers tried to warn me. They tried to warn us all. Isn’t it time for us to look back on their lessons, and to move forward into the future by accepting the philosophy of Yo?

Yes, the Smothers deserve our respect, our gratitude, and a holiday to themselves.

What do you mean? It’s not Smothers Day? It’s — oh, no. Have I missed it again?

In France, Mother’s Day is celebrated on a different Sunday — impossible to predict. I am sure they do this for a very well-grounded philosophical reason. As indeed they do everything. They are a reasonable people. They invented reason. They also invented Motherhood. If they celebrate Mother’s Day on a day other than that on which Americans celebrate, it is most assuredly not done to confuse American refugees like me.

So let me take this opportunity to wish all the best not only to Yo-Yo Man, but to My Mama — and to Your Mama — and, while I’m at it, to this guy, too.

Happy Mother’s Day, Yo Yo Ma