We gave it an A
”Are we gonna be authentic Aesop’s fablers or not?” Tom Smothers cries in one of his rare sensible moments on Aesop’s Fables. ”Are we going to be authentic, or merely derivative?” A joke question. Here are the serious questions: Synthesizing seven of Aesop’s ancient tales into their comedy act, are the Smothers Brothers fabulous fabulists, or fractured ones? Do stories such as ”The Boy Who Cried Wolf” benefit when framed by Tom and Dick’s hilarious bickering?
Telling and singing such fables as ”The Fox and the Grapes” and ”The Bird and the Jar,” the Smothers do Aesop no harm. Perhaps they make him more accessible. Tom’s endless digressions, misunderstandings, and malapropisms are clearly intended to be comic, but they also may help a child understand the meaning of interpretation. In ”The Farmer and His Sons,” for instance, Dick patiently tells the story of the father who taught his sons not to fight by showing them how much stronger a bundle of sticks is than a single stick. Aesop’s moral: ”A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Tom’s interpretation: ”Stick together and you’ll make a bundle.” Funny stuff, and nobody says, ”Mom always liked you best!” A