Sadly, comedian Tim Conway passed away Tuesday morning in Los Angeles at the age of 85 after a battle with dementia People reported earlier today. Conway is survived by his wife of 35 years, his stepdaughter, his six biological children and two granddaughters. Though he is best known for his work on The Carol Burnett Show, Conway has a rich legacy of TV and movie appearances, although some didn’t compliment his brand of comedy.
Conway was born on December 15, 1933 in Willoughby, Ohio. He attended Bowling Green State University majoring in TV and radio and he served in the U.S. army from 1956-1958. After his discharge, he went to work at NBC affiliate KYW-TV in Cleveland, Ohio with Ernie Anderson until 1959 where he worked on Ernie’s Place, a morning film show. Conway both wrote and starred in a number of comedy sketches that were shown during film breaks promoting various products.
Conway and Anderson continued to work together recording a comedy album and appearing on Anderson’s late night horror film show, Ghoulardi, on WJW-TV, now a FOX affiliate. In 1961, Rose Marie (from The Dick Van Dyke Show) visited the station and viewed some of comedic work. So impressed, she helped Conway become a regular player on The Steve Allen Show for ABC.
From 1964-1965, Conway played Ensign Charles Beaumont Parker for ABC’s McHale’s Navy where he starred alongside Ernest Borgnine. From there, things were a bit rocky for the comedian trying to find his place. He appeared as a Texas Ranger for the short-lived sitcom, Rango in 1967 and in 1969 he appeared as a guest star for ABC’s Laugh-In ripoff, Turn-On which was reportedly so bad that it was not only shown once, but many of the network’s affiliates refused to come back to it after the first commercial break! The next year he headlined his own show, The Tim Conway Show, for CBS where he and former McHale’s Navy co-star, Joe Flynn operated as pilots but it only lasted half a season on the air (the show, not the plane.) Then he was given his own variety show. It too only lasted 13 weeks.
However, Conway also made numerous appearances on CBS’ The Carol Burnet Show where he was much more successful cracking up both audiences and show regulars Harvey Corman, Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner. In 1975 he officially joined the cast and created such iconic characters such as The Oldest Man and Mr. Tudball. He won four Emmy’s for appearing on Burnett’s show.
In 1980, CBS gave Tim his own variety show yet again (The Tim Conway Show) which started as an hour-long show and then was shortened down to 30 minutes before getting cut in August of 1981 despite featuring guest spots for Burnett, Korman and Lawrence. In 1983, he portrayed Ace Crawford, Private Eye which lasted a month on the air and much later in 1990 he did his own hidden camera show, Tim Conway’s Funny America which only made it a few weeks.
Tim Conway’s strength was coming alongside others rather than being the main player. He did much better guest-starring on other’s sitcoms. He received an “Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series” Emmy Award for appearing on ABC’s Coach in 1996 and won another in 2008 for appearing on NBC’s 30 Rock. Over the years he also appeared on Married with Children, Cybill, The Larry Sanders Show, Cosby, Diagnosis: Murder, Touched by an Angel, Suddenly Susan, The Drew Carey Show, 7th Heaven, Made About You, Yes Dear (along with Lawrence) and others. He also has done many voiceover work for Hercules, The Wild Thornberrys, The Proud Family, Sponge Bob and others.
Finally, Conway has appeared in a number Disney family comedies including The World’s Greatest Athlete, The Apple Dumpling Gang, Gus, The Shaggy D.A. and The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again. In addition to starring with Don Knotts in the Apple Dumpling Gang movies, the pair also starred in The Prize Fighter and The Private Eyes while also voicing the characters Hermie and Wormie for Max Lucado’s children’s shows.
(Featured photo: Tim Conway and Bernadette Peters (Wikimedia)
I write about arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.