Wednesday, May 15, 2019

RIP Tim Conway

No one could make me laugh like Tim Conway.   I'm sure Harvey Korman felt the same.

Tim passed away yesterday at the age of 85.  He had been in ill health his last several years.   I first discovered Tim Conway on McHALE'S NAVY, a sitcom in the early '60s.   He was a standout in that show that contained lots of funny people including Joe Flynn, Carl Ballantine, Bob Hastings, and Gavin MacLoud. 

But Tim's real claim to fame was THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW, a variety series on CBS in the '70s.  He was part of the ensemble. 

As I mentioned, he could always break up fellow cast member, Harvey Korman.  Traditionally, there were two tapings of THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW for two different audiences.  Conway would stick to the script for the first.  But once he knew he had the as-written version in the can he would often stray from the script for the second taping, primarily to get Korman to break.   Case in point is the following sketch.  

This is my favorite sketch of all-time.  I pick it up in the middle when it really starts really getting good.  Conway is a new dentist.  His first patient is Harvey Korman.  If you're not laughing after this there's something seriously wrong with you. 

RIP Tim Conway.  You were brilliant and hilarious. 

32 comments :

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Variety has an obit with quotes from all sorts of people who knew him, who all say that on top of his comic brilliance Conway was an extraordinarily kind and generous person. Apparently, he and Bob Newhart, and a bunch of other comics and their wives had dinner together every Tuesday night. They could have sold tickets...

I think Tim Conway was probably the first actor I became aware of whose name wasn't in a show's title (or wasn't the presenter) and whose name I was excited to see in the opening credits of anything. Certainly back to MCHALE'S NAVY. To be able to do both improvisational verbal comedy and physical comedy equally well is uncommon; I often thought he must have had the fitness of an athlete to be able to do some of the things he did.

wg

Anonymous said...

Three icons of my childhood passed away this past week. Every girl wanted to be Julie in the Mod Squad. Peggy Lipton was the epitome of the '70s beauty. Doris Day show girls in the mid to late 60s what it was we could be: independent, smart, and funny. And now the hysterical Tim Conway. His elephant story and his dentist sketch are classics and made me stay home on Saturday night...until the show was over...to watch. I bet heaven was romping when Tim showed up to harass Harvey.

All three of these people shaped who I am today and how I raised my daughter. Look as good as you can and stay cool, be independent, and find humor in as much as you can.

Pam, St. Louis

Unknown said...

He was the first comedian I remember making my grandparents and parents laugh to tears. He showed me the power of comedy and the use of pause and re attack. He will be terribly missed. Rick, MN

Pat Reeder said...

I always loved Tim Conway on that show. In recent years, we've seen Carol Burnett live, and I gave my wife Laura a boxed DVD set of the shows last Christmas. Tim Conway's physical comedy was so hilarious and meticulous, I think he could have been a solo star if he'd only been around in the silent era.

Since I specialize in obscure recordings from celebrities' pasts, here's his first comedy album with his Cleveland TV partner, Ernie Anderson, "Are We On?"

https://youtu.be/FBBT00tp-CU

And their second, "Bull":

https://youtu.be/OxSUR1e6kZI

Plus some very early sketches from his local TV days:

https://youtu.be/NiQYhtvbRoY

Dana King said...

No offense to Robin Williams, Dick van Dyke, or a host of others, but for my money Tim Conway was the greatest physical comedian I ever saw.

Andrew said...

For a brief period of time there was The Tim Conway Show. I was just a kid, and it cracked me up more than anything else on TV (along with Police Squad). My family would get annoyed with me because I would keep breaking out laughing even after the show was over. I couldn't get the skits out of my mind.

Only later did I discover all his other work on YouTube clips.

RIP, Tim. Thanks for bringing some light into my childhood. Now go make the angels laugh.

Matthew said...

I saw him first as Peggy's dad on Married With Children

Arlen Peters said...

I worked at CBS ("Columbia Square") in Hollywood from '68 to '75 ... but I had heard that the rehearsals and camera blocking of the Carol Burnett Show, done at TV City, were hysterical. So during the week I would take my lunch and drive over there. The audience, mostly filled with crew and CBS workers, was maybe 20 people ... but what we saw was some of the funniest things I have EVER seen! And Tim was right in the middle ... and since it was a rehearsal, not only was it pee-in-your-pants funny, but it was VERY dirty, which made it even funnier. I had the joy of interviewing Tim back then for CBS Radio and he was such a sweet and unassuming man and ... truly one of the funniest people I have ever met. It came so easily and naturally for him too.
I am always saddened when we lose a beloved celebrity, but even more so when they give me unbridled laughter.
So thank you Tim for all of the happiness ... and thank God we have your work to watch for years to come!

Jeff Boice said...

My first memory of Tim Conway is him starring in "Rango". Loved that show. Of course, I was just a kid- I loved Gilligan's Island as well.

Arlen Peters said...

The two funniest sketches in the history of TV: the spoof on "This Is Your Life" with Sid Caesar, Carl Reiner and Howie Morris from YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS ... and the dentist sketch with Tim and Harvey Korman. Comedic perfection!

McAlvie said...

Absolutely one of a kind. He had the talent to be headliner, but I suspect he knew he could get away with much more as second banana. Part of his brilliance, something the great comics instinctively knew, was timing. You watch any of Conway's bits, and you find yourself laughing before the funny part even arrives. The best parts are much more funny because of the build up. The greats knew how to 'prime the pump' and get the audience to that fever pitch, keeping them balanced right on the edge giggling over nothing at all, thinking, "Oh, yes, this is amusing," then BAM! do something that has the audience on the floor and wetting themselves.

Tim Conway could do that, it was his genius as much as the physical stuff, which were all the more brilliant because you didn't suspect he was capable of it, not with that low key persona.

RIP Mr. Conway, and thanks so very much for the years of laughter.

Covarr said...

Is this the excuse I needed to re-watch DEAR GOD? By no means his greatest work, but I really liked him in it.

stephen catron said...

Arguably one of the funniest persons ever. I put him in the company of John Cleese and Michael Palin.

Cowboy Surfer said...

Nobody could walk slower...

Unknown said...

I still remember the tears running down my father's face while watching CBS. Must see TV! Family must see TV, where is that now?
Most of his accolades come from him being 2nd banana. He had 2 TV shows that only lasted a season (which now would be 2 seasons), he seemed to be in the same boat as Jonathan Winters. PURE funny! But as a lead didn’t transfer. A friend baby sat his kids in OH during his tenure as CBS. He would fly out for taping, then be back home. She said he was just simply funny and a gentleman....and not a robot

Mike Bloodworth said...

Yes, Tim Conway was a brilliant comic actor. But, I can personally attest to the fact that he was also a really nice guy.
Way back when, I used to work at a Baskin-Robbins in Sherman Oaks, CA. Tim would come in from time to time. He was always gracious and humble. He was one of those customers you truly enjoyed serving.
R.I.P., Tim.
M.B.

J Lee said...

The thing about the dentist sketch is it was done in 1969, before Conway was a regular on The Carol Burnett Show. So the improvisation Tim does here was done as a guest star, which kind of shows what the cast and crew already thought of him to allow his to pretty much just rift off on his own with the Novocaine needle, while Harvey melts down in the chair.

Scottmc said...

When my daughter was younger she went through her Sponge Bob phase. Whenever Mermaid Man and Barnicle Boy were on I explained to her who the voices behind those characters were. I told her that Mermaid Man was one of her grandfather's favorite actors and that Barnicle Boy made me laugh when I was her age. We looked it and found that Tim Conway had his own web site. He offered to send you an autographed picture if you provided the stamped return envelope. We did that and a few weeks later an envelope with her name arrived. Inside was the photo inscribed to my daughter. It is occupies a place of honor on her book case. When they announced his death I actually thought he was older. I was such a presence in my life since I can remember. Not only did his career span generations Conway appealed to different fan bases. My mother and father(who would have turned 90 today) loved the Carol Burnett Show. I loved Ensign Parker and my brother loved Dorf. A long,varied and successful career. Tim you will be missed.

-bee said...

Friday (or whatever) question:

Not sure if you are a Game of Thrones watcher or not - but as you may be aware, there is a LOT of anger among fans about the turns the show has been making in the final season. I would say at least for myself, the show runner/writers appear to ME to have run out of gas and seem to be rushing the plot along to get it over with (when supposedly HBO wanted then to generate more, not less, episodes)

The question then becomes, how could this situation have been averted? It seems like in the fan forums I read people don't completely appreciate the demands of turning out episodic TV. Some people are blaming the show runners for not turning over the show to 'someone else' but that seems easier to say after the fact and maybe not so obvious when the final seasons were being written.

I have been thinking about you a lot in this context because of what a great job you and David did in taking over running MASH. I could see a subtle variation between the show from when you ran it and before, but there was no sacrifice in quality.

If you even watch Game of Thrones, with your experience in episodic TV can you offer some insights?

Jeff Maxwell said...

Don’t want to sound like an old fogy, but these kid’s today just ain’t got that kind of comic DNA. Don’t get me wrong, there are some funny folks out there, but not Tim Conway funny.

Now get off my lawn.

Rick said...

Gail Parent ( the writer of the sketch) was on the CarsonPodcast and said that they had 'the hand' in the script, but that Conway added 'the leg' and 'the arm'. Always wondered what the script for such a physical piece would look like.

sanford said...

This was already pretty great too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qqE_WmagjY

Anonymous said...

Sanford, this is Vickie’s side of the story.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=aA7bxTc0AJw

Pam, St. Louis

CarolMR said...

The Mr. Tudball and Mrs. Wiggins sketches were my favorite. I have heard Carol Burnett give Tim Conway all the credit for the conception of the characters, including the unique accents.

Mike Bloodworth said...

P.S. It just occurred to me that Tim Conway may be the latest victim of "The Simpson's Curse." Who will be next? Betty White?!
M.B.

Tom Galloway said...

Per a Facebook post by a friend:

"My summer job, as a college student, was working at a day program for United Cerebral Palsy. The residents in this program all lived together in two giant houses in Westlake, CA. Want to know who owned those houses? Tim Conway."

Had the great pleasure of seeing him and Harvey Korman perform live once, of course including the dentist sketch. They still had it.

Barry Traylor said...

He never failed to make me fall to the floor laughing.

Stephan said...

To CarolMR:

As Carol Burnett tells it in her book, Tim originally wrote Mrs. Wiggins as an old woman. Bob Mackie, who was responsible for creating the show's costumes, told Carol he couldn't work up any enthusiasm for coming up with another "old lady," and sold Carol on portraying Mrs. Wiggins as a young-ish buxom blonde who, despite not always appearing to have too much going on upstairs, was pretty good at outsmarting her boss. Carol has said that Mrs. Wiggins' walk was born out of necessity. There was no other way for her to move in that tight skirt Mackie put her in.

Anonymous said...

Responding to comment about GOT from BEE

What this wrap up year of got reminds me of is the end of all too many of James Mitchners books.
Wrote big tomes with multiple complicated and rich plot lines/characters (i.e. Centennial, Chesepeake)and he gets to about page 850 and publishers will only accept a 900 page book so all of a sudden he has to wrap up everything in 50 pages what he used over 800 pages to build up.
Can't be done smoothly.
So it seems with GOT

So glad people other then I remember Tim Conway for McHales Navy. I was away from TV for most of the Carol Burnett show run ( She started on Gary Moore)

Wendy M. Grossman said...

A wonderful just-broadcast BBC series, BACK TO LIFE (created by, co-written by, and starring Daisy Haggard, who was so brilliantly funny as Myrna Licht, the head of comedy in EPISODES), has a scene in the first episode where Haggard, whose late-30s character has just come back home from 18 years in prison and must pick up her life from its interruption point when she was a teenager, is forced to wear a similar skirt and has just as much trouble walking in it. I kept wondering if the costume designer had seen Mrs Wiggins.

wg

CarolMR said...

Stephan, thank you so much for the Tudball/Wiggins info - very interesting!

Mark said...

Found this online. It certainly appears to be payback for the elephant bit. Based on Conway's expression, I wonder if his copy of the script was missing a few pages.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7KpqXLxFck