Conway in 2002
December 15, 1933
Willoughby, Ohio, U.S.
|Died||May 14, 2019 (aged 85)|
|Resting place||Westwood Village Memorial Park in Westwood, California, U.S.|
|Other names||Tim Daniel Conway, Thomas Conway, Toma Daniel Conway1|
|Alma mater||Bowling Green State University|
|Occupation||Actor, comedian, writer, director|
Mary Ann Dalton
(m. 1961; div. 1978)
Charlene Fusco (m. 1984)
|Children||6 biological, 1 step-daughter|
|Service/||United States Army|
|Years of service||1956–1958|
Thomas Daniel "Tim" Conway (December 15, 1933 – May 14, 2019) was an American actor, comedian, writer, and director. From 1966 to 2012 he appeared in more than 20 TV shows, TV series and films. Among his more notable roles, he portrayed the inept Ensign Parker in the 1960s World War II TV situation comedy McHale's Navy, was a regular cast member (1975–78) on the TV comedy The Carol Burnett Show where he portrayed his recurrent iconic characters Mister Tudball, the Oldest Man and the Dumb Private, co-starred with Don Knotts in several films (1979–80), was the title character in the Dorf series of eight sports comedy direct-to-video films (1987–96), and provided the voice of Barnacle Boy in the animated series SpongeBob SquarePants (1999–2012). Twice, in 1970 and in 1980–81, he had his own TV series.
Conway was admired for his ability to depart from scripts with humorous ad libs and gestures, which frequently caused others in the skit to break character while attempting to control their surprise and laughter. He won six Primetime Emmy Awards during his career, four of which were awarded for The Carol Burnett Show, including one for writing.
Conway was diagnosed with normal pressure hydrocephalus in 2018 and had brain surgery, but his health continued to deteriorate and he died on May 14, 2019 from complications of that condition.
Conway was born either Toma Daniel Conway or Thomas Daniel Conway1 in Willoughby, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, and grew up in nearby Chagrin Falls, the son of Sophia Murgoi and Daniel Conway, a groomer for polo ponies. His father was an Irish immigrant and his mother was of Romanian origin. His legal name was Thomas in childhood (sources differ as to whether he was legally born Thomas or Toma, the Romanian language analog; if it was the latter, it was legally changed to Thomas during his childhood)1 and was typically known as Tom; he changed his stage name to Tim near the beginning of his acting career (quipping that he "dotted the O") to avoid confusion with actor Tom Conway.
Conway attended Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, where he majored in television and radio and was a disc jockey, and member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. When he graduated, Conway enlisted in the United States Army, where he served between 1956 and 1958.
After his discharge from the Army, Conway returned to Cleveland and worked with Ernie Anderson on KYW-TV, an NBC affiliate, in 1958 and 1959. From 1960 to 1962, he was on WJW-TV (then a CBS affiliate, now a Fox affiliate) on a weekday morning film show (under the Ernie's Place banner), where he also wrote material for the comedic skits shown during film intermissions. Conway also recorded a comedy album with Anderson, who himself gained national prominence as a voice over announcer for ABC Television in the 1970s.
WJW-TV dismissed Conway in 1962, in part because he (and Anderson) misled station management into thinking he had experience as a director. Because of this move, which deprived Anderson of his co-host and comic foil, the station asked Anderson if he could host a B-grade (and lower) horror film show on Friday nights instead. Conway continued to make many appearances alongside Anderson's alter ego Ghoulardi, in addition to "Big Chuck" Schodowski, a station engineer who Anderson got to assume much of Conway's sidekick status (and who ultimately succeeded Anderson as co-host of the horror film program).
After he became famous, Conway resurfaced periodically on Cleveland television on the Hoolihan and Big Chuck and Big Chuck and Lil' John shows on WJW-TV, in guest spots and occasional skits. Conway also made regular guest appearances at numerous "Ghoulardifest" functions held by WJW over the years, along with former Cleveland TV personality Bob "Hoolihan" Wells, in tribute to Anderson, who died in 1997.
Comedic actress Rose Marie visited WJW in 1961, as part of CBS's promotional practice of sending their major show stars directly to local affiliates: in this case, it was for The Dick Van Dyke Show. She viewed tapes of some of Anderson and Conway's skits and proceeded to take Conway under her wing. Following his departure from WJW, Conway moved to New York City; where, with Rose Marie's assistance, he auditioned for, and gained a spot on, ABC's The Steve Allen Show as a regular player.
Conway gained a national following from his role as the bumbling, naive Ensign Charles Parker, Executive Officer of the World War II PT-73, in the 1960s sitcom McHale's Navy, alongside Ernest Borgnine and Joe Flynn. Borgnine became a mentor and a good friend. Conway appeared at Borgnine's 90th birthday celebration and, four years later, paid tribute to his friend at the 7th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on TNT. Conway said Borgnine was "like a big teddy bear" and "a very pleasant person to be around" when he worked with him on the World War Two sitcom McHale's Navy.
Conway was part of an infamous network TV programming catastrophe; Turn-On, a counter-cultural sketch comedy show on ABC that was derided as a ripoff of NBC's Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. The show was in fact created and directed by Laugh-In's creator George Schlatter. Even though Conway was listed only as a guest star on the pilot, which ABC broadcast on February 5, 1969, it was the only episode that ever aired.
Turn-On received enough immediate, negative reaction to force several ABC affiliates, including WEWS-TV in Conway's hometown of Cleveland, to refuse to return to the program after the first commercial break. WEWS management also sent an angrily-worded telegram to the network's headquarters. Many West Coast affiliates received advance warning and refused to air the show. Conway remarked that the show's premiere party he attended was also the program's cancellation party, but ABC did not officially cancel the program for several days.
In 1970, The Tim Conway Show paired Conway with Joe Flynn of McHale's Navy in a sitcom as owner-pilots of a one-plane (a Beechcraft Model 18 named Lucky Linda) airline operated by the duo. Having "nowhere to run", this pressurized situation was ideal for the fast repartee of the lead actors. It debuted in January 1970 and the last new show aired in June 1970. In the fall of the same year, Conway was given his own hour-long variety show, The Tim Conway Comedy Hour, or The Tim Conway Comedy House, which, as his other series had, folded quickly, lasting only 13 weeks. Typical of his self-effacing humor, he ordered his car's license plate to reflect the short duration of the series: "13 WKS". (Conway was given another one-hour variety show ten years later, which revived the title The Tim Conway Show.)
Beginning in 1975, Conway was often paired with Don Knotts in family films from Disney, including The Apple Dumpling Gang and its 1979 sequel, The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again. They also starred in two independent films, a boxing comedy called The Prize Fighter in 1979, and a 1980 mystery comedy film called The Private Eyes.
Starting with the 1975–76 season, Conway became a regular on The Carol Burnett Show, after having been a frequent guest for the show's first eight seasons. Conway's work on the show earned him four Emmy Awards — one for writing and three for performance, one of which was before he became a regular. Two of Conway's memorable characters on the Burnett Show were:
Conway could also get results with no dialogue, such as in a sketch in which he played a tired businessman seeking restful sleep in his hotel — and pestered by a housefly, created only by a sound effect and Conway's gazing after it. After much struggle, he manages to get the fly out of the room through the window; after returning to bed, he hears a persistent knock on his door, gets up to answer it, and opens the door, letting the fly (who was doing the knocking) back in.
Another skit, also without a word from Conway, featured him playing Simba, a lion raised by humans then released to the wild (based on the lioness Elsa in the film Born Free). Conway, told of the upcoming eviction from the comfortable home, caused Burnett and Harvey Korman to break up with an interminable process of packing to leave.
A prime example of his ability to make his co-stars laugh uncontrollably involved Lyle Waggoner as a captured American airman, with Conway as a stereotypical blond-haired Gestapo agent charged with his interrogation. Stating that "the Fuhrer" had taken particular interest, Conway produced a small Hitler hand puppet. Conway suggested to the puppet that singing might relax Waggoner's character to the point he is willing to talk. In a long, drawn-out fashion, the Hitler puppet (Conway providing a falsetto voice, with German accent) sings "I've Been Working on the Railroad", and with each passing verse, Waggoner loses more of his composure, finally laughing hysterically when puppet-Hitler screeches, "FEE-FI-Fiddely-I-O!".
Conway remained a regular cast member of The Carol Burnett Show until the program's run ended, in 1978.
In 1980, Conway again was given his own one-hour variety program, titled The Tim Conway Show (the title that was previously used for his 1970 sitcom). It aired on CBS, as his previous shows had, and debuted on March 22, 1980. It was originally a full hour but was reduced to half an hour in summer 1980. It lasted longer than any of his earlier self-titled series, ending in August 1981. The format was similar to that of The Carol Burnett Show, with several regular cast members performing in comedy sketches, interspersed with the occasional musical performance by a guest musician. Among the regulars in the cast were Maggie Roswell, Miriam Flynn, Eric Boardman, Jack Riley, and Dick Orkin. Former Burnett cast member Harvey Korman also became a Tim Conway Show regular in late 1980, after having earlier made guest appearances on the show, as had Carol Burnett and Vicki Lawrence.
In the spring of 1983, Conway starred in another situation comedy, Ace Crawford, Private Eye; a spoof of detective shows, it lasted only a month. In the summer of 1990, he starred in Tim Conway's Funny America, playing pranks in disguise on unsuspecting passersby around the United States while hidden cameras recorded the results, which Conway presented to a studio audience; it, too, lasted only a few weeks.
In the 1980s, Conway began appearing in a series of satirical how-to videos in which he played a diminutive, dark-haired Scandinavian known as Dorf (a variation on "dwarf"), reprising his goofy Mr. Tudball accent. The Dorf character first appeared on the January 3, 1986, episode of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. In that episode, he portrayed a horse jockey. Dorf also appeared in the 1987 film Dorf on Golf and later appeared in eight other films on a variety of sports from baseball to auto racing. Dorf on Golf was remastered for DVD in 2007. In 2010, all of the Dorf films were remastered in a DVD Collection featuring all eight films, a behind-the-scenes with Dorf, and a commentary track by Tim Conway on "The Legend of the Paddle: The Oldie Hollis Story." Dorf also appeared on an episode of Tim Conway's Funny America in the summer of 1990, leading an aerobics class on his impossibly short legs.
In 2009, Conway's Dorf character started "helping" Santa Claus on the website iSpotSanta. Each year, Dorf had three sketches; in 2009, he tried to give Santa his Christmas list, failing and accidentally hitting Santa with a golf ball. Then, in 2010, he tried to give all of the world's letters to Santa directly using jet rockets to fly to his sleigh, cannonballs, and more.
In 1973, Conway guest-starred in The New Scooby Doo Movies, voiced himself in the episode "The Spirited Spooked Sports Show". In 1999, Conway and his good friend Ernest Borgnine reunited to become the first guest stars of Nickelodeon's SpongeBob SquarePants, voicing the roles of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy. Series creator Stephen Hillenburg and creative director Derek Drymon visioned the voices of the characters with the two actors in mind from the very beginning, having been fans of their work in McHale's Navy. Hillenberg and Drymon directly approached Borgnine and Conway, and the actors both accepted.
Conway lent his voice to other television shows including The Simpsons, the Disney spin-off Hercules, Lloyd in Space, The Wild Thornberrys, Cybill, The Proud Family, The New Scooby-Doo Movies, WordGirl, Scooby-Doo! Pirates Ahoy!, Caillou and What's with Andy?. He also narrated The Secret Shortcut in Reading Rainbow and hosted The Flintstones' 25th Anniversary Celebration.
In 1963, Conway guest-starred in Channing playing a job applicant. In 1968, he made two guest appearances on That's Life. From 1970 to 1971, Conway made four appearances on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. In 1974, he was in the ABC Afterschool Special as a janitor in the episode: "The Crazy Comedy Concert". In 1987, Conway guest-starred in Faerie Tale Theatre as a mayoral candidate in the episode: "Rip Van Winkle". In 1990, he guest-starred in Newhart as himself in the episode: "Dick and Tim". In 1991, Conway made a cameo appearance in Carol & Company as audience member in the episode "That Little Extra Something". From 1995 to 1996, he guest-starred in Married... with Children as Ephraim Wanker, the hillbilly father of Peg Bundy in four episodes. In 1996 and 1997, Conway guest-starred in ABC's Coach, for which he received the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series, playing Kenny Montague in the 1996 episode "The Gardener."
In 1997, Conway guest-starred in Diagnosis: Murder as Tim Conrad in the episode: "Comedy Is Murder" where he teamed back up with Dick Van Dyke and Harvey Korman where Conway and Korman (Harvey Huckaby) are former comedy partners. In the episode, a clip of the well-known dentist sketch from The Carol Burnett Show was used to illustrate their partnership. In 1998, Conway guest-starred in Ellen as a comedian in the episode: "Ellen: A Hollywood Tribute, Part 1". In 1999, he guest-starred again in Diagnosis: Murder as Tim Conrad in the episode: "The Roast". From 2001 to 2005, Conway guest-starred in Yes Dear as Tom Warner, the father of Greg, with Carol Burnett Show co-star Vicki Lawrence playing his wife. He won another Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for his role as Bucky Bright in the 30 Rock episode "Subway Hero," which initially aired on April 17, 2008. From 2010 to 2014, Conway guest-starred on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Hot in Cleveland, WordGirl, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Wizards of Waverly Place, Mike & Molly, Major Crimes, Two and a Half Men, and Glee.
On his 75th birthday in 2008, Conway was interviewed as a guest on The Bonnie Hunt Show and given a surprise cake by Bob Newhart. In 2018, Conway was seen promoting The Carol Burnett Show and other classic television series on the MeTV television network.
Conway starred in Disney films such as The World's Greatest Athlete (1973), The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975), Gus (1976), and The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979), his work with the company earning him a Disney Legend award in 2004. He starred in the 1977 comedy film The Billion Dollar Hobo. Conway also co-starred with Don Knotts in The Prize Fighter (1979) and The Private Eyes (1980). He starred in the 1986 equestrian comedy, The Longshot. Conway also appeared with Dick Martin in Air Bud: Golden Receiver (1998) as Fred Davis, the main announcer for the Timberwolves' final game, with Martin as his co-announcer, Phil Phil. He was postal employee Herman Dooly in the 1996 film, Dear God.
Conway and Harvey Korman created a Collector's Edition DVD of new comedy sketches, titled Together Again; it was produced by Pasquale Murena and sold through Conway's official website. Starting in 2003, Conway teamed up with good friend Don Knotts again to provide voices for the direct-to-video children's series Hermie and Friends, which continued with both until Knotts died in 2006. Conway continued to do the series afterwards. In 2007, he hosted Thou Shalt Laugh 2: The Deuce, a collection of Christian stand-up comedians. In 2012–13, he voiced the character Mulch in DreamWorks' DreamWorks Dragons subtitled Riders of Berk series. In 2016, he played Professor VanVanguard, a knowledgeable character of the lives, characteristics and treating of zombies in the award-winning feature film Chip & Bernie's Zomance.
Conway collaborated with many notable performers and maintained long-term professional relationships with many of them.
Conway first pitched the idea of Ernie Anderson and himself doing a late night show together in Cleveland during the 1960s. That is where Rose Marie found Conway and got him a role on The Steve Allen Show. Before that, the duo recorded two comedy albums together: Are We On? (1966) and Bull (1967). Anderson turned to doing voiceovers after Conway moved on, but their collaborations continued with Conway's string of shows and Anderson's career as "The Voice of ABC". Anderson performed on sketches and was the voiceover talent for The Carol Burnett Show.
Anderson become a cult icon in Cleveland as the character Ghoulardi during his own late night television show, where he showed horror B movies to viewers. In 2013, Conway went to the Ghoulardi Fest to promote his book and show his love for his friend Anderson.
Conway first met Harvey Korman in 1966 during the first of Conway's three appearances on The Danny Kaye Show. Korman was a four-year series regular on Kaye's CBS variety hour. 1967 saw the end of the Kaye show and the debut of The Carol Burnett Show. With Korman available, he stepped into a regular role there. Conway appeared as a guest during that first Burnett season and the two men immediately became friends starting a lifetime of working together until Korman's death in 2008. One of their most famous sketches was from The Carol Burnett Show called "The Dentist Sketch." In this sketch, Korman goes to the just-graduated dentist Conway for a toothache. Conway proceeds to remove Korman's tooth, but before he can inject the novocaine into Korman, he injects it into himself, causing his hand, leg, and head to go numb.
Korman and Conway performed together for 10 years on The Carol Burnett Show before Korman left to pursue his own show. Korman joined Conway on Conway's shows and then later on in the 1986 film The Longshot, which Conway wrote for the two men. Conway also wrote the direct-to-video films Tim and Harvey in The Great Outdoors and Together Again with Tim and Harvey, which the comedy pair starred in together. The duo also toured the U.S. performing together. The DVD Together Again with Tim and Harvey is a recording of their touring stage show that ran over 10 years to sold out markets until Korman's death in 2008. When interviewed in 2004, Conway said of Korman, "We're friends; He's a bright guy; he can do The New York Times crossword puzzle in about five minutes, but he can't tie his shoes."
When Conway was starting his career in Hollywood, so was Don Knotts. Both men were regulars on The Steve Allen Show, though at different times. They didn't have the chance to work together until Disney Studios paired the two men on the Apple Dumpling Gang series of films, and their comedy clicked; Knotts's boisterous, Barney Fife-style bungling both contrasted and meshed with Conway's quieter form of physical comedy. The first film starred Bill Bixby and Susan Clark in 1975 and was called The Apple Dumpling Gang. The film centered around Bixby being tricked into taking care of a trio of orphans as the pair of lovable holdup men named Amos Tucker (Conway) and Theodore Ogelvie (Knotts) attempt to steal the gold nugget the children find. The film was a commercial success and a sequel, starring the pair, was made in 1979, called The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again. The sequel did not have the other cast members but was hugely profitable for Disney.
Conway wrote two other films for the pair to star in together starting with The Prize Fighter in 1979 and The Private Eyes in 1980. Both were independently produced and the highest grossing independent films of those years. They had a cameo in the Cannonball Run II film together and in later years voiced characters Hermie and Wormie in numerous children's shows from Max Lucado.
In 2007, Conway met filmmaker Pasquale Murena when Murena was brought in to direct additional scenes and edit the direct-to-DVD film Legend of the Paddle, starring Conway. The two men subsequently worked together on numerous productions, including Murena producing the DVD releases of Together Again with Tim and Harvey, the re-releases of Tim and Harvey in The Great Outdoors, Dorf on Golf, and Dorf Goes Fishing. Murena directed, produced and co-wrote with Conway six Dorf comedy sketches for the DVD release of The Ultimate Dorf DVD Collection, which has sold over 3 million copies.
Starting in 2009, the two men collaborated on their first sketches for the website iSpotSanta, where Dorf helps Santa deliver presents, and works at the North Pole as Santa's #1 elf. The two men did over 25 comedy sketches and three short films for the website, while garnering over 35 million viewers. Conway was quoted in an interview on the Disney Channel, stating that, "Pasquale has done more with Dorf than I ever imagined. We love making these films for kids." Continuing their success, Murena cast Conway as Professor VanVanGuard in his award-winning first feature film in 2014 called, Chip & Bernie's Zomance, with Conway adding his unique humor to this zombie film.
Conway was married to Mary Anne Dalton from 1961 until 1978, and they had six children together. He was married to Charlene Fusco from May 18, 1984 until his death. Among Conway's children is KFI Los Angeles radio host Tim Conway, Jr. His step-daughter through his second marriage became the tour manager for Conway's live tour with Harvey Korman. Conway and Charlene lived in Encino, California.
Tony Rossi interviewed Conway on November 20, 2013 on his podcast Christopher Closeup (on Patheos), and Conway revealed that he had converted to the Catholic faith. This was also reported in an interview with Raymond Arroyo on his EWTN program The World Over.
On September 27, 2018, SpongeBob SquarePants showrunner Vincent Waller commented that during the time Conway was recording dialogue for the seagull in The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, he was having trouble recording due to health issues. It would ultimately lead to his retirement from playing Barnacle Boy and from acting as a whole.
In 2018, Conway was diagnosed with dementia due to normal pressure hydrocephalus. He had surgery to have a ventricular shunt placed and became confined to a wheelchair. His daughter, Kelly, and his wife, Charlene, each wanted sole conservatorship over his health. Judge Robert Wada ruled against Kelly and in March 2019 his wife was granted conservatorship.
Following Conway's death, numerous actors and celebrities paid tribute to him, including Dick Van Dyke, Patton Oswalt, Ben Stiller, Billy Gardell, Ed Asner, Buzz Aldrin, Neil Patrick Harris, Jamie Lee Curtis, Larry King, Judd Apatow, Wayne Brady, Marlee Matlin, Al Jean, John Scalzi, Richard Lewis, Marsha Warfield, Patricia Heaton, Tony Hale, Larry Wilmore, Vicki Lawrence, Yvette Nicole Brown, Andy Richter and Conan O'Brien.
Close friend Bob Newhart made the following statement:
We lost one of the greatest today – Tim Conway may be the greatest ever. I will never forget on an Emmy Awards when Harvey Korman won & Tim did not. Harvey went up to accept his award, Tim went up and stood right next to him, not saying a word. Ginnie & I will miss him greatly.
Close friend Carol Burnett made the following statement:
“I'm heartbroken. He was one in a million, not only as a brilliant comedian but as a loving human being. I cherish the times we had together both on the screen and off. He'll be in my heart forever.”
|Year||Award||Category||Film / Program||Role / Occupation||Result / Location||Ref.|
|1963||Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series||McHale's Navy||Ensign Charles Beaumont Parker||Nominated|||
|1965||Laurel Awards||New Faces, Male||Nominated|
|1973||Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program||The Carol Burnett Show||Various||Won|
|Golden Globe Award||Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film||Won|
|Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series||Writer2||Nominated|
|Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program||Various||Won|
|1978||Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series||Writer3||Nominated|
|Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program||Various||Nominated|
|Writers Guild of America Award||Outstanding Variety: Series or Special: Musical or Comedy||Writer4||Nominated|
|1979||Variety Script, Musical or Comedy5||Nominated|
|1980||Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series6||Carol Burnett & Company||Nominated|
|1989||Hollywood Walk of Fame||Television||Various||Various||6740 Hollywood Blvd|||
|1996||Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series||Coach||Kenny Montague||Nominated|||
|1997||American Comedy Awards||Funniest Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture||Dear God||Herman Dooly||Nominated|||
|2000||Funniest Male Guest Appearance in a TV Series||Mad About You||Clerk / Justice of Peace||Nominated|||
|2002||Television Hall of Fame||Lifetime achievement||Various||Various||Inductee|||
|2003||TV Land Award||Favorite Second Banana7||The Carol Burnett Show||Various||Nominated|||
|2008||Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series||30 Rock||Bucky Bright||Won|||
|2011||Horror Host Hall of Fame||Behind The Screams||Shock Theater (Ghoulardi)||Writer||Won|||
Tim Conway ... has joked the cancellation of the 1969 ABC comedy program came during the cast's post-debut party.
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