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Tim Conway

Tim Conway, 2007
Born Thomas Daniel Conway
December 15, 1933 (1933-12-15) (age 76)
Willoughby, Ohio, U.S.
Occupation Actor, writer, director, comedian
Years active 1956–present

Thomas Daniel "Tim" Conway (born December 15, 1933) is an American comedian and actor, primarily known for his roles in sitcoms, films and television. Conway is best-known for his roles as Ernest Borgnine's inept second-in-command officer, Ensign Charles Parker, in the popular 1960s WWII sitcom, McHale's Navy, and for co-starring alongside Carol Burnett on The Carol Burnett Show.



Early life

Conway was born in Willoughby, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, and grew up in nearby Chagrin Falls. He attended Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, having majored in speech and radio. Conway later changed his first name to "Tim" to avoid confusion with actor Tom Conway.



Conway later moved back to Cleveland to work with the late television broadcasting legend Ernie Anderson on WKYC TV, an NBC affiliate, in 1958 and 1959 and later, from 1960 to 1962, on WJW TV, (the CBS affiliate) teamed with station engineer and now legendary local TV personality Chuck Schodowski as regulars on Anderson's Ghoulardi Saturday Night Picture Show, where he also wrote material for the comedic skits shown in between movie intermissions. Conway also recorded a comedy album with Anderson. After he became famous, Conway would later resurface periodically on Cleveland television TV through the years on the Hoolihan And Big Chuck and Big Chuck and Lil' John shows on WJW-TV in guest spots, and occasional skits.

Conway has 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.

The Steve Allen Show

After graduating from Bowling Green State University, he joined the Army, following which he took a job answering mail for a Cleveland radio station, where he went on to become a writer in the promotional department. In 1956, Conway moved to New York City, where he auditioned for, at the urging of comedic actress Rose Marie, and gained a spot on NBC's The Steve Allen Show as a regular player. Conway continued on the show for two seasons.

McHale's Navy

Conway gained a national following from his role as the bumbling, naive Ensign Charles Parker, Executive Officer of the PT-73 in the 1960s sitcom McHale's Navy with actors Ernest Borgnine, and the late Joe Flynn. In addition to Flynn, he also got along well with series' lead, Ernest Borgnine, and had a wonderful on- and off-screen chemistry. As of 2010, Conway is still best friends with Borgnine, in fact, Conway mentioned in an interview that he lives not too far away from his mentor. Afterwards, he starred in a string of series. 1967's Rango starred Conway as an incompetent Texas Ranger.

The Tim Conway Show

In the 1970s, The Tim Conway Show paired Tim with Joe Flynn of McHale's Navy in a sitcom set in the confined set of a DC-3. Having "nowhere to run", this pressurized situation was ideal for the fast repartee of the lead actors. Tim got his own hour-long variety show, oddly named "The Tim Conway Razzle Dazzle Hour," which, as his other series had, folded quickly. Typical of his self-effacing humor, he ordered his car's license plate to reflect the usual duration of a Conway TV series: "13 WEEKS."

Conway was often paired with fellow funnyman Don Knotts in family films from Disney, including the popular The Apple Dumpling Gang series. In 1983, he starred in Ace Crawford, Private Eye, a parody of detective shows; it only lasted five episodes.

The Carol Burnett Show

Conway is probably best known for his work on The Carol Burnett Show where his unscripted antics often caused his fellow players to fall out of character by bursting out in laughter. For example, in a sketch where Conway and Harvey Korman are having a swordfight duel in medieval garb, Korman appears to run him through. Conway pulls the thin sword "out", looks at it as if it were a dipstick, and remarks, "Hmm... down a quart!" and Korman convulses. Such guffaws became so common that, whenever Conway did a sketch with Korman, cast members would place bets on how long it would take for Korman to break up.

On many episodes of the show, Conway would have Ernie Anderson in the audience and Carol would ask him to stand up and take a bow, without explanation, as if he were a famous celebrity beyond his Cleveland bailiwick.

Conway's work on the show earned him five Emmy Awards. Two of Conway's memorable characters on the Burnett Show were:

  • "The Old Man," whose shaggy white hair, slow speech, and shuffling gait ran counter to the much needed energy levels of the various occupations he was usually found in. His comic inability to get said jobs done — usually with slapstick results to himself, and with many an ad-lib — would both frustrate and 'break up' his fellow sketch performers.
  • "Mr. Tudball," a Swedish-American businessman whose intentions of running a 'ship-shape' office were usually sunk by the bored indifference of his secretary, "Mrs. Whiggins" (Burnett). Conway's stereotypical Swedish accent (especially when frustrated) added to the humor; for example, his attempts to pronounce his secretary's name came out as "Mrs. Ah-huh-whiggins". He would also use this accent for other characters, such as an inept dentist.

Conway could also get results with no dialogue, 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 well-remembered skit, also without a word from Conway, featured him playing Simba, the lion raised by humans then released to the wild (seen in the film Born Free). Conway, told of the upcoming eviction from the comfortable home, caused Burnett and 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 produces a small Hitler handpuppet. With Conway providing a falsetto voice, the puppet suggests that singing might relax Waggoner's character to the point he is willing to talk. In a long, drawn-out fashion, the Hitler puppet 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!"

In the final season of the show, Conway produced one of his most hilarious ad libs during a family sketch. Playing the character of Mickey Hart, Conway reminisces about seeing a pair of Siamese elephants during a trip to the zoo, describing how they were connected at the trunk and the sound they made. Once Burnett gained her composure she turned to Vicki Lawrence to help get the script moving again, to which Lawrence quipped, "are you sure that little asshole is through?", causing Burnett to grab her mouth in shock and both Conway and Dick Van Dyke to fall to the floor in laughter.


Conway's more recent work includes a series of satirical how-to videos in which he plays a diminutive, dark-haired Scandinavian known as Dorf (a variation on "dwarf"), reprising his goofy Mr. Tudball accent. The Dorf character first appeared in the 1987 film Dorf on Golf and has since appeared in seven other films on a variety of sports from baseball to auto racing. Dorf on Golf was remastered for DVD in 2007.

Other roles

Conway has guest starred such programs as ABC's Coach and Channing, the latter a drama about college life in the early 1960s. He starred in such films as The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975) as Gangster Amos Tucker. Conway continues to appear in movies and has cameo appearances in TV series; most of these appearances showcase his comedic talent. Currently, Tim voices the character "Barnacle Boy" in a recurring role on the popular Nickelodeon cartoon sictom SpongeBob SquarePants; in this role, he is once again paired up as the sidekick to his old McHale's Navy co-star, Ernest Borgnine (who voices Mermaid Man, the "mentor" of Barnacle Boy). He appeared several times on the sitcom Married... With Children portraying Ephraim Wanker, the hillbilly father of Peg Bundy. Conway has also guest starred occasionally on the CBS sitcom Yes Dear, playing Tom Warner, the father of Anthony Clark's stuffy character, Greg, with Conway's old Carol Burnett Show co-star Vicki Lawrence playing his wife, Greg's overbearing mother. Conway appeared in animated form in a guest shot in the October 6, 1973 episode of The New Scooby Doo Movies, "The Spirited Spooked Sports Show." In 2003, he returned to television on the short-lived WB Network comedy, On The Spot. For Max Lucado's animated cartoon Hermie and Friends he provides the voice of the title character in all eight episodes so far. He has also appeared in The Simpsons.

During The Biography Channel's biography of Conway, Borgnine referred to Conway as "a credit to his profession" and Burnett said words to the effect that Conway's talent for comedy was only outstripped by his genuine kindness and good nature.

A fan of thoroughbred horse racing, and an occasional racehorse owner, Tim Conway is a co-founder, Vice President, and member of the Board of Directors of the Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund.[1]

Conway created a Collector's Edition DVD of new comedy sketches with friend, Harvey Korman; titled Together Again (2006), available on his official Web site.

Conway won an 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.

He voiced Freddy Frog and other characters in Garfield's Fun Fest.

On his 75th birthday, Conway was interviewed as a guest on The Bonnie Hunt Show and given a surprise cake by Bob Newhart.


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