“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.” – Carol Burnett on Tim Conway’s death, May 14, 2019
Tim Conway happy to play second banana to Carol Burnett (1975)
By Tom Donnelly, The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — Tim Conway doesn’t mind a bit when he is referred to as a second banana.
“A lot of second bananas do,” he said, “but when you call me that, you don’t have to smile. Unless you want to or just can’t help it. There are some great second bananas in this world.
“TAKE PETER Sellers. He’s obviously a star. But is he not always playing second banana to a situation? If you replace the situation with a star like Carol Burnett, what do you have? You have me, a second banana who is delighted to be one of the bunch.
“It’s relaxing to be a second banana. Even when I did ‘The Tim Conway Show,’ I tried to design it so I was playing second banana to the situations.”
Conway has been signed as a regular on “The Carol Burnett Show” for next season. He was in town to talk about his new film for Walt Disney Productions, “The Apple Dumpling Gang.”
ACCORDING TO a Disney press release, Conway and Don Knotts “form a new comedy team as a couple of clumsy desperadoes who call themselves the Hash Knife Outfit, and for whom crime never pays.”
“What can I tell you?” Conway asked. “It’s Laurel and Hardy time. Don and I will do three more pictures for Disney. All these years, he was on the Andy Griffith show and I was on ‘McHale’s Navy,’ we were really playing the same guy.”
Tim Conway’s backstory
Conway was born in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, on Dec. 15, 1933.
He made quite a name for himself as a tumbler at Chagrin Falls High, and envisioned a career in physical education. But when he got to Bowling Green (Ohio State University) he decided speech and dramatics “sounded easier.”
CONWAY AND a college buddy worked up a nightclub act that was something of a failure. After their first show, the owner suggested that since the two of them were already wearing tuxedos, why didn’t they start showing the customers to their tables? And keep doing that.
Conway’s next job led to his taming with a fellow named Ernie Anderson for a daily two-hour show, “Ernie’s Place.”
“We had a movie and guests,” Conway said, “but the guests never seemed to show up, so I began filling the holes. I mean I impersonated a whole slew of guests. I’d come on as a bullfighter. Then next day, I’d be a sweepstakes winner.
“ONE DAY Rose Marie passed through town, saw me cutting up on the TV screen and said, ‘You’ve got to be on the Steve Allen Show!’ And pretty soon I was.
“I did three shows for him, and then his program went off the air. But don’t look at me. I got into ‘McHale’s Navy,’ and that lasted four years.”
The ancient dodderer Conway often plays on “The Carol Burnett Show” is a droll creation, and Conway said if the old party moved just a bit faster or just a bit slower, he probably wouldn’t get a laugh, he’d create an effect of failed pathos: Timing is all.
It is often said that we’ll face a severe shortage of comics one day because the great training grounds, vaudeville and burlesque, are gone.
CONWAY SAID, “Naw, if you’ve really got it you’ll make it. The talk shows, obscure little night clubs — there are all kinds of springboards. On my TV show, I had people like Don DeLuise and Charles Nelson Reilly when they were hardly known at all, but just the name they’d manage to make an impression.
“We’ll run out of coal and oil long before we run out of comics.”
VIDEOS: 12 times Tim Conway made us laugh so hard, he nearly broke us
1. Airline security sketch
Tim Conway plays an overzealous gate agent for Speedo Airlines, and — of course — drives Harvey Korman crazy
2. Tim Conway in the dentist sketch
This is the full-length version of this skit, because it is just the epitome of the combined comedic genius of Tim Conway and Harvey Korman.
3. The fireman sketch from The Carol Burnett Show
4. Tim as the Oldest Man
5. Tim Conway & Harvey Korman “fire at will” (aka the cannonball sketch)
Hilarious comedy skit with Harvey Korman and Tim Conway! It stars Harvey Korman as Pete, Tim Conway as Hank, and Vicki Lawrence as Sally the waitress. (Originally aired on The Carol Burnett show on November 1, 1975.)
12. Tim and Harvey performing together at the Emmys should have earned them another Emmy
Tim Conway interview: The 13-week man becomes a regular (1975)
By Jean Lewis, Tampa Tribune
Tim Conway was the most surprised person in the audience when Carol Burnett announced at the Emmy Awards that he would be a regular on her weekly variety show.
“Oh, sure, we’d been talking about it,”‘ he said, “but the deal still had not been finalized — no papers were signed or anything.”
Conway considers Carol the funniest lady on TV, and he’s had ample opportunity to observe that humor during numerous guest appearances on “The Carol Burnett Show” over the last eight years.
Now, Tim joins the regulars Harvey Korman and Vicki Lawrence as the first permanent addition to the cast since it debuted in 1967.
“We’re like a company of players — kind of like the old ‘Show of Shows’ with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca and all. I’ve played Harvey’s partner in the Southern family skits. and, of course, I’ll still use the old man routine. But there will be new things evolving — stuff that just happens.”
Stuff that “just happens” has played a big part in Tim’s life.
He started off being funny in lieu of not being prepared at school.
“Like when the teacher would ask ‘Who was the 24th president?’ rather than admit I didn’t know, I’d say ‘It wasn’t anybody in my family.’ The grade would still be the same, but I’d score pretty good with my classmates,” Conway explains.
His show business career came into being at Bowling Green State University. “We had a radio station — which had all of five watts. If you put your earphones to a radiator — if you were in the same building — you could hear me broadcast.”
His big radio break came a year later during the championship basketball game, when the big city station (Bowling Green, Ohio) WBBG carried his broadcast.
“Really went well, except once when in the excitement of the game, my tongue got twisted and meant to say one of the players took a shot. But instead of ‘shot’, the word came out with an ‘i’ in place of its ‘o.'”
After college, Tim was drafted. “It was 1956. The Korean war had ended, and I was stationed in Seattle, where I went in a private — I came out a private.”
The impish father of six, a native of Willoughby, Ohio, says the timing of his discharge was the best part of his military career as far as he is concerned.
It happened just as his friend Jack Riley (now a “Bob Newhart Show” regular) was going into the Army, and he suggested Tim take over his job at station WJW.
“I became a writer — I answered fan mail for a Cleveland DJ.”
Eventually, Conway began writing jokes for the DJ, and that led to producing promos, and then he was producing television shows for WJW-RV (CBS affiliate).
“In 1961, Rose Marie came to town promoting the old ‘Dick Van Dyke Show,’ and when the camera broke down, somebody entertained her with some of the shows we’d done. She told Steve Allen about them, and he asked me to come to Los Angeles to do some shows.”
Tim did three before Allen’s show went off the air.
Tim, by this time married to Mary Anne Dalton and the father of two, headed back to Cleveland — only to receive word he was wanted back on the coast as a regular in the “McHale’s Navy” series with Ernest Borgnine.
“I turned it down. I thought I’d done the ultimate — working with Steve Allen. For me, he was the epitome of humor. Where, I asked, could I possibly go from there? I was happy working behind the camera in Cleveland.”
The WJW-TV station manager refused to let Conway “miss” the opportunity of a lifetime and fired him.
“The rest, as they say,’ says Tim, “is history.”
That history includes four years as Engisn Parker on “McHale’s Navy,” followed by “Rango,” “The Tim Conway Show” and “The Tim Conway Comedy Hour.”
The last two were canceled after 13 weeks, serving as ‘inspiration’ for Tim’s custom license plates: “13 weeks.”