Tim Conway (December 15, 1933 – May 14, 2019) was an American actor, comedian, writer, and director. He portrayed the inept Ensign Parker in the 1960s World War II situation comedy McHale's Navy, was a regular cast member on the 1970s variety and sketch comedy program The Carol Burnett Show, co-starred with Don Knotts in several films in the late 1970s and early 1980s, starred as the title character in the Dorf series of sports comedy films, and provided the voice of Barnacle Boy in the animated series SpongeBob SquarePants.
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.
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.
WJW 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).
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.
Conway was part of an infamous network TV programming catastrophe: Turn-On, a counter-cultural sketch comedy show on ABC 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.
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 pair. 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; see later section.)
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. In 1983, he starred in another television show, Ace Crawford, Private Eye, a parody of detective series; it lasted only five episodes.
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 remained a regular cast member of The Carol Burnett Show until the program's run ended, in 1978.
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 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.
Conway was married to Mary Anne Dalton from 1961 until 1978, and they had six children together. He was then 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.
In the 1980s, Conway began appearing in 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 on the January 3, 1986 episode of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. In that episode, he was portraying 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.
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.
In 2002, Conway was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.
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 until Knotts' death in 2006. Conway continued to do the series.
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.
In 2007, he hosted Thou Shalt Laugh 2: The Deuce, a collection of Christian stand-up comedians.
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 pair also toured the U.S. performing together. The DVD Together Again with Tim and Harvey was a recording of their touring stage show that ran over 10 years to sold out markets until Korman's death in 2008. Conway has referred to Korman as, "The smartest man I knew but couldn't tie his shoelaces."
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.
He 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." Conway 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.
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.
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. They have done 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.
In June 2010, Conway returned to his hometown of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, to put on fund-raising performances at the Chagrin Valley Little Theatre to help kick off its capital campaign.
In 2012–13, he voiced the character Mulch in DreamWorks' Dragons: Riders of Berk series.
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's memoir What's So Funny?: My Hilarious Life was on The New York Times Best Seller list its first week on sale. 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.
In 2014, 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.
In 2018, Conway was diagnosed with dementia, began using a wheelchair, and had brain surgery. His daughter Kelly and his wife Charlene each wanted sole conservatorship over his health. Judge Robert Wada ruled against Kelly since he was in a hospital. In March 2019, his wife was granted conservatorship.
In 2018, Conway was seen promoting The Carol Burnett Show and other classic television series on the MeTV television network.
Conway died on May 14, 2019, at the age of 85 from complications of normal pressure hydrocephalus.