Tim Conway, comedian and ‘Carol Burnett Show’ star, dies at 85

Tim Conway, the agile comedian who was a core member of the “The Carol Burnett Show” troupe and starred in string of Disney film comedies in the 1970s, died Tuesday morning in Los Angeles. He was 85.

A rep for Conway tells Variety he died from water on the brain.

In later years, Conway had success with his “Dorf” series of comic how-to videos in which he played a bumbling, diminutive Scandinavian character by standing on his knees. He also lent his versatile voice to a slew of animated productions ranging from “SpongeBob SquarePants” to “Scooby Doo” to the Christian video series “Hermie and Friends.”

Over his long career, Conway was nominated for 13 Emmys and won six. For “The Carol Burnett Show,” he was nominated six times as a supporting performer in a variety or comedy series, winning in 1973, 1977 and 1978. He was also nominated as part of the writing staff for the show, drawing three nominations and winning in 1978. In addition to those four Emmy wins, he won in 1996 for outstanding guest actor in a comedy, “Coach,” and in 2008 for guest actor in a comedy for “30 Rock.”

53 PHOTOS
Tim Conway through the years
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Tim Conway through the years
RANGO - Cast Gallery - Shoot Date: November 12, 1966. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) TIM CONWAY
RANGO - Cast Gallery - Shoot Date: November 12, 1966. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) TIM CONWAY
LOS ANGELES - DECEMBER 9: Carol Burnett and Tim Conway on THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW. Image dated December 9, 1967. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
RANGO - "You Can't Scalp a Bald Indian" - Airdate: April 28, 1967. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) MURIEL LANDERS;TIM CONWAY
RANGO - "You Can't Scalp a Bald Indian" - Airdate: April 28, 1967. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) TIM CONWAY
UNITED STATES - JUNE 18: OPERATION ENTERTAINMENT - "Parris Island" 1968 Tim Conway (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
December 1969: Promotional headshot portrait of American actor Tim Conway for the premiere of his television series, 'The Tim Conway Show'. He is smiling, wearing a blazer and tie. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - APRIL 25: THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW featuring Carol Burnett and guest Tim Conway, signing Carol's autograph book. Neg Dated: April 25, 1969. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970: Photo of Conway Tim Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
UNSPECIFIED - OCTOBER 01: Photo of Conway Tim (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Tim Conway and Harvey Korman on 'The Carol Burnett Show', December 22, 1972. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 31: Tim Conway as "worlds oldest conductor" on THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW. Image dated October 31, 1973. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
L to R: Carol Burnett, Harvey Korman and Tim Conway at Mascot today. They are here for appearance at the Opera House. October 18, 1973. (Photo by John M Manolato/Fairfax Media via Getty Images).
LOS ANGELES - SEPTEMBER 26: September 26, 1975 THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW with guests Tim Conway and Maggie Smith. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - JULY 8: Cast member Tim Conway on "The Carol Bunett Show" on July 8, 1975 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
Promotional studio portrait of the cast of the television comedy variety series, 'The Carol Burnett Show,' Clockwise from top: Vicki Lawrence, Harvey Korman, Carol Burnett and Tim Conway, circa 1975. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Courtesy of Getty Images)
circa 1975: American comic actor Tim Conway smiles while wearing a trenchcoat and fedora. (Photo by Darlene Hammond/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Tim Conway, US actor and comedian, wearing a beige overcoat over a tweed jacket, a white shirt and brown tie, with a brown fedora with a black band, leaning on the back rest of a chair in a studio portrait, circa 1975. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 16: Actors Harvey Korman and Tim Conway on "The Carol Bunett Show" on January 16, 1976 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON -- Pictured: (l-t) Actor Tim Conway during an interview with host Johnny Carson on September 15, 1977 -- (Photo by: Fred Sabine/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - APRIL 6: Cast portrait of THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW from left: Tim Conway, Carol Burnett and Dick Van Dyke. Image dated April 6, 1977. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
OSMOND SPECIALS - "The Osmond Brothers: Four Specials for the Price of One" - Airdate: October 25, 1978. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) TIM CONWAY
OSMOND SPECIALS - "The Osmond Brothers: Four Specials for the Price of One" - Airdate: October 25, 1978. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) TIM CONWAY
LOS ANGELES - MARCH 17: March 17, 1978 THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW Carol Burnett, left, and Tim Conway perform on the last episode. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 9: Actress Loni Anderson and actor Tim Conway attend the 31st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on September 9, 1979 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES - DECEMBER 12: THE TIM CONWAY SHOW with (at right) Tim Conway and guest star, Harvey Korman. Image dated December 12, 1980. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 28: THE TIM CONWAY SHOW with (at right) Tim Conway and guest star, Harvey Korman. Image dated February 28, 1981. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS - DECEMBER 2: Circus of the Stars, a CBS television special. The ninth edition, originally broadcast December 2, 1984. Pictured is Tim Conway. Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
Actor Tim Conway attending 'Jim Nabors Party for Mother Mavis' on February 6, 1983 at the Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Actor Tim Conway and wife Charlene Fusco attend 'Variety Club Tribute Honoring Ronald Reagan' on December 1, 1985 at NBC TV Studios in Burbank, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Actor Tim Conway attending Second Annual Nancy Reagan Tennis Tournament Benefit on October 6, 1990 at Pacific Palisades in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON -- Air Date 04/26/1990 -- Pictured: (l-r) Actor Tim Conway during an interview with host Johnny Carson on April 26, 1990 (Photo by Julie Gorecki/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Actor Tim Conway attending the taping of 'NBC Special-Comedy Hall of Fame' on August 29, 1993 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 798 -- Pictured: (l-r) Actors Tim Conway and Harvey Korman deliver the Headlines on November 6, 1995 -- (Photo by: Margaret C. Norton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Actor Tim Conway attending 'American Comedy Honors' on August 23, 1997 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
12/7/99 Los Angeles, CA Ernest Borgnine, with Tim Conway, is honored as "Veteran of the Year 2000" by the "American Veteran Awards." Photo David Keeler/Online USA
Tim Conway presents Kim Cattrall the award for Best Comedy Series for HBO's "Sex and the City" during the 53rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards. (Photo by M. Caulfield/WireImage)
Actor Tim Conway performs on stage at the Westbury Music Fair, in Westbury New York May 15, 2004. (Photo by Steve Azzara/Corbis via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 30: Actor Tim Conway attends the game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Minnesota Timberwolves on January 30, 2004 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)
Merv Griffin, Tim Conway and Carol Burnett during 2004 Cable Press Tour - Day 4 at Renaissance Hollywood Hotel in Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by Mark Sullivan/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 13: Actor Tim Conway poses with his Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor In A Comedy Series during the 2008 Creative Arts Awards at the Nokia Theatre L. A. Live on September 13, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 26: THAT'S LIFE - "Our First Baby" 11/19/68 Tim Conway (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
TV Personality Kathie Lee Gifford and honoree actor Tim Conway arrive at the 2nd Annual Candlelight Forum honoring Tim Conway held at the DGA Theater on April 1, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)
HOLLYWOOD - APRIL 01: Actor Carol Burnett poses with Tim Conway who received the Lifetime Achievement award at the Regent University's School of Communication and the Arts 2nd Annual Candlelight Forum, awards evening held at the DGA Theatre, on April 1, 2008 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
30 ROCK -- "Subway Hero" Episode 211 -- Air Date 05/01/2008 -- Pictured: Tim Conway as Bucky Bright (Photo by Nicole Rivelli/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Kathie Lee Gifford, Tim Conway and Hoda Kotb appear on NBC News' "Today" show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 917 -- Pictured: (l-r) Tim Conway with host Jimmy Fallon during an interview on Tuesday, October 29, 2013 -- (Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Tim Conway appears on NBC News' "Today" show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Tim Conway appears on NBC News' "Today" show (Photo by Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - DECEMBER 11: Comedian and author Tim Conway signs copies of his book "What's So Funny" on December 11, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Rodrigo Vaz/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES - DECEMBER 6: Actor Tim Conway joins the hosts of THE TALK, Friday, Dec. 6, 2013. From left, Sheryl Underwood, Sara Gilbert, Tim Conway, Sharon Osbourne, Aisha Tyler and Julie Chen, shown. (Photo by Monty Brinton/CBS via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 13: Comedian Tim Conway signs his new book "What's So Funny... My Hilarious Life" at Barnes & Noble bookstore at The Grove on November 13, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rodrigo Vaz/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - NOVEMBER 12: Comedian Carol Burnett (L) and comedian Tim Conway arrive at The Writer's Bloc event with comedian Tim Conway hosted by Carol Burnett at Saban Theatre on November 12, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Joshua Blanchard/WireImage)
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On “The Carol Burnett Show,” Conway was so side-splittingly hilarious that he often caused co-star Harvey Korman to begin laughing in the middle of a skit. He was known for ad-libbing bits that would challenge Korman and other co-stars including Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner.

Conway appeared as many characters on the show, but the two most famous were the Old Man and Mr. Tudball. The Old Man shuffled along at an agonizingly slow pace vastly insufficient to the occupations in which the show’s writers would place him. His inability to get things done usually resulted in slapstick, and Conway would ad lib a good deal.

Mr. Tudball was a businessman who aimed to run a “ship-shape” office, but such intentions would always go unfulfilled because of the bored indifference of his secretary, Mrs. Wiggins (Burnett). The character was widely thought to be Swedish, but Conway actually imitated the accent of his Romanian mother.

“Carol Burnett” ran for 11 seasons on CBS from 1967-78. Conway appeared on a single episode in 1967 and then became a regular member of the comedienne’s troupe from 1975 until the show’s end.

In 2012 Burnett, Conway and Lawrence asked in an interview for Sirius XM Satellite Radio if there were occasions where they worried about having enough material for the show, Burnett replied: “No, because we could always count on Tim to go over. So there was always enough show. In fact, sometimes, because he would get on a roll and do stuff we had never seen before, so maybe a four-minute sketch would turn into a 10-minute sketch — thanks to Conway — and we could then bank another sketch that we were going to do that week for another week.”

Conway’s career had first been jump-started by the World War II-set sitcom “McHale’s Navy,” starring Ernest Borgnine. He played the bumbling, naive Ensign Charles Parker, executive officer of the PT-73, on 138 episodes of the show (1962-66), as well as the two feature films based on it, receiving his first Emmy nomination for his performance, in 1963.

His run of Disney-produced family comedies began with 1973’s “The World’s Greatest Athlete,” in which he played the assistant to a desperate college coach (John Amos) who finds a new player in Africa — a Tarzan sort played by Jan Michael Vincent. Next was 1975’s “The Apple Dumpling Gang,” in which he starred with Don Knotts, among others (later Conway appeared in the 1979 sequel); “Gus,” also with Knotts, in which a mule moves from team mascot to team member; “The Shaggy D.A.,” with Dean Jones (Variety said: “Conway is particularly droll as a cloddish ice-cream salesman”); and “The Billion Dollar Hobo.”

Outside of the arrangement with Disney, Conway scripted the kids comedies “They Went That-A-Way & That-A-Way” (1978), in which he and Chuck McCann played inept cops told by the governor to go undercover as inmates in prison to discover where an old-timer has hidden his loot, and co-penned “The Prize Fighter,” in which he and Knott starred. The latter film shared a great of plot with the vastly superior Danny Kaye boxing film “The Kid From Brooklyn,” itself a remake of the also vastly superior Harold Lloyd vehicle “The Milky Way.” Conway’s partnership with Knotts ended with the 1981 comedy “The Private Eyes,” which Conway co-scripted. The pair played doltish detectives working for Scotland Yard in the zany comedy.

12 PHOTOS
Celebrity deaths of 2019
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Celebrity deaths of 2019
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“The Tim Conway Show,” a one-hour variety show, ran for 13 episodes in 1980-81 (another show of the same title had aired briefly in 1970); Conway got another shot with his own show, CBS detective spoof “Ace Crawford, Private Eye,” in 1983, but its run was also very brief. The series, however, was produced by Conway’s own production company, Conway Enterprises, which went on to produce his Dorf videos.

“The Longshot” (1986), directed by Paul Bartel, was interesting for being a comedy scripted by Conway for adults; the film, which starred Conway and Harvey Korman, among others, followed a quartet of losers who borrow money from mobsters to bet on a “sure thing”; when they lose, the gangsters come after them. The movie did not attract much attention, however.

He began his series of “Dorf” how-to videos with “Dorf on Golf” in 1987. Conway produced nine Dorf videos overall, on sports including baseball, auto racing, and fishing.

In 1990 Conway guested on an episode of Bob Newhart’s CBS sitcom “Newhart.” He recurred on “Married… With Children” as the father of Katey Sagal’s Peggy Bundy. He also guested on “Coach” in 1996 and ’97 — winning an Emmy for playing the inept gardener of Craig T. Nelson’s Coach — as well as on “The Larry Sanders Show,” “Suddenly Susan” and “The Drew Carey Show,” all in 1997, and on “Mad About You” in 1999. He recurred on CBS sitcom “Yes, Dear” from 2001-05.

In response to the 2008 episode of “30 Rock” called “Subway Hero,” David Hinckley wrote in the New York Daily News that “the real reason [‘Subway Hero’] is must-see TV is a guest spot by Tim Conway as an old-time television star whose deadpan recollections of the ‘good old days’ keep getting weirder and funnier. He darn near steals the show.” Conway subsequently won an Emmy for the appearance.

He guested on “CSI” in 2010, “Hot in Cleveland” in 2010 and 2013, “Two and Half Men” and “Glee” in 2014.

Conway also made appearances in films such as Garry Marshall’s 1996 comedy “Dear God,” “Speed 2: Cruise Control” and “Air Bud: Golden Receiver” (1998).

Asked in a 2011 interview about comedy today, Conway replied: “I hang onto the oldies. Jonathan Winters calls me about three times a week, and I never answer the phone. I have all of his messages recorded. He always calls with a different character and he wants me to do something or appear somewhere or go to an Army-Navy store for something. I have hundreds of these on the answering machine, but I never talk to him. Once in a great while I will pick up and talk to him.

“I kind of fall back on that. But Bob Newhart and I, and Mike Connors, Steve and Eydie, get together every Tuesday night and have dinner, just to sit and talk. Most of the conversations have already been told 20 or 30 times. But we just keep in touch like that.

“I don’t really know about who is really doing it these days.”

Thomas Daniel Conway was born in Willoughby, Ohio. He attended Bowling Green State University, where he majored in speech and radio, and served in the Army. He started his career in show business working for a radio station, eventually writing for the promotional department. There was already an actor named Tom Conway, so he became Tim.

After his Army service ended, Conway returned to Cleveland to work with Ernie Anderson on KYW-TV in 1958-59 and on WJW-TV from 1960-62 on a weekday morning film showcase (under the Ernie’s Place banner); Conway wrote material for the comedic skits shown in the film intermissions. He also recorded a comedy album with Anderson.

Comedienne Rose Marie discovered Conway and arranged for him to audition for “The Steve Allen Plymouth Show”; Allen was so impressed with Conway that the comedian became a regular on the show in 1960. Conway was also a regular on Allen’s next series, “The New Steve Allen Show,” in 1961.

The following year he was signed to play Ensign Charles Parker on “McHale’s Navy.”

After that he starred in ABC’s brief comic Western series “Rango” as the title character, a bumbling Texas Ranger, but the show ran for only 17 episodes in 1967. He got his own series in 1970, but CBS’ “The Tim Conway Show,” in which he played an inept pilot at a fly-by-night airline, lasted only a single season.

It was his hilarious work on “The Carol Burnett Show” — memorable decades later to those who watched the show, and immortalized on YouTube — that was his real gift to audiences.

Conway was married to Mary Anne Dalton from 1961 until their divorce in 1978.

He is survived by second wife Charlene Conway, whom he married in 1984, and seven children by Dalton, including KFI Los Angeles radio host Tim Conway Jr.

35 PHOTOS
Carol Burnett through the years
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Carol Burnett through the years
A portrait of American actor and comedian Carol Burnett sitting on a lounge, wearing a black dress with her hands folded. The dress is classic 60's style with sequins and a high neckline.
Carol Burnett and Joe Hamilton during 27th Annual Golden Globe Awards. Carol is seen wearing a white neck scarf with a delicate circular broach.
Joe Hamilton and Carol Burnett during International Radio and TV Society Gold Medal Awards wearing a chic yellow dress with sequins and a polka dot red coat.
Joe Hamilton and Carol Burnett during Carol Burnett Testimonial Dinner. Carol is seen wearing a sleeveless dress with a matching shawl covering her arms.
Entertainer Cher attends an event with Carol Burnett. Carol is seen in a gorgeous embroidered dress with some serious shoulder pads. A sign of the times. 
Carol Burnett and Joe Hamilton were spotted outside their hotel, Carol wearing a loose fitting striped dress with an oversized flower around her neck.

Carol attends the 36th Annual Golden Globe Awards in an all white dress, completely covered up.

Carol attends the 7th Annual People's Choice Awards showing off a serious suntan in a strapless, beachy dress with a purple seashell cover-up.

Carol Burnett and her daughter Carrie Hamilton attend the Kennedy Center Honors in gorgeous dresses. Carol is wearing an intricate floor length gown with plenty of sequins.

Ahead of her time, Carol is seen wearing a wrap dress with a chic diamond clutch.

Carol Burnett is all smiles, wearing a black and white polka dot top while hugging Phyllis Diller.

Carol Burnett and Mary Tyler Moore attend the "Carol Burnett Exhibit" on display in Los Angeles. You know you've arrived when you have an entire exhibit dedicated to you.

Carol is not afraid of an over-the-top blazer to go with a simple black dress.
Saying hello to the paparazzi, Carol is seen wearing a brown coat with colorful blocking. 
Carol Burnett during 5th Annual Sterling Awards in red from head to toe.
Carol's hair transformed along with her style, and she was sporting a beautiful short red hairstyle in 1993.
Carol's style was all her own, and she looked fabulous in this cropped blazer with white trim.
Talk about two style icons, Carol and Liza Minelli are spotted chatting at a party. Carol is wearing an all-gold sequin blazer while Liza is subdued in black.
Dressed for the occasion, Carol looks gorgeous in a black gown with a sheer shawl.
Nothing like adding a pop of color to get noticed!
We're seeing a trend in Carol's style, SEQUINS! The funny gal is in love with wearing the sparkly embellishments.
Carol shows off her American Comedy Award in an all pink skirt and blazer.
Wearing darker colors, Carol is seen wearing a turtleneck under a chic black blazer.
Even in the late '90s Carol can make herself laugh. The actress sure knows how to use color in her favor with this gorgeous striped skirt.
Carol Burnett is showing quite a bit of leg in this photo, wearing a skirt and matching blazer.
Pretty in purple, Carol attends the premiere of the Producers on broadway.
Carol Burnett is a Kennedy Center Honors recipient, dressed in all white. She looks stunning. 
Carol poses outside at the 5th Annual TV Land Awards in a purple blazer and black skirt. The funny lady always looks her best for a red carpet.
Carol Burnett attends the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in a firey red ensemble. The outfit perfectly matches her hair.
Dressed in all black, Carol is totally age appropriate in this conservative number.
While making an appearance at the Tonight Show, Carol wears a red blazer with a black turtleneck underneath.
Oversized tunics start to become Carol's red carpet staple, seen here in coral with a long necklace.
Carol Burnett poses backstage following a performance by Linda Lavin in a classic black ensemble.
Actress and comedian Carol Burnett arrives at the Hooray For Hollywood event wearing a similar black outfit with ruffles.
Carol Burnett attends the naming ceremony and plaque unveiling Of "Carol Burnett Square" in Los Angeles, wearing one of her classic white blazers.
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