Tim Conway passes away at age 85

You may have known him as "Dorf," the pint-sized sports lover, from the "Apple Dumpling Gang" movies or way back from McHale's Navy; many knew him for his goofy characters on the legendary sketch comedy The Carol Burnett Show. Tim Conway died earlier today (Tuesday) at 85. He had been suffering from dementia and unable to speak after undergoing brain surgery in September.

Conway's popularity skyrocketed after he joined CBS' The Carol Burnett Show in 1975 for good after making numerous guest appearances on the program (he would be a regular on four of its 11 seasons). His array of goofy characters, combined with his impeccable comic timing, helped make the show a classic. He won two Emmys and a Golden Globe for performing and another Emmy for his writing on the series.

A major prankster, Conway took delight in unrehearsed improvisations with Harvey Korman, including in the "Dentist" sketch I've posted here and had Korman holding back full-on laughs so hard, he apparently wet his pants.

Later in the 80s, Conway started a direct-to-video series (in the age of VHS) around a character named Dorf, a pint-sized sports enthusiast with a Scandinavian accent similar to the Tudball character he created for multiple sketches The Carol Burnett Show. HIs character Dorf focused on golf, auto racing, fishing, and baseball - often with hilarious results.

He was actually born with the name Tom Conway in Willoughby, Ohio - a suburb of Cleveland, on December 15, 1933. He majored in speech and radio at Bowling Green State University and, after a stint in the Army, returned to Cleveland to work in radio. Eventually he moved into television, writing material for comedy skits on a show hosted by Ernie Anderson, whose voice has been heard on radio stations and on ABC doing promos for shows in the 1970s and 1980s.

After getting fired from the TV station, Conway got a call to star in "McHale's Navy," a popular network show in the 1960s that expanded into two feature films — McHale's Navy (1964) and McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force (1965), where he starred in both.

That led to other movies Conway got laughs in family-friendly movies like The World's Greatest Athlete (1973),The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975), Gus (1976), The Shaggy D.A. (1976) and The Billion Dollar Hobo (1977).

In 1975, he began doing sketches as a guest on The Carol Burnett Show. He said he liked the fact that the show gave him the freedom to do the kind of comedy that played to his strengths. "Most of the time I would bring my own material," he said.

Conway also enjoyed that it was Burnett's show and there was no pressure on him. "I don't feature myself as being the head man," he said. "I would much rather stand in the background and make small, funny things than be up at the head of the class."

After the show ended in 1978, Conway working on many more movies such as They Went That-a-Way and That-a-Way (1978), The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979), The Prize Fighter (1979), The Private Eyes (1980), and The Longshot (1986), often writing the screenplays, too.

Conway also guest-starred on numerous TV shows including Newhart, The Golden Palace, Cybill, Married... With Children (where he played Peg Bundy's father), The Larry Sanders Show, The Drew Carey Show, Clueless, 7th Heaven, Mad About You, Diagnosis Murder, Yes, Dear, Two and a Half Men, and Mike & Molly.

Additional appearances on Coach and 30 Rock earned him more more Emmys.

Younger audiences recognize Conway from his voicing of Barnacle Boy for SpongeBob SquarePants, which debuted in 1999.

Conway was married twice and had seven children. He passed away this morning at age 85 around 8:45 this morning, L.A. time, according to a representative.

Check out his performance here in "The Dentist" from The Carol Burnett Show for a prime example of his comedy.

 
Eric Paulsen

Eric Paulsen

I wanted to be in radio since I was four - and four decades later I still haven't grown out of it... Read more

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