Tim Conway, the Greatest Ensemble/Sketch Comic of the Modern Era, Dies at 85
Tim Conway, who found fame on the “ The Carol Burnett Show,” is dead at 85.
Conway died at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday in Los Angeles “after a long illness,” his rep Howard Bragman told HuffPost.
According to People, which first reported the news, the actor suffered from normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) shortly before he died. Contrary to previous reports, the outlet said Conway was not suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Conway is best known for his time on the variety show, “The Carol Burnett Show,” where he often made his colleagues Harvey Korman and Burnett crack up, with his characters like “ Oldest Man.”
I have been a professional stand-up comic almost my entire adult life (which has some years on it now) and I don't laugh easily.
Tim Conway always cracked me up.
Conway was the greatest ensemble/sketch comic of the modern era, if not the greatest ever. Yes, that includes the brilliant members of the early "Saturday Night Live" casts.
Conway's gift was the ability to do a lot in a scene without doing too much. He took Bob Newhart's gift for understatement and added a variety of tiny quirks that, in the hands of another comedian, would have fallen apart.
He was most famous for making his fellow cast members on "The Carol Burnett Show" -- especially Harvey Korman -- completely lose it and crack up during a sketch. They were like kids getting the giggles in church: once it started you knew it wasn't going to stop.
Conway was able to do this to the people in one of the greatest sketch comedy ensembles in history because he oozed funny. It was his essence, not merely a thing he did when a director said, "Action!" While this is true of most funny people, Conway just seemed to ooze more of it.
The following scene is perhaps my all-time favorite from "The Carol Burnett Show" because it perfectly showcases Conway's brilliance. Carol Burnett -- another face deserving of a place on ensemble/sketch comedy's Mt. Rushmore -- is playing an over-the-top character that would in most circumstances be stealing ALL of the scene. By employing a few subtle mannerisms and a quirky little accent that I can immediately hear in my head whenever I think of this, Conway makes his presence huge. Credit needs to be given to the writers too, but what Burnett and Conway do with this is the reason this scene remains fresh in my memory lo these many decades later.
RIP Mr. Tudball: