Before making his mark in Hollywood, Ohio native Tim Conway studied TV and radio at Bowling State University and enlisted in the Army, where his goofiness already shone through.
After his military service, he worked at a local station in Cleveland.
“I had no professional training. I had a sense of humor and had been in front of a microphone,” Conway — here in 1961 — said of his show business beginnings on an episode of The Interviews: An Oral History of Television in 2004.
Moving to New York City brought Conway his first big TV break, as a regular on The Steve Allen Show.
Roles came in steadily afterward, including on McHale’s Navy, with Ernest Borgnine, from 1962 to 1966.
However, Conway’s most notable, beloved gig was on The Carol Burnett Show, where he won viewers over with characters like the Oldest Man and Mr. Tudball, whose accent he has said was inspired by his Romanian mother. He was known to ad-lib his sketches — even surprising his scene partners — and won a Golden Globe Award for the series in 1976, along with Emmys in 1973, 1977 and 1978.
He appeared as a guest star on The Carol Burnett Show for eight seasons before becoming a regular in 1975.
“They used to do 33 shows a year on Burnett,” he told the L.A. Times. “She said why don’t you just be a regular on the show? I said I will tell you what. I will do 32 shows and leave one week open at the end, so I can guest on somebody’s show. I always guested on her show, but I did have the right to go somewhere else. My job on every show was to break everybody up.”
Conway’s first marriage was to Mary Anne Dalton, from 1961 until 1978. Together, they had seven children: sons Jaime, Tim Jr., Pat, Corey and Shawn and daughters Jackie and Kelly.
In the 1970s, Conway made a run on the big screen, starring in films such as Disney’s The World’s Greatest Athlete in 1973.
One of the actor’s frequent collaborators was Don Knotts; their on-screen run began in 1975 with Disney’s Apple Dumpling Gang series.
His own sitcom, The Tim Conway Show, lasted one season in 1970. His variety show of the same name aired from 1980-81, with guest appearances from collaborators like Harvey Korman, pictured.
Conway wed second wife Charlene Fusco in 1984. On his official biography page, he joked it was “a record for Hollywood.”
Toward the end of his life, his wife and daughter Kelly had been fighting over his care.
Kelly filed court documents asking to be appointed conservator of her father in order to be in charge of his medical treatments in August 2018. She alleged that Charlene was “planning to move him out of the excellent skilled nursing facility he is currently at” and place him into a lesser quality home. She claimed her father could not “properly provide for his personal needs for physical health, food, and clothing” and is “almost entirely unresponsive.”
Days later, Kelly sought a temporary restraining order to stop the move. But in March, Charlene was appointed conservator of her husband.
In 2002, Conway — with pal Harvey Korman — was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.
In his later years, Conway developed the character Dorf, who appeared in a series of silly how-to videos often focused on sports. He brought the character out in 2002 at the 5th Annual Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize ceremony celebrating Bob Newhart.
In 2008, Conway appeared on NBC’s 30 Rock, and won the Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for his work. It was his second award in that category; in 1996 he picked it up for a spot on Coach.
Behind the scenes, Conway did quite a bit of voice work, including as Barnacle Boy on SpongeBob SquarePants.
Though in 2018 it was reported that Conway had dementia, when news of his death broke on May 14, 2019, his rep told PEOPLE he suffered complications from Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH) and had no signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s.
“I’m heartbroken. He was one in a million, not only as a brilliant comedian but as a loving human being,” longtime colleague and friend Carol Burnett said in a statement to PEOPLE. “I cherish the times we had together both on the screen and off. He’ll be in my heart forever.”
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