“I spend a lot of time thinking of the Hereafter. Each time I enter a room, I wonder what I'm here after.” ―Tim Conway

 

Tim Conway ― the “funniest man in the world” — died May 14, 2019, at the age of 85.

He was a convert to Catholicism.

Perhaps I’m revealing my age, but I remember laughing with my parents and siblings at all of Tim Conway’s memorable performances in McHale’s Navy and the Carol Burnett Show. Only the terminally anhedonic couldn’t find Conway’s “Oldest Man” sketches funny.

The “Oldest Man” was one of Conway’s stock characters. He played a shambling old man in a white fright wig who spoke and moved slowly, frustrating straight man Harvey Korman in a variety of situations. He rarely spoke but he got his comedic point across through charades and wild-eyed facial expressions nonetheless.

As funny and talented as Harvey Korman was ― and he was immensely funny ― the laughs were always for Tim.

He was a master of ad-libbing, often to the surprise of his sometimes-stymied fellow actors. He won a Golden Globe Award for the series in 1976 and three Emmys in 1973, 1977 and 1978.

He was born Toma Daniel Conway in Willoughby, Ohio, in 1933 and attended Bowling Green State University, where he majored in speech and radio. He served in the Army upon graduating from 1956 to 1958.

God’s gift to Conway, and to us, was the joy he could share with the world. When two of my other favorite comedians, Carol Burnett and Bob Newhart, praised Conway as being the funniest comedian ever, that means something.

Conway converted to the Church while in college because he had fallen in love with a Catholic girl. (How many times have we heard that one?)

During a high school football game, Conway broke several vertebrae in his back. In fact, upon being checked out, he reported feeling nothing below his neck. Once carried off the field, he was able to walk again, though he had to wear a neck brace. The pain lasted for a few weeks but subsequently didn’t return for many years. He once visited a doctor who took an X-ray showed that the damage was by far more extensive than Conway had realized. The doctor told him that it was a miracle he wasn’t paralyzed.

That was an important moment for him. He wrote in his best-selling autobiography, What’s So Funny?: My Hilarious Life, “Ever since that incident on the football field, which might have altered the course of my life, Jesus and I have stayed in constant touch. I never stop saying thank you.”

He referred to the importance of his faith in an interview with Raymond Arroyo on his EWTN program The World Over.

Conway took great pleasure in getting his fellow actors to crack up while onstage. If you watch any episodes of The Carol Burnett Show, you’ll see that happening often. In 2002, Conway was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.

His first big chance was World War II sitcom McHale’s Navy, playing opposite Ernest Borgnine. He played the bumbling, naive Ensign Charles Parker, executive officer of the PT-73, from 1962 to 1966. He reprised the role in two feature films based on the show.

He subsequently co-starred in the Carol Burnett Show and, later, after the show ended, a string of memorable Disney comedies in the 1970s including The World’s Greatest Athlete, The Apple Dumpling Gang, Gus, The Shaggy D.A. and The Billion Dollar Hobo. In 1987, Conway starred in nine highly successful Dorf how-to sports video series.

His attempts at his own variety shows or sitcoms were, unfortunately, always short-lived, but his movies were consistently more successful. Conway enjoyed great success as a voice-over actor in his later years.

Over his long career, Conway was nominated for 13 Emmys for his performances in the Carol Burnett Show, which ran for 11 seasons on CBS from 1967-78 ― He won six. In addition, he won Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy, Coach, in 1996. (Watch that segment and you’ll see why he earned his Emmy.)

He guest-starred in many popular primetime shows such as Newhart, Married… With Children, Coach, The Larry Sanders Show, Suddenly Susan, The Drew Carey Show, Mad About You, Yes, Dear, CSI, Hot in Cleveland, Two and Half Men and Glee. He also made appearances in films such as Dear God, Speed 2: Cruise Control and Air Bud: Golden Receiver.

Conway performed as a voice actor in his later years in The Simpsons, Hercules, Lloyd in Space, The Wild Thornberrys, Cybill, What's New, Scooby-Doo?, The Proud Family, Scooby-Doo! Pirates Ahoy!, Caillou and What's with Andy?

He was a spokesman for the United Leukodystrophy Foundation.

In 2018, Conway was diagnosed with dementia and began using a wheelchair. He subsequently had brain surgery. Before his death, he suffered complications from Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH).

Offer a prayer for the repose of Tim Conway’s soul and ask St. Lawrence of Rome ― the patron saint of comedians ― to watch over him. He certainly lightened our souls lo these many years.

Requiescat in pace. May flights of angels wing thee to thy rest. Eternal rest grant onto him O Lord and let perpetual Light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the Faithful Departed find their rest in God.