Comedian Tim Conway of ‘The Carol Burnett Show’ dies at 85

Carol Burnett shares a laugh with Tim Conway during taping of her final show , March 19, 1978  after 11 years of music and comedy on CBS.     "I think it's classier to leave before you're asked to leave, " Miss Burnett said during a break in Friday's taping.   "I'm proud of our show. I'm no dummy. It's time to put it to bed. "     (AP Photo/ George Brich)
Carol Burnett shares a laugh with Tim Conway during taping of her final show, March 19, 1978 after 11 years of music and comedy on CBS. “I think it’s classier to leave before you’re asked to leave,” Burnett said during a break in Friday’s taping. “I’m proud of our show. I’m no dummy. It’s time to put it to bed.” (AP Photo/ George Brich) (AP/George Brich)
Comedian Tim Conway, flanked by Harvey Korman and Carol Burnett, receives his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Feb. 21, 1989.  (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Comedian Tim Conway, flanked by Harvey Korman and Carol Burnett, receives his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Feb. 21, 1989. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) (AP/Mark J. Terrill)
Tim Conway at the 1977 Emmy Awards held in Los Angeles, Ca. (AP Photo)
Tim Conway at the 1977 Emmy Awards held in Los Angeles, California. (AP Photo) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Anonymous)
Comedian Tim Conway discusses his efforts promote G-Rated comedy movies during an interview at the home of his parents in this community east of Cleveland on Dec. 21, 1977 in Chagrin Falls. Conway and his family was making a holiday visit. “There’s market for good comedy – movies without anyone taking their clothes off,” he said. (AP Photo)
Comedian Tim Conway discusses his efforts promote G-Rated comedy movies during an interview at the home of his parents in this community east of Cleveland on Dec. 21, 1977 in Chagrin Falls. (AP Photo) (AP)
Tim Conway at the People?s Choice Awards held in Los Angeles, California, on Feb. 20, 1978. (AP Photo/JLR)
Tim Conway at the People’s Choice Awards held in Los Angeles, California, on Feb. 20, 1978. (AP Photo/JLR) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/JLR)
Shown in photo are head and shoulder shots of comedian Tim Conway on Feb. 15, 1983. (AP Photo/WF)
Shown in photo are head and shoulder shots of comedian Tim Conway on Feb. 15, 1983. (AP Photo/WF) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/WF)
Actor Tim Conway poses with his award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for his work on "30 Rock" in the press room at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards in Los Angeles on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2008.  (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)
Actor Tim Conway poses with his award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for his work on “30 Rock” in the press room at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards in Los Angeles on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2008. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Matt Sayles)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - NOVEMBER 6:  Actor/comedians  Tim Conway (L) and Harvey Korman pose with their awards at The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences' 15th Annual Hall of Fame ceremony at the Beverly Hills Hotel on November 6, 2002 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)
Actor/comedians Tim Conway (L) and Harvey Korman pose with their awards at The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ 15th Annual Hall of Fame ceremony at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Nov. 6, 2002 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images) (Getty Images/Vince Bucci)
LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 30:  (L-R) Actors Tim Conway, Jerry Van Dyke and former California governor Gray Davis tape a skit for a television show during halftime of 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)
(L-R) Actors Tim Conway, Jerry Van Dyke and former California Gov. Gray Davis tape a skit for a TV show during halftime of the game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Minnesota Timberwolves on Jan. 30, 2004 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images) (Getty Images/Vince Bucci)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JULY 10:  Actor Tim Conway and actress Betty White speak during the PBS portion of the Television Critics Association Press Tour at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 10, 2007 in Beverly Hills, California.  (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Actor Tim Conway and actress Betty White speak during the PBS portion of the Television Critics Association Press Tour at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 10, 2007 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images) (Getty Images/Frederick M. Brown)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 29:  Actor Tim Conway speaks onstage during the 17th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards rehearsals held at The Shrine Auditorium on January 29, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Michael Caulfield/Getty Images)
Actor Tim Conway speaks onstage during the 17th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards rehearsals held at The Shrine Auditorium on Jan. 29, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Caulfield/Getty Images) (Getty Images/Michael Caulfield)
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Carol Burnett shares a laugh with Tim Conway during taping of her final show , March 19, 1978  after 11 years of music and comedy on CBS.     "I think it's classier to leave before you're asked to leave, " Miss Burnett said during a break in Friday's taping.   "I'm proud of our show. I'm no dummy. It's time to put it to bed. "     (AP Photo/ George Brich)
Comedian Tim Conway, flanked by Harvey Korman and Carol Burnett, receives his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Feb. 21, 1989.  (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Tim Conway at the 1977 Emmy Awards held in Los Angeles, Ca. (AP Photo)
Comedian Tim Conway discusses his efforts promote G-Rated comedy movies during an interview at the home of his parents in this community east of Cleveland on Dec. 21, 1977 in Chagrin Falls. Conway and his family was making a holiday visit. “There’s market for good comedy – movies without anyone taking their clothes off,” he said. (AP Photo)
Tim Conway at the People?s Choice Awards held in Los Angeles, California, on Feb. 20, 1978. (AP Photo/JLR)
Shown in photo are head and shoulder shots of comedian Tim Conway on Feb. 15, 1983. (AP Photo/WF)
Actor Tim Conway poses with his award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for his work on "30 Rock" in the press room at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards in Los Angeles on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2008.  (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - NOVEMBER 6:  Actor/comedians  Tim Conway (L) and Harvey Korman pose with their awards at The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences' 15th Annual Hall of Fame ceremony at the Beverly Hills Hotel on November 6, 2002 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 30:  (L-R) Actors Tim Conway, Jerry Van Dyke and former California governor Gray Davis tape a skit for a television show during halftime of 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)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JULY 10:  Actor Tim Conway and actress Betty White speak during the PBS portion of the Television Critics Association Press Tour at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 10, 2007 in Beverly Hills, California.  (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 29:  Actor Tim Conway speaks onstage during the 17th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards rehearsals held at The Shrine Auditorium on January 29, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Michael Caulfield/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Tim Conway, the impish second banana to Carol Burnett who won four Emmy Awards on her TV variety show, starred aboard “McHale’s Navy” and later voiced the role of Barnacle Boy for “Spongebob Squarepants,” has died. He was 85.

Conway died Tuesday morning in a Los Angeles care facility, according to Howard Bragman, who heads LaBrea Media. Conway’s wife, Charlene Fusco, and a daughter, Jackie, were at his side. The cause was a disorder in which there is an excess of fluid on the brain, Bragman said.

Burnett said in a statement Tuesday that she was heartbroken. “He was one in a million, not only as a brilliant comedian but as a loving human being. I cherish the times we had together both on the screen and off. He’ll be in my heart forever.”

Tributes also came from across the comedy world, including from Conan O’Brien, who said “no one made me laugh harder than Tim Conway” and Kathy Griffin, who called him “a wildly talented, comedy giant.” Al Roker tweeted out a link to Conway playing a hysterically incompetent dentist.

A native of Ohio, Conway credited his Midwestern roots for putting him on the right path to laughs, with his deadpan expression and innocent, simple-minded demeanor.

“I think the Midwest is the heart of comedy in this country, and a little bit of the South, too,” he told the Wisconsin State Journal in 2005. “For some reason, we’re just more laid-back, more understanding. … And Midwesterners have a kinder sense of humor.”

Those qualities probably contributed to his wide popularity on “The Carol Burnett Show,” which he joined in 1975 after years as a frequent guest. The show aired on CBS from 1967 to 1978 and had a short summer stint on ABC in 1979.

“We really didn’t attack people or politics or religion or whatever. We just made fun of, basically, ourselves,” he said.

The show operated with just five writers, one producer, one director and without network interference. The ensemble cast surrounding the redheaded star included Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner.

“I don’t think the network would allow a show like ‘The Carol Burnett Show’ now because we had such freedom,” Conway said in his interview with the State Journal.

Lawrence on Tuesday mourned the passing of her co-star, saying in a statement that “the angels are laughing out loud.”

“Hysterical, crazy, bold, fearless, humble, kind, adorable… all synonyms for Tim Conway. I am so lucky to ever have shared a stage with him.”

While America was laughing at Conway, so were his co-stars: Burnett and Harvey Korman were often caught by the camera trying not to crack up during his performances.

The short, nondescript Conway and the tall, imposing Korman were a physical mismatch made in comedy heaven. They toured the country for years with a sketch show called “Together Again,” which drew on characters from Burnett’s show.

Besides the four Emmys he won with Burnett (three as a performer, one as a writer), he won Emmys for guest appearances in 1996 for “Coach” and in 2008 for “30 Rock.”

Conway also had a modest but steady movie career, appearing in such films as “The Apple Dumpling Gang” (1975), “The Shaggy D.A.” (1976), “Cannonball Run II” (1984), “Dear God” (1996) and “Air Bud 2” (1998).

“The Apple Dumpling Gang” and “Cannonball Run II” allowed him to work with his comedic hero, Don Knotts, who died in 2006.

“If there’s any reason at all I’m in the business, I think it’s Don,” Conway once said. “He’s an icon in this business. He’s an icon that’s never going to be duplicated.”

He also found success in the 1980s in a series of comedy videos based on an oddly short character named Dorf. (Carefully costumed, Conway performed the bits on his knees.) Among them were “Dorf on Golf” and “Dorf Goes Fishing.”

More recently Conway voiced the role of Barnacle Boy for the hugely popular children’s series “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

He was born Thomas Conway in 1933 in the Cleveland suburb of Willoughby. He attended Bowling Green State University and served in the U.S. Army. He got his career start on local TV in Cleveland in the 1950s, where his duties included comedy spots on a late-night movie show.

He was spotted by Rose Marie of “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” who got him an audition for “The Steve Allen Show.” He became a regular on the show in the early 1960s. It was Allen who had advised him to change his name from Tom to Tim to avoid being confused with a British actor.

Following the Allen show, Conway gained attention as the incompetent Ensign Charles Parker on the Ernest Borgnine sitcom “McHale’s Navy” from 1962-66. That led to series of his own, including “Rango” and “The Tim Conway Show,” but they were short-lived.

“McHale’s Navy” fans loved watching Ensign Parker infuriate the ever-flammable Captain Binghamton (played by Joe Flynn), but it was Conway’s work on Burnett’s show that would bring him lasting fame.

Conway and his wife, Mary Anne Dalton, married in 1961 and had six children. The marriage ended in divorce. He later married Charlene Fusco.

In addition to his wife and daughter Jackie, Conway is survived by children Tim Jr., Patrick, Jamie, Kelly, Corey and Seann, as well as two grandchildren, Courtney and Sophia.

___

Kennedy reported from New York.

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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