ZANY COMEDIC AC­TOR TIM CONWAY DIES AT 85

The Day - - FRONT PAGE - By LYNN ELBER and MARK KENNEDY

Tim Conway, an award-win­ning comedic ac­tor whose work on Carol Bur­nett’s va­ri­ety show pro­voked howls of laugh­ter from tele­vi­sion au­di­ences and from co-stars — who could barely stay in char­ac­ter when he un­leashed his ar­se­nal of ridicu­lous ac­cents and pre­pos­ter­ous phys­i­cal stunts — died Tues­day at a care fa­cil­ity in Los An­ge­les. He was 85.

The cause was nor­mal pres­sure hy­dro­cephalus, an ac­cu­mu­la­tion of fluid in the brain, said his pub­li­cist, Howard Brag­man.

His fam­ily an­nounced the death in a state­ment but did not say where he died.

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 af­ter a long ill­ness, ac­cord­ing to Howard Brag­man, who heads LaBrea Me­dia. Conway's wife, Charlene Fusco, and a daugh­ter, Jackie, were at his side.

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.

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.

WF, FILE/AP PHOTO

A Feb. 15, 1983 file photo shows co­me­dian Tim Conway.

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