Tim Conway

Active - 1964 - 2017  |   Born - Dec 15, 1933 in Willoughby, Ohio, United States  |   Died - May 14, 2019   |   Genres - Comedy, Children's/Family, Fantasy

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Biography by AllMovie

American actor Tim Conway was born in Willoughby, Ohio, but grew up in the curiously named community Chagrin Falls, a fact that he'd later incorporate for a quick laugh in many of his comedy routines, TV films and movies. After majoring in speech and radio at Bowling Green State University, Conway went into the Eighth Army Assignment Team, where, much in the manner of his later bumbling screen characters, he managed to "misplace" a boatload of 7500 replacement troops.

Once the army was through with him (and vice versa), Conway secured a job answering mail for a Cleveland radio deejay; his letters were so amusing that he was given a position as a writer in the promotional department, then went on to direct a TV program called Ernie's Place. Whenever Ernie was short a guest, Conway showed up as "Dag Hereford," a so-called authority on several subjects who'd reveal himself to be a blithering simpleton. Comedienne Rose Marie happened to be in Cleveland in 1961, and upon catching Conway's routine recommended the young erstwhile comic to Steve Allen; Conway redid the Hereford bit for Allen's ABC variety series in the fall of '61, fracturing the audiences (and Allen) in three memorable appearances. Now that he was a full-fledged comic, he knew he couldn't continue performing under his real name, Tom Conway, since that was also the name of a well-known British actor; Allen advised Tom to "dot the O," and thereafter he was known as Tim Conway. In 1962, Conway was engaged to play the Doug Hereford-like role of Ensign Doug Parker on the wartime sitcom McHale's Navy, which lasted six seasons and made Conway a star.

The actor made several attempts over the following decades to succeed as a solo TV star (witness his 1967 western comedy Rango on ABC), but none of his post-McHale's Navy series have been anything resembling hits. Still, Conway was always welcome as a supporting comic, and he scored major success with hysterically funny appearances opposite Harvey Korman on The Carol Burnett Show in the 1970s; Conway also enjoyed a measure of success as star or co-star of a number of Disney films and low-budget "regional" comedy pictures like The Prize Fighter (1978) and The Private Eyes (1980). In the late 1980s and '90s Conway starred in a popular series of satirical "how-to" home videos, playing a diminutive, dim-bulbed Scandinavian named Dorf; he also lent an acclaimed comedic cameo as a driving instructor to the action film Speed 2 (1997), and voiced a series of Christian-themed animated videos entitled Hermie & Friends, with such friends and colleagues as the late Don Knotts and Burnett co-star Vicki Lawrence. Conway would continue to appear on screen over the coming years, making memorable appearances on TV shows like 30 Rock and providing the voice of Barnacle Bob on the animated series Spongebob Squarepants.

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  • Father was a whip in Ireland and continued working with horses once he moved to the United States; as a child, Conway once dreamed of becoming a jockey.
  • Served in the U.S. Army for two years following college.
  • Early comedy partner was Ernie Anderson, director Paul Thomas Anderson's father.
  • Comedian Rose Marie discovered Conway at a local Cleveland television station and arranged for him to audition for The Steve Allen Show.
  • Changed name to Tim so as not to be confused with British actor Tom Conway.
  • Co-founder of the Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund, which aids disabled jockeys.
  • His license plate once read "13 WKS," a reference to all of his solo television series being canceled after 13 weeks.