Bowling Green '56

Tim Conway

Actor, Comedian

Tim Conway is an American comedian and actor. His first TV hit came with the role of Ernest Borgnine’s second-in-command, Ensign Parker, on the ABC sitcom McHale’s Navy, which ran from 1962 to 1966. Conway found TV success again in 1975 with CBS’s The Carol Burnett Show. Afterward, he had a string TV disappointments but appeared in several films with Don Knotts, including The Private Eyes.

Early Career

Actor, comedian, screenwriter. Born December 15, 1933, in Willoughby, Ohio. After high school, Conway enrolled at Bowling Green State University, where he studied television and radio and showcased his unique sense of humor as a disc jockey at the college radio station. He graduated in 1956 and did a tour of duty in the Army. Upon his return, Conway got a job as a writer for the KWY-TV station in Cleveland, and within months he was performing with Ernie Anderson on the comedy show, Ernie’s Place.

Breakthrough Role

In 1961, the comic legend Steve Allen signed Conway to appear as a regular on The Steve Allen Show. Conway went on to serve as Ernest Borgnine’s second-in-command, Ensign Parker, on the ABC primetime sitcom McHale’s Navy, from 1962 to 1966. He made his big screen debut in 1964, reprising his role as Parker in the film version of McHale’s Navy. In 1967, after a stint on the summer variety show, The John Gary Show, Conway was given the leading role in a Western sitcom called Rango, which proved unsuccessful. In 1970, he starred in several other equally short-lived efforts, including The Tim Conway Show and The Tim Conway Comedy Hour.

The Carol Burnett Show

In 1975, Conway found TV success again, this time on CBS’s The Carol Burnett Show. As a regular on the top-rated variety show, Conway delighted audiences with his hilarious characterizations and improvisations, consistently causing his co-stars, including Burnett and Harvey Korman, to break out of character and into uncontrollable laughter. From 1975 to 1979, when the show went off the air, Conway won four Emmy Awards, including one for his work as a writer. The network rewarded his success with another chance to headline his own variety series, but ratings were again disappointing. Another sitcom, Ace Crawford, Private Eye (1983), lasted less than two months. With the steady demise of the variety show format, Conway’s brand of outlandish humor seemed increasingly out of place on the small screen, and his TV appearances became less and less frequent. He returned with a small bang in 1996, winning an Emmy for his guest appearance on the sitcom Coach.

Collaboration with Knotts

On the big screen, he first teamed with the comedian Don Knotts in 1975’s The Apple Dumpling Gang. From 1975 to 1986, he and Knotts starred in six feature comedy films, including The Prize Fighter (1979), The Private Eyes (1981), and The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979). Conway also wrote the screenplays for several of his movies, including The Prize Fighter, The Billion Dollar Hobo (1978), and The Longshot (1986). He parlayed his slapstick characterization of “Dorf” into a TV special, and a series of six home videos. In 1996, Conway appeared as an eccentric postal worker in the comedy film Dear God, co-starring Greg Kinnear. He also appeared in the 1997 action film, Speed 2: Cruise Control, starring Sandra Bullock.

Conway’s hobbies include woodworking, sewing, and going to horse races. He has six children with his wife, Mary Anne Conway, whom he married in 1961. His son, Timothy Conway, Jr., is an actor who appeared in several of his father’s “Dorf” movies.