Prior to his death, he suffered complications from Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH) and had no signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Conway is survived by his wife of 35 years, his stepdaughter, his six biological children and two granddaughters. In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family would like donations to be made to The Lou Ruvo Brain Center at the Cleveland Clinic in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The beloved actor is best known for his work on The Carol Burnett Show, winning viewers over with characters like the Oldest Man and Mr. Tudball, whose accent he has said was inspired by his Romanian mother. He was known to ad-lib his sketches — even surprising his scene partners — and won a Golden Globe Award for the series in 1976, along with Emmys in 1973, 1977 and 1978.
At a 2013 event promoting his memoir, What’s So Funny? My Hilarious Life, Burnett, now 86, said Conway was an on-set prankster.
“Tim’s goal in life was to destroy [costar] Harvey Korman,” she told the crowd, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“Harvey wet his pants,” Conway bragged.
It’s an anecdote he also recalled in a 2013 interview with the Los Angeles Times.
“Harvey never saw what I was going to do until he was actually doing the sketch,” he said. “As a matter of fact in the dentist sketch you can actually see Harvey wet his pants from laughing.”
Before making his mark in Hollywood, Conway studied TV and radio at Bowling State University and enlisted in the Army, where is goofiness already shone through. In the L.A. Times interview, he remembered misplacing his rifle before a 4 a.m. drill.
“I looked in the garbage and there was this long neon tube,” he remembered. “So I took that. As the lieutenant came around the corner. I said, ‘Halt.’ I am pointing this bulb at him and he said ‘What is that?’ I said, ‘It’s a light bulb and if you come any closer, I’ll turn it on.’ He had very little sense of humor. I spent an extra two weeks [in the service] painting rocks in Seattle.”
After his military service, he worked at a local station in Cleveland.
“I had no professional training. I had a sense of humor and had been in front of a microphone,” Conway said of his show business beginnings on an episode of The Interviews: An Oral History of Television in 2004.
He appeared as a guest star on The Carol Burnett Show for eight seasons before becoming a regular in 1975.
“They used to do 33 shows a year on Burnett,” he told the L.A. Times. “She said why don’t you just be a regular on the show? I said I will tell you what. I will do 32 shows and leave one week open at the end, so I can guest on somebody’s show. I always guested on her show, but I did have the right to go somewhere else. My job on every show was to break everybody up.”
His own sitcom, The Tim Conway Show, had lasted one season in 1970. His variety show of the same name aired from 1980-81.
Conway also starred on McHale’s Navy, voiced Barnacle Boy on Spongebob Squarepants and even made a special appearance on the second season of 30 Rock, for which he received an Emmy.
Conway’s death comes after his daughter Kelly and wife Charlene had been fighting over his care.