Saturday, May 18, 2019

Cracking Up

Knowing that Tim Conway was raised in a suburb of Cleveland named Chagrin Falls may be enough to give one pause. It is difficult for me to imagine a moment in which Mister Conway was ever embarrassed or flustered. While those around him wilted and failed, he remained steadfast. He was determined to get the last laugh. The recent flurry of obituaries name him as being "of the Carol Burnett Show." Which is certainly where I found him most readily. I remember that he wasn't always a "regular." Partly because there was little about him that fit that description. Outwardly, perhaps, but inside lurked a madman, willing to go to most any length to achieve his purpose: comedy.
But those Saturday nights when I planned my evening ahead of time because TV Guide listed Tim Conway as a guest star were my initial experiences with must-see TV. I waded through musical numbers and other skits in wild anticipation of the genius. Tim pushed the bounds of sketch comedy, apparently not happy with simply an audience reaction, but getting his fellow performers to lapse into hysterics was his ultimate goal. No one was safe.
Least of all me.
I did not discover Tim Conway on the Carol Burnett Show. I was introduced to him through seemingly endless reruns of McHale's Navy. I was pleasantly entertained by the zany antics of commander McHale and his crew of misfits, but it was the well-intentioned bumbling of Conway's Ensign Charles Parker that kept me glued to the set, and Parker's love affair with Yvette (played by Claudine Longet) gave a comedy-prone round boy like me hope. I even went so far as to adopt the Ensign's catchphrase for a period of time: "Gee, I love that kind of talk."
And I am sad to say that Tim and I did not age well together. While he was busy pioneering a series of gold videos featuring his height-impaired Dorf, I had moved on to harder stuff: National Lampoon, Saturday Night Live.
Yet, when I look back at those old clips, waiting along with Tim for just the right moment to drop one more line, to fall just a little further, I can't help but laugh. Which is what I did when I heard that he had passed. He stomped on the Terra, primarily for comic purposes. He will be missed. Aloha, Tim.

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