The world of comedy has lost one of its more revered and beloved funnymen. Tim Conway, who delighted audiences on ‘McHale’s Navy,’ ‘The Carol Burnett Show’ and ‘SpongeBob SquarePants,’ has died.
A career that spanned more than fifty years came to a close on May 14, as Tim Conway, a beloved titan of comedy, passed away. The Willoughby, Ohio native — who delighted audiences as one of the key players on The Carol Burnett Show and charmed a new generation as a voice on SpongeBob SquarePants – has died, according to Variety. A rep for Tim told the publication that he died Tuesday morning in Los Angeles from “water on the brain.” While earlier reports claimed that Tim was suffering from dementia, PEOPLE reports he “suffered complications from Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH) and had no signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s.”
Before his death, Tim Conway’s wife, Charlene, was appointed the conservator of her husband after a court found “clear and convincing evidence” that a conservatorship was needed, according to PEOPLE. According to documents obtained by the publication, Tim was “unable to make his own healthcare decisions” due to his then-reported dementia (which, PEOPLE later noted, was NPH.) Tim’s wife and daughter, Kelly, were at odds with how to take care of the ailing comedian. Kelly, in Aug. 2018, asked to be appointed the conservator because she accused her stepmother of planning to move [Conway] out of the excellent skilled nursing facility he is currently at” and put him in a lesser quality facility. Kelly said at the time that her father was “almost entirely unresponsive.”
Born Thomas Daniel “Tim” Conway in 1933, the Ohio native moved to Cleveland after his discharge from the Army. He found work at NBC Affiliate KYW-TV, an NBC affiliate, where he developed his comedic chops alongside Ernie Anderson (best known as horror-host Ghoulardi, the voice of ABC for two decades, and the father of Paul Thomas Anderson.) Tim left Cleveland for fame and fortune, first landing a role as a regular on The Steve Allen Show in 1961. In the 1960s, he played Ensign Charles Parker on McHale’s Navy. After a few failed starts at his own show (The Tim Conway Show, The Tim Conway Comedy Hour) he found major success on a revolutionary program called The Carol Burnett Show. His tenure on the show won him three Emmys for performing and once for his writing.
“I guess I was destined to do this,” he told NPR in 2010. “People have often said, you know, what else would you do if you weren’t doing this? The answer is nothing because I’m not capable of doing anything else. This is pretty much it.”
“I enjoy being funny and kind of not shock value, not language-wise,” he said in 2010. “Well, for instance, I was in a department store out in Los Angeles, and I was in the men’s department, and I was leaning against the counter. And evidently, a lady thought that I was working there. So she came up to me, and she said, ‘excuse me, where is your underwear?’ So I showed her. So, she calls the store manager – hey, listen (unintelligible) I said she asked me where my underwear was, I showed her. Yeah. It’s that kind of harmless humor I really enjoy.”
Tim also appeared in many movies, including The World’s Greatest Athlete, The Apple Dumpling Gang with Don Knotts, and Dear God. Later in life, he continued to appear on a variety of television series. His guest appearance on Coach won him the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series in 1996 (he repeated the feat, winning the Emmy for his appearance on a 2008 episode of 30 Rock.) For fans of SpongeBob SquarePants, he is best known as the voice of Barnacle Boy, the side-kick to Mermaid Main (voiced by Ernest Borgnine, Tim’s McHale’s Navy co-star.)
Tim was married twice: first to Mary Anne Dalton from 1961 to 1978; then to Charlene Fusco, from 1984 to his death. Mary and Tim had six children together, including Tim Conway Jr., a successful radio host at KFI Lost Angeles.
This post has been updated to reflect new information.