Tim Conway, comedy actor

Tim Conway
Tim Conway
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The comedian and actor Tim Conway, who has died at 85, was beloved by two generations of Americans for his on-screen turns on the fabled Carol Burnett Show in the 1970s and, three decades later, for voicing the character of Barnacle Boy on the popular animated comedy, Spongebob Squarepants.

A native of Ohio, Conway credited his Midwestern roots for the deadpan expression and innocent, simple-minded demeanour to which audiences warmed.

Those qualities probably contributed to his wide popularity on Ms Burnett’s show, which he joined in 1975 after years as a frequent guest.

While America was laughing at Conway, so were his co-stars: Ms Burnett and Harvey Korman were often caught by the camera trying not to crack up during his performances.

The short, nondescript Conway and the tall, imposing Korman were a physical mismatch made in comedy heaven. They toured the country for years with a sketch show called Together Again, which drew on characters from Burnett’s show.

Besides the four Emmys he won with Ms Burnett, three as a performer and one as a writer, he won Emmys for guest appearances in 1996 for Coach and in 2008 for 30 Rock.

He also had a modest but steady movie career, appearing in such films as The Apple Dumpling Gang, The Shaggy DA, Cannonball Run II, Dear God and Air Bud 2.

The Apple Dumpling Gang and Cannonball Run II allowed him to work with his comedic hero, Don Knotts, who died in 2006.

Conway got his career start, after US Army service, on local TV in Cleveland in the 1950s, where his duties included comedy spots on a late-night movie show.

He was spotted by Rose Marie of The Dick Van Dyke Show, who got him an audition for The Steve Allen Show. He became a regular on the show in the early 1960s.

Following the Allen show, Conway gained attention as the incompetent Ensign Charles Parker on the Ernest Borgnine sitcom McHale’s Navy from 1962-66. That led to series of his own, but they were short-lived.

Conway and his wife, Mary Anne Dalton, married in 1961 and had six children. The marriage ended in divorce and he later married Charlene Fusco. In addition to his wife, he is survived by his children and two grandchildren.