He's 'So Funny'
Comedy legend Tim Conway signs his memoir Friday at Vroman's Bookstore
By Carl Kozlowski 11/05/2013
There are few people who embody the term “comedy legend” better than Tim Conway. A six-time Emmy winner during his 11-year stint on the classic “The Carol Burnett Show,” he also starred in a seemingly endless string of funny family films with Don Knotts.
Conway, 79, is also the proud father of seven children, including conservative KFI-AM talk-radio host Tim Conway, Jr., has been married for nearly three decades and believes the key to his success stemmed from working clean. He’s the author of the new memoir “What’s So Funny?: My Hilarious Life” and is appearing at Vroman’s Bookstore Friday to discuss and sign the book in what is sure to be a nonstop parade of laughs for those who attend.
The following are highlights from a 13-minute phone interview in which Conway spoke while visiting his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio:
PW: I’m calling from Pasadena Weekly.
CONWAY: Well, I’m sorry to hear that.
PW: How did you decide it was the right time for a memoir?
CONWAY: I didn’t realize it was a memoir. I’ve got to read that book! Seriously, I just started writing one day, and it took me three days to write this thing. Yeah, it took a great deal of my time. I just started typing and it just came out. I never thought it was a book, I thought it was a pamphlet.
PW: What’s one thing you learned about yourself from writing the book?
CONWAY: I think I would change my name to Betty Conway, and try to make it in that way.
PW: What was the magic with “The Carol Burnett Show”?
CONWAY: I think she is probably the nicest, kindest lady I have ever met. I’ve found no flaws in her so far, though I do keep looking. She’s a wonderful lady and I was very fortunate to do her show and be in her company. That’s what I was searching for to make me happy, and she has done that. I pay her for it.
PW: And with Don Knotts?
CONWAY: Don and I were very good friends. He was just a silly guy, frail yet tough. He just had a great sense of humor, the same as I had, so we used to make each other laugh quite a bit. We looked at life in a similar way and enjoyed making people happy. He did some wonderful characters, on the old Steve Allen show especially. It’s a shame they don’t show those episodes anywhere.
PW: I’ve seen reruns on a special humor channel they have for patients at Cedars Sinai Hospital.
CONWAY: Perhaps I can have a seizure and go there.
PW: What do you think of the state of comedy today?
CONWAY: The language allowed to sneak in to comedy nowadays is not very conducive to sitting there watching with your children or grandchildren. I don’t watch a lot of television, but I rob drugstores and banks and things of that nature. That keeps me busy in my free time.
PW: You’re known for your clean comedy, and you’re a devout Catholic. Did your faith have an impact on that?
CONWAY: I’m Catholic, and I turned Catholic when I was in college. A good friend of mine, Father Dan Oliver, sent me in the right direction and I was very comfortable with it. That was at Bowling Green State University. It’s a 12 year college and I made it through in 11.
I don’t think people really notice it being clean until they get into a show that isn’t that clean and everybody’s hair flies off and kids say ‘What did he say?’ I think people are much more relaxed with clean material. I know people know what to expect and I don’t shock them.
PW: How did you decide to pursue comedy in the first place?
CONWAY: I was dyslexic, so when I got up to read in class I put words into sentences that weren’t there and mispronounced things and people laughed. So rather than go the other way and feel sorry for myself, I rolled with it and continued with it as a living.
PW: The last thing I’ll ask is…
CONWAY: If I have any money to lend?
PW: If you think there’s one thing that’s been the key to all your success?
CONWAY: I think operating the way I do with clean material I’ve enjoyed myself a lot more and I think people do too.
Tim Conway presents and signs “What’s So Funny?: My Hilarious Life” at 7 p.m. Friday at Vroman’s Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. Call (626) 449-5320 or visit vromans.com.