Tony Rossi, Director of Communications, The Christophers
Thanks for the Laughs, Tim Conway
Tim Conway, best known for his years on “The Carol Burnett Show,” passed away in May at the age
of 85. Like a lot of people, I ventured to Youtube after I read of his death and rewatched some of his
classic clips, such as the “Siamese Elephant” and “Dentist” routines. I also revisited the interview I had
recorded with Tim when his memoir “What’s So Funny?” came out in 2013, so I’d like to share a few stories from our conversation in memory of the man who kept us all laughing.
Tim Conway was born Dec. 15, 1933, in Cleveland, Ohio, to Dan, an Irish immigrant, and Sophia, who grew up in Romania. He nearly crawled out of the church during his Romanian Orthodox baptism, but his parents and the priest found him and initiated him into God’s family.
During his high school years, Tim was playing in a football game when he got hit full force in the center of his back. He writes in his book that he lay on the ground for quite some time, unable to talk or “feel anything below my neck let alone move.” When he was unable to stand up without collapsing, his team members grabbed his arms and legs and carried him off the field. A doctor eventually took an X-ray, found nothing broken, and put him in a neck brace for a few weeks.
Many years later, when Tim was living in California, he visited a doctor due to back spasms. Tim was shocked when the doctor told him his “spasms were a residual effect stemming from a broken vertebra.” Tim insisted he’d never broken a vertebra, so the doctor asked him if he ever had a sports injury. Tim told him about the football incident in high school.
The doctor replied, “You may not realize it, but you are one lucky man. Here’s what I think. Your vertebra probably was broken when you were hit, but when they picked you up and carried you to the locker room, your back got stretched out. I’d guess that the vertebra went back into place. The X-ray may not have shown anything at the time but, I assure you, you came very close to being permanently disabled. If they hadn’t moved you, it might have been a different story.”
That was a watershed moment for Tim, spiritually speaking. He writes, “Ever since that incident on the football field, which might have altered the course of my life, Jesus and I have stayed in constant touch. I never stop saying thank you.”
Though Tim, who converted to Catholicism because of a girl he liked, doesn’t wear his faith on his sleeve, his relationship with God remains important. He admits that his journey of faith hasn’t always been a straight line, but adds, “All straight lines get a little crooked from time to time, but I tried to maintain a decent life.”
Tim appreciated the fact that “The Carol Burnett Show’s” comedy tended to be “good, clean fun.” He said, “You didn’t have to worry about swearing or nudity or anything like that. It takes a lot more thought to be funny without the swearing and things of that nature.”
Tim concluded our conversation by saying, “I think God has placed me in several positions, which I have found humorous. I find humor in life itself, and I can hardly wait to thank Him in person.” Now you can, Tim. Rest in peace.
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