Tim Conway on the artistic freedom of The Carol Burnett Show

Conway relished the liberty afforded by Burnett herself

There's nothing worse than your boss breathing down your neck, looking over your shoulder, and second-guessing your moves. This kind of micromanaging can really get in the way of productive output, especially in a creative setting. Anyone with a passion needs room to get it done. 

Tim Conway is someone who took "silly" very seriously. His characters were dumb in a really smart way (or, sometimes, smart in a dumb way). He cared, deeply, about making things as funny as possible, but he rarely wore his effort. Conway delivered thoughtful comedy so seamlessly that his co-stars would break character and crack up.

The Carol Burnett Show seems perfectly calibrated for Conway's sharp nonsense. The show and its crew allowed him to be preposterous in a big, big way. In a 2005 interview with the Binghamton, New York Press and Sun-Bulletin, Conway spoke about what made The Carol Burnett Show a special show. He credited Burnett with creating an environment without the shackles another program might've had in place.

"Carol allowed us the liberty of creating those characters," said Conway. "It was a good show to work."

It wasn't just that she let him write what he wanted. Carol Burnett manned the ship in a way that made comedy not just the end result, but the whole reason for being. This philosophy spread through all aspects of production, as highlighted by a story Conway fondly recalled about a sketch where he needed to be shorter. 

"I said 'You know, if you put a hole in the floor and you put my shoes on my knees, it will really look like I am just standing like that.' We tried that and those holes are still in the floor at CBS there."

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ncadams27 6 months ago
To me, Tim Conway, Don Knotts, and Jerry Van Dyke we great as second bananas. Whenever they were cast as the leads in their own shows, they failed. They need to feed off if a straight man to succeed. And like rich food, a little goes a long way. You can’t have continuous comedy. The audience can only handle so much. What really makes a good comedy show is the pacing.
Runeshaper 6 months ago
It's cool that Carol allowed this type of creative liberty on the show (-:
LoveMETV22 6 months ago
Tim Conway was brilliant in his comedic style. Read that Carol and the cast would rehearse a skit , then Carol would allow Tim to improvise afterwards. The cast never knew what to expect. 🤣
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