Tim Conway, the actor beloved for his role on the Carol Burnett Show, passed away on May 14, 2019. Doctors said the 85-year-old had died from complications from Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus, a condition sometimes referred to as “water on the brain.” Conway was known to many as the “second banana” on the Carol Burnett show, where he played characters like the Oldest Man and Mr. Tudball.
Conway had a longstanding friendship and friendly rivalry with his costar Harvey Korman. Korman passed away in 2008. Here’s what you need to know about Tim Conway and Harvey Korman:
1. They Both Appeared on the Danny Kaye Show but Didn’t Work Together Until the Carol Burnett Show
Both Conway and Korman were frequent guests on the Danny Kaye show. Korman was known for a skit called the “Hillbilly Skit” on the show. Conway was also a regular personality on the show. However, the two men said they never actually worked together on the show. Their first collaboration came when they appeared together on the Carol Burnett show. Conway first appeared on the Carol Burnett Show in 1967, eventually becoming a regular on the show in 1975. He and Korman first started collaborating on the show in 1968.
2. Carol Burnett Said It Was Conway’s ‘Goal in Life’ to ‘Destroy’ Harvey Korman
Conway and Korman often paired up as improv partners to perform sketches on the Carol Burnett show. Years later, Carol Burnett described Conway as the ultimate prankster. She told a crowd that Conway always aimed to make Korman laugh so hard that he lost control: “Tim’s goal in life was to destroy Harvey Korman,” she said, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Conway agreed. He and Burnett told the audience that during one of their famous “Dentist” sketches, Conway’s improvisations made Korman laugh so hard that, if you look closely, he wet his pants from laughing so hard. “Harvey wet his pants,” Conway agreed, proudly.
3. Both Men Described Themselves as ‘Second Bananas’
In 2002, Larry King interviewed Conway and Korman for CNN. The two men told King that they had both realized, young, that they would never be real stars. Korman joked about how painful that realization was, saying that the realization made him cry and then go out and get drunk. But ultimately, both men said they were better off in a secondary position, as “bananas” rather than as stars. Here’s how they put it:
KORMAN: You have to have a certain persona to be a star, you know, and I don’t have that. I’m a banana.
KING: Second — second banana?
KORMAN: Second banana, you know, and…
KING: What about him?
KORMAN: He’s also a banana. CONWAY: We’re also banana — We’re more comfortable in that spot…
KING: You don’t want to be the star?
4. Conway Said He Knew He & Korman Had ‘Good Chemistry’ as Soon as They First Met & Started Talking
Conway and Korman spent years collaborating on the Carol Burnett show, creating improv sketches which are still watched, and loved, today. Conway once told a reporter that he could tell that he and Korman would make a good comedy team from the way they talked together. He said, “I knew we had good chemistry even in just talking to him, because we could make each other laugh just in conversation with things about our lives — and his emotional state.”
Korman joked that Conway would make someone a “good wife” because he was so dedicated to putting together all the pieces of of a successful tour. “When we go out on the road,” Korman said, “he writes the material. He builds the scenery. He makes the props. And he sews the costumes. I’m not exaggerating. He’s an expert seamstress. Plus he cooks. He’d make a very good wife.”
The two men insisted that they never struggled with jealousy or competition. “We don’t operate on that level,” Korman said. “We operate on the level that comes from love and respect. And we each think the other guy’s real funny.”
5. Conway & Korman Won Seven Emmys During Their Years on the Carol Burnett Show
Conway and Korman worked together on the Carol Burnett show for nine years. They were best known for their “Dentist” and “Old Man” sketches. In the nine years they spent working together, the two earned seven Emmy awards. Korman joked that one year, they didn’t win an award and they were so surprised that they tried to snatch Chevy Chase’s prize.
“Then one year Chevy Chase won,” Korman said. “So we went up there and tried to get it away from him.”