Review: “What’s So Funny” By Tim Conway With Jane Scovell

Howard Books provided me a copy of this book via NetGalley for the purpose of reading and reviewing it. While it was provided to me at no cost, I am under no obligation to provide a positive review. This is an advance copy of the book, so the contents may be changed by the time the book is actually published.

Full disclosure first: Tim Conway is one of my favorite comedians. Right up there with Robin Williams, Jonathan Winters and the other great improv comedians, Conway stands as one of the best ever. His ability to go completely off the rails while maintaining a straight face is legendary. Plus, he practiced clean humor, which is not so common these days. So I was likely predisposed to liking this book.

That said, I did like it. A lot. 🙂

The book covers Conway’s almost eighty years, even talking about how his mom and dad met. It was a little strange hearing him refer to his parents by their first names, but it worked.

We learn early on that Conway (Born Thomas Daniel and going by Toma or Tom in his youth) was destined to be a comedian, primarily because of his parents. His father was an Irish immigrant and his mother was American-born of Romanian parents. Somehow the two managed to meet and fall in love without Dan being able to speak Romanian or Sofia being able to speak much English.

To say his father was off-beat would be a definite understatement. While Tim certainly had the makeup to be a great comedian on his own, he had to be influenced by his dad’s sense of humor. There are too many examples to list, but the one that stuck with me was when the Conways were at home and a tornado passed overhead. After it passed, Tim and his father went outside to survey the damage. Taking a look at the downed trees and a neighboring house missing its roof, Dan Conway simply shook his head and said, “Those damn kids.”

Along the way, we learned how Tim tried and failed as a jockey racing horses, even though the love of horses followed him throughout his life. We also are witness to Tim learning the hard way that his Army superiors were not impressed with his humor.

Once he reached his show business days, Tim changed his name from Tom Conway at the behest of Steve Allen, who suggested there might be confusion because of another actor by the same name already having some repute.

Other than the discussion of Conway’s childhood and teenage years, my favorite part had to be, no surprise, the sections about Carol Burnett, her show, and Conway’s decades of tormenting Harvey Korman. I grew up watching those three on The Carol Burnett Show, and they all influenced my sense of humor. I learned to appreciate the ability to improvise and make those around me laugh. Conway also reveals that although he was involved in almost all of the show’s 11 years, he was only a cast member the last four. The first seven years had him appearing quite regularly, but just as a guest.

Conway spends time discussing some of the greats he worked with through the years, and it was pure gold: Jonathan Winters. Bob Newhart. Don Knotts. Steve Allen. Dick Martin. Vicki Lawrence. So many wonderful funny people.

Bottom line is, if you’re a fan of Tim Conway, The Carol Burnett Show, or just show business in general, you will absolutely love this book. It’s told in a very casual tone, just like you’re sitting down with Conway in his living room, listening to him talk about “the good ol’ days”.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)