Tim Conway, Ernest Borgnine’s nemesis in McHale’s Navy, foil for Harvey Korman’s straight man, and a bumbling charmer never had a hit series. He tried it twice, a decade apart, and was quickly canceled. He once got himself a vanity license plate, “13 WKS,” the length of a series that gets canceled for lack of ratings.
The license plate showed humility and its resulting gift of self-deprecation. He was also a testament to the nonlinear life. There are many who are never headliners, never CEOs, never politically powerful, but yet they make their marks. Bet you can’t name the man who invented Doritos, but where would the world be without him? Mr. Conway spread comedic joy, but he also gave many of us non-headliners a boost. We have learned “in whatever state [we are], therewith to be content.” (paraphrase credit to Paul, Philippians 4:11) Not a star of the shaw, but perhaps a recognized contributor. Mr. Conway was an invaluable one to Carol Burnett’s show.
In these days of parents bribing test administrators and coaches and going to jail to give their children a perfectly linear life through the well trodden path of elite schools, the nonlinear life is discounted, mocked, and even dreaded. Understanding that happy and successful lives come in many different ways and through paths that twist and wind is one of life’s critical lessons Oh, but what the journey brings in character development. Just the ability to make fun of ourselves means that our measures involve something more than top of the heap.
To Mr. Conway: Thanks for the memories and for a life that was an example of success earned by taking the road less traveled. RIP