The good news is that six-time Emmy-winning comedian Tim Conway is alive, well, and has written a memoir. The even better news: he can still crack up a crowd.
Conway did just that at an appearance at the recent Book Expo America in New York to promote What’s So Funny? My Hilarious Life (Howard Books, Oct. 29). The 79-year-old-comedian entertained guests at a reception sponsored by the publisher, telling them with characteristic deadpan, “The book took quite a bit of my time to write [long pause]--almost three days.” Conway regaled the crowd with stories about his frequent comic sketch partner on television’s The Carol Burnett Show, the late comedian Harvey Korman; Conway also explained that he first got laughed at in school, where his dyslexia caused him to make mistakes while reading. “I’d read words into things that weren’t there,” he said. “I enjoyed the laughter.”
Conway told PW his favorite comedians included Jackie Gleason and Bob Hope. “I go back to the old guys,” he said, noting that their language was notably free of vulgarity and obscenity. “There was never a hint of (foul) language.”
Conway’s family-friendly reputation is one way in which he’s a good fit for Howard Books, the Simon & Schuster imprint that publishes for evangelical Christians, but not just for that market. Howard publisher Jonathan Merkh said the house signed Conway because of its relationship with the comedian’s literary agency, Zachary Shuster Harmsworth, and its recent success with other crossover titles, including Waking Up in Heaven by Crystal McVea and Alex Tresniowski as well as the breakout Duck Dynasty books, based on the popular A&E television series and rapidly becoming a franchise.
“We try to do books that will sell in the Christian marketplace,” Merkh said. “(Conway is) a person of faith but his story is bigger than that. He’s a comedy icon in our culture.”
Howard is putting together a fall author tour that will range from Conway’s hometown, Chagrin Falls, Ohio, to New York and Los Angeles. The comic has spent most of his 45-year career in television, and he and his wife Charlene live in Encino, Calif. Conway concluded his not-quite-a-routine at the reception by wishing his publisher good luck in selling the book.
“I hope it does well for your company,” he told Howard staffers and reception attendees. “If it doesn’t, don’t call me.”