If you had asked me as a child why I watched The Carol Burnett show in perpetual reruns, I would have responded with two words: Tim Conway. Sure, I’ve many fond memories of sketches featuring Burnett herself, as well as Vicki Lawrence, Harvey Korman, and Lyle Waggoner. I mean, where Lawrence is concerned, those of you who’ve followed FilmMonthly long enough will recall I’ve an enormous soft spot for the spin-off series, Mama’s Family! Yet I can’t recall laughing so hard as a child as I would watching Tim Conway bring his co-stars to tears with his physical and verbal ad-libbing, as they desperately tried to stay in character. So to my mind, a Carol Burnett Show release of “The Best of Tim Conway” promises to deliver some of the very best of The Carol Burnett Show, period.
Time Life’s single-disc DVD release of The Best of Tim Conway includes four episodes of The Carol Burnett Show, three of which haven’t been seen in over forty years, much less released on DVD! Episodes featured on this collection include episode 312 (airdate: December 8, 1969), episode 423 (airdate: April 19, 1971), episode 513 (airdate: December 1, 1971) and episode 0120 (airdate: February 26, 1978). Of the four, though, episode 513 will include the material that most of us who’ve a history with The Carol Burnett Show will know best, as it boasts a repeat presentation of Conway’s inexperienced dentist sketch. It’s an absolutely classic bit of slapstick, finding Conway’s dentist character with a completely numb arm and leg, and co-starring Harvey Korman as his patient—with Korman of course trying futilely not to break character.
But you don’t have to wait until the third episode in the collection for things to hilariously break down. During the first sketch in episode 312, less than five minutes into the set’s 153-minute run time, Korman absolutely loses his mind playing off Conway as an absurdly slow, aging mechanic. Other sketches of note in the collection include Corman playing a schlubby Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire, the iconically weird Mr. Tudball opposite Burnett’s Mrs. Wiggins, and even parodying the terribly dated Charlie Chan in an ode to Hollywood sketch (here’s a sample of that). But for my money, the highlight of the set comes in episode 423, when Conway plays an architect taking on dog characteristics in the “Dog’s Life” sketch. Conway’s in top form physically in “Dog’s Life,” leaping up on the couch and licking an already hysterical Harvey Korman’s hand.
The Carol Burnett Show: The Best of Tim Conway arrives on DVD April 4, 2017 from Time Life, and with an SRP of $12.95, is well worth picking up. The only extra bit included on the disc by way of special features is a blooper from the “Dog’s Life” sketch in which no one in the scene is able to maintain their composure, Conway included. Korman laughs so hard in fact that his fake mustache comes off, which only exacerbates the situation.