Saturday, November 16, 2013

Book Review: What's So Funny?

Since The Carol Burnett Show is a fondly remembered favorite of many Baby Boomers, it's no surprise that memoirs, reunions, reminiscences, and tributes have become a virtual cottage industry since the original series left the airwaves in 1978. Now one of its best-loved players, Tim Conway, weighs in with What's So Funny?: My Hilarious Life (Howard Books, $25.99), co-written with Jane Scovell. Conway, who turns 80 next month, has written a warm, likable, and wacky memoir that will hit the spot with his many fans.

With credit undoubtedly due to co-author Scovell, the book nicely captures the veteran funnyman's voice, and the impish sense of humor that has served him well over a long career. He reminisces fondly about his four-year run as bumbling Ensign Charles Parker on TV's McHale's Navy (1962-66), and, of course, his long and happy association with Burnett's classic variety show. Although Vicki Lawrence and Burnett herself beat him to this particular punch, Conway offers a few tidbits you may not have heard before (including the real origin of Mr. Tudball's unusual speech patterns), and pays a warm tribute to his friend, the mad genius Harvey Korman, with whom he was so memorably teamed in countless skits.

Any readers searching for the gossip, backbiting, and raunchy confessions that seem to be all the rage in celebrity autobiographies will troll in vain for dirt here. If there's a harsh story to be told about Conway's divorce from his first wife, who bore him six children in the course of their 16-year marriage, you won't find it in these pages. On the other hand, you'll enjoy some genuine laughs (recalling his military service, he cracks, "Why is it when I tell people I was in the Army, they always ask, 'Ours?'"), and you'll be either relieved or disappointed that you weren't the department store customer who failed to recognize Tim Conway and asked him, "Pardon me, where is your underwear?"

NOTE:  Review copy courtesy of NetGalley.

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