Talking with Tim Conway on the telephone is not unlike watching him perform. It's controlled chaos.
He answers the call and says, "This is Babbaaaabbaaaaarrrry. Oh, nevermind."
From there he mentions that he is very busy getting ready for an appointment with the dentist -- in May.
Some questions he answers directly, and some he uses as a launching point to talk about what he wants to talk about. Through it all, there is that Conway sense of humor. You almost hear the wheels in his head spinning.
When asked if the show he will be performing Tuesday with Louise DuArt and Chuck McCann at the Tivoli Theatre is tightly structured or freeform, he says, "Structured? Now that you mention it, we should try that."
"Well, does it change weekly or from night to night?"
"It changes from minute to minute," he said.
The show, he said, features "six or seven sketches, some stand-up, some horsing around, some improvisation and some stories about me in the business."
The sketches will include bits from his long career, such as Dorf, and many of the characters he created on "The Carol Burnett Show," including The Old Man and Mr. Tudball, the Swedish-American businessman who is tormented by his secretary, Mrs. Wiggins.
Conway spent 11 years on the show as both a writer and a performer. He is perhaps best remembered for his ability to make his co-performers -- Burnett, Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner -- laugh during a skit. He often managed to do so without uttering a word.
The Tudball character was created after CBS put an intercom system in the offices, he said.
"It was a one-button thing," he said. "If you press the button, the other person can't hear you. You'd push the button and say, 'Charlene, can you ...' and she'd push the other button, 'Hello ...' 'Charlene, don't push ...' 'Hello.'
"A lot of times, that is how sketches began. Out of that, we did 20 or 30 Tudballs."
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...