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SYFY WIRE obituary

Tim Conway, comedian and voice of Barnacle Boy on SpongeBob, dead at 85

By Josh Weiss
Tim Conway Barnacle Boy

Tim Conway, the beloved American comedian and actor who voiced the aging superhero known as Barnacle Boy on Nickelodeon's SpongeBob SquarePants, has passed away at the age of 85, Variety confirms. Per a representative for the late actor, Conway died Tuesday morning in Los Angeles from the result of water on the brain.

While well-known to the Baby Boomer generation for his comedic work on McHale's Navy and The Carol Burnett Show, Conway also endeared himself to Millennials and Generation Z, even if they don't know him by sight. That's because he voiced the character of Barnacle Boy on SpongeBob, the sailor's uniform-wearing super-sidekick to Mermaid Man, who was played by Conway's McHale's Navy co-star, Ernest Borgnine (1917-2012).

Tim Conway

First introduced in the 1999 episode entitled "Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy," the two humanoid heroes were once the stars of a show clearly inspired by the Batman '66 series, albeit with an Aquaman-influenced twist. In said episode, we learn that SpongeBob (Tom Kenny) and Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke) are huge fans of the these once-great crime-fighters, who have long since moved to the Shady Shoals retirement home to live out there golden years as senior citizens.

Thanks to SpongeBob and Patrick's bothersome fanboy ways, Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy were forced to come out of retirement, making recurring appearances in Bikini Bottom for more than a dozen episodes. Barnacle Boy got his chance to shine in 2002's "Mermaidman and Barnacle Boy V," where he turned temporarily evil, allying himself with Man-Ray (John Rhys-Davies) and the Dirty Bubble (Kenny), after Mermaid Man wouldn't stop treating him like a little kid.

The Batman '66 parallels came full circle in the 2010 episode, "Back to the Past," where younger versions of the two heroes were voiced by Adam West (1928-2017) and Burt Ward.

"I was heartbroken today to find out the our beloved Barnacle Boy had passed away," Carolyn Lawrence, voice of Sandy Cheeks, tells SYFY WIRE. "It wasn’t that long ago that we lost Mermaid Man (Ernest Borgnine) as well. Working with Mr. Conway was one of the highlights of my career. I was always a huge fan and it never crossed my mind that I’d actually find myself working along side him one day. He couldn’t have been kinder and was funny as heck. His passing leaves a huge hole in our Bikini Bottom hearts."

Born as Thomas Daniel Conway in Willoughby, Ohio, Conway majored in speech and radio at Bowling Green State University near Toledo before serving in the Army during WWII. His show biz career began at a radio station where he wrote for the promotional department. As he pursued acting, his birth name was changed to "Tim" because there was already someone named "Tom Conway" working as a thespian in Hollywood.

Throughout his career, which included a number of comedies for Disney, Conway nabbed a whopping 13 Emmy nominations, securing wins for six of them. Alongside his iconic contributions to SpongeBob, he also voiced characters in cartoons like Hercules (the TV spinoff), The Wild ThornberrysWhat's New, Scooby-Doo?, and The Proud Family.

"We are sad to learn Tim Conway, the legendary voice of Barnacle Boy, has passed away. Thank you for everything you contributed to Bikini Bottom," reads a post from the official SpongeBob account on Facebook.

We are sad to learn Tim Conway, the legendary voice of Barnacle Boy, has passed away. Thank you for everything you contributed to Bikini Bottom

Posted by SpongeBob SquarePants on Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Mr. Lawrence, the voice of SpongeBob's Plankton and co-writer on the episode that debuted Barnacle Boy to the world, tells us the following:

"Tim Conway was one of my childhood idols. When I first saw him on TV, I didn't know who he was but I instantly knew he was a comedy god. There aren't many.  Working with him was so joyful because he never stopped joking. He was always 'on' and could not resist making jokes about everything in between each take.

I got to discuss his first appearance on The Steve Allen Show with him, when he comically (of course) jumped into a hotel pool. Tim was amazed and delighted that I saw the reruns of that show from 1955. 'That was my first time appearing on TV,'  he told me. 'Wait, You're too young to know that!'

Working with him and Ernest Borgnine was a like a dream for a comedy student like myself. I'll never forget Tim, but luckily I can still watch him on The Carol Burnett Show, and now I'm the one who's amazed, that I got to meet and work with him, even if that time was brief. R.I.P. Tim. 


Mr. Lawrence."

Conway is survived by his second wife, Charlene Conway, and the seven children he had by his first wife, Mary Anne Dalton.