On “The Carol Burnett Show,” Tim Conway makes his co-stars break character for 5 minutes straighT


Sure, here’s an expanded and vivid account of that memorable moment on “The Carol Burnett Show” where Tim Conway caused his co-stars to break character for an extended period.

Title: The Elephant Story: Tim Conway’s Legendary Sketch

In the annals of television history, few moments are as legendary as Tim Conway’s ad-libbed performance on “The Carol Burnett Show” that left his co-stars in stitches, unable to maintain their characters for a full five minutes. It was a masterclass in comedic timing and improvisation that showcased Conway’s unparalleled talent for making people laugh.

It was a typical day on the set of “The Carol Burnett Show,” renowned for its brilliant cast and spontaneous humor. The sketch that day was set in a doctor’s office, with Conway playing a hapless patient and the other stars, including Harvey Korman and Carol Burnett herself, playing the medical staff. The script was already funny, but Conway had a surprise up his sleeve.

As the cameras rolled, Conway began his routine. He was supposed to tell a simple story about an elephant, but Conway, known for his unpredictable antics, decided to embellish. He started recounting an elaborate, absurd tale about Siamese twin elephants. With his deadpan delivery and impeccable timing, he described how these elephants were joined at the trunk, and how one decided to cross the river while the other remained on the shore.


Harvey Korman, playing the doctor, was the first to lose it. His shoulders shook as he tried to stifle his laughter, but it was no use. The audience roared as Korman’s attempts to stay in character crumbled. Conway, sensing the effect he was having, doubled down. He continued with exaggerated details, explaining how one elephant would take a drink and the other would have to wait.

Carol Burnett and Vicki Lawrence, also part of the scene, were next to succumb. Burnett covered her face with a clipboard, her body shaking with laughter. Lawrence bit her lip, tears streaming down her face as she struggled to maintain her composure. The entire set was a scene of barely controlled chaos, with crew members behind the cameras struggling to keep steady as they too were caught in the infectious laughter.

Conway, ever the professional, didn’t miss a beat. He kept his delivery straight, his eyes twinkling with mischief as he watched his friends unravel. The audience, fully aware of the unscripted brilliance unfolding before them, cheered and applauded, appreciating the rare moment of genuine, uncontrolled hilarity.

For five full minutes, the scene was a glorious mess. Korman, completely unable to regain his composure, had tears streaming down his face. The sketch had long since derailed, but that didn’t matter. This unscripted break in character was what made “The Carol Burnett Show” so beloved—a testament to the genuine camaraderie and sheer comedic talent of its cast.


Finally, as the laughter began to subside, Conway wrapped up his outrageous story with a perfectly timed punchline. The scene, intended to be a few minutes long, had stretched into one of the most memorable moments in television history. The cast eventually regained their composure, and the show continued, but the memory of that elephant story remained a highlight of the series.

In the days following, the clip of Conway’s performance was replayed countless times, and it quickly became one of the most talked-about moments in comedy. It encapsulated the magic of live performance and the unpredictable joy of true comedic genius. Tim Conway’s ability to make his co-stars break character so spectacularly is remembered as one of the finest examples of improvisational comedy ever seen on television.


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