There’s something so innately charming about a pairing that at first glance doesn’t seem to fit, yet ends up working perfectly together. And that’s the magic of Tim Conway and Sammy Davis Jr.’s pirate skit on The Carol Burnett Show. Oscar Wells here, and when I think about vintage humor, my mind often wanders back to the living room of my grandparents’ house. It’s there, nestled between the plaid couch and the pot of freshly brewed coffee, where I first witnessed this masterpiece.
With his sparkling eyes and cheeky smile, Tim Conway could charm just about anyone. But in this particular skit, the undeniable chemistry between him and Sammy Davis Jr. set the stage on fire. It was the type of chemistry you would expect between Laverne & Shirley or even Lucy & Ethel. Those shows from the ’70s and their iconic performances are etched in my heart, much like the intricate design on grandma’s china. Every time I watched Tim and Sammy, it was like opening up a vintage photo album, and each laugh was a sepia-toned memory.
Let’s dive right into the antics. They open the scene on a boat, with the two unlikely shipmates at odds with each other. The humor unfurls like a sailor’s map – every inch of it holds a surprise. From the light bickering over a simple seat to the hilarious misadventures trying to catch a fish, it’s evident that these two are not your everyday pirates. Tim’s character, Bruce Fenwick, is hilariously out of place with his misplaced enthusiasm and naivety about the pirate life. The banter about the window seat and the offer for lotion was pure gold. Every time I think of Sammy asking for some ‘water,’ I chuckle, recalling Tim’s hilarious response. It was like watching the ‘Three’s Company reruns’ but on a ship.
The dialogue is a homage to classic comedy, where punchlines are cleverly woven into conversations. One of my favorite moments is when Bruce complains about the working conditions on the ship, hilariously suggesting naps in the afternoon. Harvey Korman would’ve been so proud of this comedic brilliance. And when you think it couldn’t get more hysterical, Bruce attempts a mutiny with results that’ll leave you in stitches. The scene ends with Bruce’s hilarious attempts to stand up to the bully pirate, only for it to backfire in the most amusing way possible.
Revisiting this episode brings back all the warmth of sitting cross-legged on that well-worn carpet at my grandparents’, laughing until tears rolled down our faces. I can’t help but marvel at the genius of these two legends. In today’s age of quick humor and fleeting trends, moments like these stand the test of time. They remind us of the simple joy of laughter and the unadulterated pleasure of great comedy.
You’ve been with me through this journey down memory lane, so I hope you felt a fraction of the joy that Tim Conway and Sammy Davis Jr. have given us over the years. If you enjoyed reading this, give it a share. Let the world know that comedy, especially from the golden era, still holds a special place in our hearts.