Standup Comedian and Musician Tim Convy Is Flying High

The Kirkwood native polyhyphenated success story will soon be feeling the punk tonight

May 9, 2024 at 6:29 am
Tim Convy says the desire to perform was "in my blood from the beginning."
Tim Convy says the desire to perform was "in my blood from the beginning." MATT POND

Tim Convy shows up at a Webster Groves restaurant with a heavily wrapped right thumb, a casualty of a moving accident involving a van door, but he doesn’t let it bother him. Things are going too well for him. Sure, it’s his microphone-holding hand, the one he uses during his stand-up routines as one the area’s top comics. It’s also his melody hand when he’s playing keys in Ludo, the theatrical indie-rock band that hit major-label success a few years back and is enjoying something of an annual revival here in St. Louis. 

The 44-year-old Convy is also familiar to St. Louisans as a member of The Courtney Show, the popular morning radio program on 106.5 the Arch. Along with rocker and fellow radio personality Moon Valjean, Convy also heads up two new, fast-growing concert traditions: A Punk Rock Christmas, the holiday variety show that sold out the Pageant in December, and Can You Feel the Punk Tonight, a high-energy rock ‘n’ roll take on Disney classics, which has moved to the Pageant in its second year for two shows coming up on May 11. 

And if that’s not enough excitement in Convy’s life, as we sit and chat, he tells me that his wife is expecting the couple’s second child any minute. Five days later, the baby, christened Jack Convy, is born. 

According to the proud papa, he was himself about little Jack’s age when the performance bug bit. “It was in my blood from the beginning,” Convy says. 

Convy grew up in Kirkwood with his parents and three siblings, one of whom, Chris, a TV producer and The Courtney Show cohort, is the longtime boyfriend of comedian Nikki Glaser, another former Kirkwood High grad.

Convy has been getting in front of audiences for as long as he can remember. He was in what he calls “fake bands” in elementary school, then real bands later in middle school, where he sang Green Day and Nirvana covers. Later, at Saint Louis Priory High School, Convy acted in plays and landed a job DJing high school parties across the city, where he asked gymnasiums full of teenagers to make some noise and to wave their hands in the air. And he kept rocking, forming a band with bassist Tom Schmidt (now owner of Salt + Smoke BBQ) and drummer Kevin Bowers, one of St. Louisans most in-demand drummers today. 

At Mizzou in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, Convy joined the Sigma Chi fraternity and — get this — lived in the same room in the frat house that had been occupied by Brad Pitt a few years earlier. Convy continued to often be the life of the party — as a DJ and bartender at classic Mizzou meat market By George, as a singer in a hair-metal cover band — even though he didn’t really party the way everyone else around him did. Convy doesn’t drink. In fact, he never did. “Never had a sip,” he says, a surprising claim considering that his chosen lifestyles and professions have all been in booze-soaked settings. “I know! Fraternity, rock and roll, Irish Catholic. But I never started, so it kind of became my thing. People have asked me if it was hard to quit. No, because I never started!”

While in college, Convy scored his dream internship, a summer stint with MTV that took him to New York City in 2001 to work in Times Square for the network’s music programming division during the heyday of Total Request Live. Backstage at the VMAs, Convy brushed shoulders with the biggest rock stars on the planet. “Michael Jackson was two feet from me,” he recalls. “The words, ‘Excuse me, Bono’ came out of my mouth.” 

While the MTV internship continued in subsequent summers, Convy concluded that the MTV gig was “the coolest job … besides being in a band.” After all, playing in a band was what he had always wanted above everything else, and just such an opportunity was waiting for him back in Columbia. 

One of Convy’s musical cohorts at Mizzou, guitarist Tim Ferrell, had started collaborating with bespectacled singer-songwriter and Washington University student Andrew Volpe. One night, Volpe recruited Convy to handle the keys for their burgeoning band, even though Convy couldn’t play the instrument. No matter. Before long, Convy was playing the Moog synthesizer in a new band: Ludo. 

click to enlarge After Ludo's trajectory faltered, Convy found new life in comedy. - RYAN CASEY
After Ludo's trajectory faltered, Convy found new life in comedy.

His main job with Ludo, however, was as the band’s manager and booking agent. Having worked for Columbia’s legendary Blue Note nightclub, learning from owner Richard King, Convy started booking for Ludo, then primarily the duo of Ferrell and Volpe, and traveling the country in a van as Ludo’s road manager and sometime Moog player. 

Convy’s commitment to the band was complete. “Ludo was full-time from day one,” he says. “When we were recruiting a rhythm section, we said in our ads, ‘Break up with your girlfriend, quit school, quit your job.’” The steely focus paid off. Ludo, named after a character from the 1986 Jim Henson/David Bowie film Labyrinth, started gaining a fast following for their fun, high-energy pop-punk Weezer-meets-Queen live shows. 

The band self-released a couple of hometown-made albums: a 2003 self-titled debut and a 2005 sophomore rock opera, Broken Brides, about time travel, dinosaurs, true love and the apocalypse. By then, with Convy still managing the band, Ludo had become regulars at St. Louis clubs like Cicero’s and Mississippi Nights and was drawing a few hundred people a night across the middle third of the country. After the band became breakout stars at the South By Southwest conference in Austin, the major labels came calling. 

In 2006, Ludo signed a five-album deal with Island Records and released a debut album, 2008’s You’re Awful, I Love You, enjoying critical acclaim and spawning a single, “Love Me Dead,” that jumped into the Billboard Alternative Top 10. Later that year, Ludo landed spots on both Jimmy Kimmel Live! and, the biggie, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. “I got my makeup done next to Michael Caine!” Convy says. 

And then, just as Ludo was hitting the big time, the band’s momentum started to stall. Convy chooses his words carefully when describing the forces that started to derail Ludo. “We wanted different things out of life and where the band fit in,” he says, comparing the band’s trajectory to a road trip in which all the passengers agree on the destination but can’t agree on what to do when they get there. 

Ludo made another album, 2010’s Prepare the Preparations, and after another tour cycle, the band went on hiatus. “There was a sense of lost opportunities that were straining the band,” Convy says. “It was unfortunate because we had the same team that was working the Killers and Fall Out Boy, but [our band] couldn’t get on the same page.” And while Convy says the band never officially broke up, Ludo stopped playing together after a final show in 2012. Convy, who had moved to New York City to work closely with the label, was left trying to make sense of what had happened and where he was going next. 

“Things were bad,” Convy says. “I was miserable. Physically, I was in bad shape.” So in 2014, did what he had previously never envisioned: He moved back to St. Louis, living again with his parents and focusing on getting healthy. It was around this time that his brother’s girlfriend, Glaser, by then a rising star in the world of comedy, encouraged Tim to take a stab at standup. 

Does Convy subscribe to the philosophy that comedy necessarily comes from a place of pain? “Put it this way,” he says. “I would not have gotten on stage to do comedy had I not been hugely depressed by what had happened with my band. When I first started doing comedy I was in terrible shape.” After having spent so many years as a performer, playing five or six nights a week, the sudden disappearance of audiences put Convy in a funk. 

So Convy started attending Tuesday open-mics nights at the Funny Bone in Westport Plaza, first as a spectator and eventually as a participant. “When I did it the first time, my four minutes, I didn’t tell anyone,” he says. “But that first night, I knew that this was going to be part of my life. This is it.” Eventually, Convy was promoted to hosting Tuesday nights. “The manager gave me $30 to host one night, and I went out to my car and just cried,” he remembers. “It made me feel like I was turning the corner again and that I could do something else. Everything was going to be okay.”

Convy rapidly came out of his depression and has been on a serious roll ever since. This July will mark his tenth year doing standup, a period that has seen him working clubs around the country, producing and writing for Not Safe with Nikki Glaser on Comedy Central, and, most recently, opening for Glaser at the Fox and producing and writing music for her upcoming HBO special, Someday You’ll Be Dead

He’s been on morning radio in St. Louis since 2017, a job he says is a natural fit except for the six a.m. start time, still a challenge for the lifelong night owl. And the projects billed as Punk Rock Machine — the annual Punk Rock Christmas and Punk Rock Disney shows — scratch Convy’s musical performance itch by pairing him with some of the area’s top musicians and introducing him to a new generation of fans. For the upcoming Disney blowout, Convy promises crazy set pieces, costume changes and special guests, with an audience dressed in everything from punkers to Disney princesses. 

Plus, Ludo never actually went away either. “The amount of people who discovered us after we stopped playing is crazy,” Convy says. The first HalLUDOween concert, held in 2018, sold out within minutes, and now the band is up to three nights as an annual Ludo reunion and St. Louis tradition. “People come from all over the country and all over the world for the Halloween shows,” Convy says. “It’s bananas. I never would have expected it.”

Looking back, Convy says he regrets not appreciating milestones like the Tonight Show appearance. “When we were on MTV, I didn’t enjoy it because I wanted to be on a late-night show. When I was on a late-night show, I didn’t enjoy it because I wanted to be on SNL…” He says, though, that he’s since learned to experience gratitude in the moment. “I make a point to enjoy every single thing,” he says. “I have to keep myself in check.”

And there’s so much to enjoy. “Things are good,” he says with a smile. With standup comedy, daily radio hijinks, regular rock-star turns, his old band still kicking, and a growing family, even a restless dreamer like Tim Convy has to admit that most of those big dreams came true. But the look in his eyes as he talks about future plans suggests that he’s still just getting started.

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