Carol Burnett and ‘The Andy Griffith Star’ Jim Nabors Became Close After One of Them Wrote a Fan Letter

It is not uncommon for people across the entertainment industry to develop close friendships, especially back during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Because there were quite fewer actors working in Hollywood, it is likely that it was easier for these connections to be developed.

Though they never starred alongside each other on television in major roles, one of the most celebrated friendships of its time was the dynamic between The Andy Griffith Show star Jim Nabors and Carol Burnett.

Carol Burnett is greeted by Jim Nabors in 1995
Carol Burnett is greeted by Jim Nabors in 1995 | Richard Corkery/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

Jim Nabors landed his own ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ spinoff

Nabors played Gomer Pyle, who was first introduced in the middle of the third season of The Andy Griffith Show. Pyle was a new character on the show after Howard McNear, who played Floyd Lawson, left the show a period of time due to some medical reasons.

Nabors appeared in 23 episodes of the show between 1962 and 1964. The character was so popular, Nabors got his own spinoff, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., once McNear returned to the show. 

Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. was on television from 1964 to 1969 for five seasons. The series’ first episode was a backdoor pilot during the fourth season of The Andy Griffith Show. On The Andy Griffith Show, Pyle is depicted as a naive mechanic and provided a lot of comic relief for the show during these years.

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Carol Burnett and Jim Nabors’ friendship

Nabors first caught Burnett’s attention when he was on Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. Burnett was so impressed she wrote a fan letter. Not soon after, they were able to meet each other by chance in New York and the rest is history. Nabors was even the godfather of Burnett’s daughter.

He was also the first guest on The Carol Burnett Show. “When the show took off, we looked on Jim as our good-luck charm, so he wound up being the guest on the first show every season for 11 years,” Burnett wrote in her book, This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection.

After this, Burnett also appeared on Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. “We sang a whole medley together,” she told MeTV. She also said, “It always amazed me how he could talk like [Gomer] and sing like that.”

As MeTV noted, Nabors rarely did interviews but talked about Burnett a lot in the interviews he did do. In one interview he talked about a time when he and Lucille Ball watched Burnett perform.

“Lucy was very much an analyst,” Nabors said while reminiscing for The Lucy Book of Lists, as reported by MeTV. “And she said, ‘The kid’s [Burnett] the best there is.'” Nabors then said he told Ball, “Well, you did pretty good yourself!”

However, to Ball, there was a distinction made. “No, I’m different, I’m different,” Nabors said the I Love Lucy star told him. “She was talking about her comedy. But she did say she thought Carol was the best sketch artist that had ever come down the pike — or ever would.”

Right before Nabors passed away, Burnett visited him in 2017 as they celebrated his 85th birthday.