‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Don Knotts Was So ‘Hysterical’ His Co-Stars Couldn’t Keep It Together

The Andy Griffith Show is a staple of classic television, a series that portrays a simpler way of life. Although the show has been off the air for more than five decades, old fans and new still find themselves flocking to watch reruns, enjoying the exploits of the good citizens of Mayberry.

Actor and folksy comedian Andy Griffith brought to life the lead for the series and became synonymous with the show. That said, one of the show’s most prominent stars was Don Knotts, an actor who went on to find great success in movies but is still best known as the lovable, bumbling Deputy Barney Fife. 

Don Knotts (1924 - 2006) as Deputy Barney Fife and Andy Griffith (right) as Sheriff Andy Taylor in a scene from the television series 'The Andy Griffith Show', circa 1965.
Don Knotts as Deputy Barney Fife and Andy Griffith (right) as Sheriff Andy Taylor in a scene from the television series ‘The Andy Griffith Show’, circa 1965. | CBS Photo Archive/Archive Photos/Getty Images

How long did ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ run on television?

The Andy Griffith Show premiered on television in 1960, starring Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor. As the “sheriff without a gun,” Taylor patrols the streets of the fictional town of Mayberry, often helping citizens with affairs of the heart or other personal issues, as well as occasionally defusing more tense situations.

Still, Mayberry is a town where drama is never violent, and almost everyone has their neighbor’s best interests at heart.

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The show became very popular right away, with viewers drawn to the sweet, simple way of life portrayed in The Andy Griffith Show. In the often-turbulent world of ’60s culture, The Andy Griffith Show represented an escape from reality.

The series ran for eight years, going off the air in 1968. Many cast members returned for television reunions, and the series remains hugely popular in rerun form. 

Who did Don Knotts play on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’?

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While Griffith led the ensemble cast of The Andy Griffith Show, there were many other talented stars who captured viewers’ hearts. One of the main characters was Deputy Barney Fife, played by the popular comedian Don Knotts.

Knotts began his career as a ventriloquist on vaudeville, performing for crowds both large and small for many years. In the ’50s, Knotts appeared in various television shows and movies, eventually meeting Andy Griffith in 1958, when the two co-starred in the movie No Time for Sergeants

Griffith recruited Knotts to appear on The Andy Griffith Show with him, and in short order, the comedian became a big star. Knotts appeared in the show for five seasons, winning three Emmy Awards for his charming portrayal of the bumbling deputy.

In 1965, Knotts left the show in order to pursue a film career — and while he went on to become one of the biggest film comedians of the ’60s and ’70s, he remains most beloved for his work in The Andy Griffith Show

Jim Nabors stated that Don Knotts was ‘hysterical’

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Knotts didn’t just charm viewers when he worked on The Andy Griffith Show — but he made lifelong friends with some of the cast members as well. One member of the cast who found Knotts particularly entertaining was Jim Nabors, who portrayed the hapless Gomer Pyle. In an interview with Allan Newsome, Nabors declared that Knotts was absolutely hilarious, both on and offscreen.

He revealed: “Andy was secure enough as a performer in his own right that he could let each one of us go with whatever we could do. Of course, it was hard for me not to laugh when I’d do a scene with Don Knotts sometimes, because he was so hysterical.”

Nabors went on to relate how “he used to break me up and I was supposed to be standing there looking kind of dumb and I’d always start grinning. Then the director would start sayin’, ‘Don’t do that. Don’t do that!'”

These days, both Nabors and Knotts have sadly died, but fans can always relive their camaraderie when they rewatch episodes of The Andy Griffith Show