When Jim Carrey met one of his most cherished comedic inspirations, Don Knotts, he proved that even the biggest celebrities can still be humble fanboys.
Oscar-winning director Ron Howard told the story of the meet and greet while talking to CNN in 2006. Howard directed the live-action adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which starred Carrey in the role of Whoville’s black-hearted villain. During filming, Carrey began feeling burnt out and down, so Howard got the bright idea to lift his spirits with a surprise introduction.
Jim Carrey had always been an admirer of Don Knotts. The actor famously impersonated the Mayberry deputy during stand-up shows. He also brought that impersonation to a now-legendary episode of In Living Color. Ron Howard, of course, knew Don Knotts well. The two starred in The Andy Griffith Show together. Howard played Opie Taylor.
So one day, when Carrey was feeling particularly blue, Howard phoned his friend and asked him to come to the set.
“Jim had to wear this really oppressive makeup. It was really getting him down. He had to wear the Grinch costume and prosthetic makeup and contact lenses and the shooting went on and he was — you could just see his energy was draining,” he explained. “And, one day I surprised him by getting Don to come to the set.”
Jim Carrey Thanked Don Knotts for ‘The Ghost and Mr. Chicken’
Howard recalled the moment Jim Carrey spotted Don Knotts in the crowd. He was “standing up at the mouth of the Grinch’s cave, which was this tall set at the top of a soundstage, and he looked down, and he squinted.”
The moment it clicked that he was looking at the comedic great, he instantly began performing his Knotts impersonation.
“He went into a really brilliant Don Knotts imitation,” Howard continued. “And I only wish the cameras were rolling because here he was in the Grinch costume doing Barney Fife, you know, and it was — it was hilarious.”
Don Knotts stuck around and spent the entire afternoon getting to know Jim Carrey. “That’s the kind of guy Don was,” Howard added. “He was very unassuming, very gracious.”
Jim Carrey recounted that story with The Los Angeles Times shortly before Knotts passed from lung cancer complications in 2006 at 81 years old. Carrey admitted that he felt like a giddy child that day, and the first thing he did when he formally met the star was thank him for making him smile.
“I went to him, and I was just like, ‘Thank you so much for The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.” he said. “I watched it a hundred times when I was a kid.”
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