Old School Americana & Nostalgia


Andy Griffith Credited ‘The Andy Griffith Show’s Success to Don Knotts

Andy Griffith Credited ‘The Andy Griffith Show’s Success to Don Knotts

Andy Griffith knew about the power of comedy in his own career, but he had to figure it out for The Andy Griffith Show. It’s a delicate balancing act when an actor and comedian of Griffith’s kind surrounds himself with other funny people. And there’s little doubt the other cast members of the show had comedic streaks of their own.

Yet any comedian will tell you that working with a solid straight man makes all the difference in the world. Griffith embodied Sheriff Andy Taylor, giving him abilities to laugh while getting his message across at times, too. The actor, though, figured out something that would change the course of the sitcom in the show’s first season.

Griffith was surrounded by other funny people, those who could garner laughs just as easily as he could on stage. Of course, he had Deputy Barney Fife, played by Don Knotts, who was Andy’s loyal companion on the Mayberry police force. Add in others like George Lindsey, Jim Nabors, and an occasional appearance from Howard Morris, and you have an entire cast of comics.

Andy Griffith Didn’t Need to Be the Show’s Only Funny Person

Well, Andy figured out that he should not be the sole funny guy. He talked about it in an interview with The Daily Times, MeTV reports.

“I think if I had been the comic, it [The Andy Griffith Show] might have lasted about six months,” Griffith said. It’s worth noting that during the show’s first season, there were times when Griffith acted corny and tried to be funny. Now, it was during this period that a great awareness came across to Griffith and he tweaked Taylor’s character.

“I realized that Don should be funny, and I should play straight,” Griffith said. “That opened up a world of opportunities because each time we had a fine comic actor come on the show, such as Floyd the barber (Howard McNear), we signed him as a regular and I played straight to him. And I played straight to Otis (Hal Smith) and sometimes I played straight to Aunt Bea (Frances Bavier), and to the boy (Ron Howard).

“Those people made up the population of Mayberry, and it gave the show great longevity,” Griffith said. “It gave us an opportunity to write for each one of these characters, and write different kinds of shows.”

‘TAGS’ Episodes Didn’t Always Focus on Sheriff Taylor

And the show’s writers did just that. Not every episode of The Andy Griffith Show is focused on Andy and his life. One features Otis getting friendly with a “loaded goat,” while another one shows Goober repairing a car and rebuilding it inside the Mayberry city jail.

It didn’t mean that Andy Taylor was neutered from having a sense of humor. He laughed at things Mayberry’s citizens did to themselves. As Andy Griffith said, not putting the sole onus on Andy to provide the giggles opened lanes for others to succeed.

Howard McNear had developed his comedic traits on both radio and television. Hal Smith appeared on numerous television sitcoms, honing his comedy chops. Frances Bavier, though, was a trained Broadway actress. From her acting background, Bavier, with a boost from Andy Griffith, learned how people in the South talked to one another. She then adapted that into her role-playing abilities.

Andy Griffith also knew the power of a laugh. For him, it didn’t matter who got one from the studio audience, just as long as they got one. The Andy Griffith Show ran for eight seasons on CBS, providing its fans with plenty of laughs. That’s even the case for people who have been watching reruns for decades.