The generation that grew up with only a “Three’s Company” Mr. Furley image of Don Knotts in their minds will likely never know what a terrific actor Don Knotts was.
But he was great. Don Knotts, who passed away this weekend, was a comic genius. Were it not for Knotts, most of us would never have seen “The Andy Griffith Show” because it wouldn’t have been a hit and no way would it still be on the air 46 years after it debuted.
Sure, you could say he played the same character in every film and tv show he played. But what a character it was. In my opinion, Barney Fife is the single best character to ever hit the small screen. He not only starred in the show, he stole it. Week after week. Seeing him getting drunk on moonshine or putting the moves on Thelma Lou, or his phone calls to Juanita at the diner are some of the funniest moments ever put on television.
Don Knotts not only made me laugh in Mayberry and Mt. Pilot, but also in “The Shakiest Gun in the West”, “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken”, “The Incredible Mr. Limpet” and the now impossible to find on video “The Private Eyes”.
I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Knotts years ago while working in Huntsville. WHNT aired “The Andy Griffith Show” as a news lead-in and it was huge. I don’t know for sure but I doubt Oprah beat it that often. Mr. Knotts came to town and I had the opportunity to interview him briefly. I remember he seemed embarrassed by all of the attention he was getting and seemed to feel he was undeserving of even the interview. “Did you have a favorite episode?” I asked him. “I don’t know…what’s your favorite episode?”
I asked a Huntsville Times photographer to snap a photo of me with him but I never saw it or got a copy. I wish I had. I love what the copy editor at the Miami Herald wrote to title the article today on the passing of Don Knotts: “His lone bullet never failed to hit funny bone”.
I bet he’d think that was funny too.