Don Knotts: Playing it for Laughs
Don Knotts was a natural comedian – his expressive face, unique look and great sense of timing combined to make him one of the funniest men on TV in the 1960s, '70s and '80s.
Actor Don Knotts is seen in this undated studio portrait. (AP Photo)
His big break came in 1960, after a few TV and movie roles. He was offered the chance to play the role that would make him famous and remain his best-known persona: Deputy Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show. The show's creators originally intended Andy Griffith's Sheriff Andy Taylor to be the show's source of humor, with Knotts as Fife playing the straight man… but it soon became evident that Knotts was anything but a straight man.
Knotts played Barney Fife for laughs for the next five years before moving on to movie roles. He had proven with Fife that he was a whiz at playing high-strung, and this continued in many of his movies of the '60s and '70s.
TV eventually wooed Knotts back, where he was cast as goofy lothario Mr. Furley on Three's Company. For a slightly younger generation than those who grew up with The Andy Griffith Show, this was the essential Don Knotts – the nosy, often confused, and always hilarious landlord.
When Don Knotts died six years ago today, he was remembered with the respect a man of his stature in the comedy world deserved. He perfected his over-the-top, overly anxious persona, and he's influenced countless comedians who came after him.
Written by Linnea Crowther