Don Knotts, who always will be Barney Fife from the Andy Griffith Show, was a natural, effortless comedian.
In fact, he was so funny that he entertained friends and relatives while on his death bed. That’s according to his daughter, Karen, who added the anecdote in her book “Tied Up in Knotts: My Dad and Me.”
She was at a loss as to what to do as her father was near death at a Los Angeles hospital in February, 2006. Knotts didn’t go into his Barney Fife character. Rather, he remained true to his own personality.
So, should she laugh during one of saddest moments in her life?
“He wasn’t there trying to make anybody laugh – he was naturally funny!” Karen Knotts told Fox News about the Andy Griffith Show star.
“And at times, he would be funny when he didn’t mean to be. So that’s what happened. We were sitting with him because we knew it was very close to the end of his illness. It was just such a somber mood. Then all of a sudden he just started doing something so funny that just gave us the giggles. And he would do that – just suddenly do or say something at a quiet moment to make you laugh. That came to him naturally.”
Karen said rather than laugh in front of her dad, she excused herself from his hospital room.
“I didn’t want him to think I was laughing at him because he could be sensitive,” she said. “But I just thought, ‘Oh my God, I need to step out now.’ I later told Howard Storm about it. And he said, ‘You should have stayed there and laughed! That’s what comedians live for.’ But I didn’t want to hurt my dad’s feelings at that moment. It was a tough call!”
Daughter Inherited Funny Bone from ‘Andy Griffith’ Show Star
In other interviews, before she wrote her memoir, Karen said she regrets not laughing one final time at her dad’s jokes.
Karen Knotts inherited her dad’s funny gene. She’s now 67 and still performing. Before the book, she wrote Tied Up In Knotts as a stage show.
Karen and her brother, Thomas, were elementary school age when their dad landed the part on the Andy Griffith Show. She said she used to help him learn his lines. Karen said she visited the Andy Griffith Show set all the time and called Griffith “Uncle Andy.”
The Andy Griffith Show ran from 1960 until 1968. Knotts and Griffith worked together, again, on Matlock. That show was a drama — Griffith played an attorney. He also wanted Knotts by his side. Initially, show producers nixed the idea because they wanted the show to have a serious tone. But finally, Knotts was added to the cast in 1988.
But folks always will identify Knotts from the Andy Griffith Show. He received five Emmy nominations for playing Barney Fife. And he won all five.