‘The Andy Griffith Show’: How Don Knotts Overcame His ‘Volatile’ Past

by Craig Garrett

Don Knotts’ daughter, Karen, has written a new book about her classic tv icon father and reveals how he overcame a tough upbringing. In a recent interview with Closer Weekly, she recalls eavesdropping on her comedy legend father as a child. “We weren’t supposed to bother him,” she told Closer. “I would stand outside the door and listen to him run his lines over and over in different ways. It sounded like a concert pianist going over each bar with different emphasis.” 

Don Knotts had a multitude of high-profile roles on both the big and small screens. Of course, he’s most well know for playing high-strung deputy Barney Fife. However, he was introduced to another generation as the equally high-strung Mr. Furely on Three’s Company. He also scored film hits with outings like The Ghost and Mr.Chicken and The Apple Dumpling Gang. The actor’s unique everymen made fans laugh for more than five decades. However, his actor and comedian daughter Karen recalls a salt of the earth Dad. She recently elaborated on her memories of her father in her book, Tied Up in Knotts: My Dad and Me. “We had World Book Encyclopedia. After dinner, he would say, ‘OK, kids, which letter of the encyclopedia should we read from today?’” she remembered. 

Don Knotts at home was much different than his axiety-driven chracters on screen

That’s not to say that her famous father was all business. Karen recalls Don Knotts as a funny man, just not like he was with the public. “He was witty, clever, and very deadpan,” revealed Karen. “He would set the joke up by acting like he was going to tell you something in confidence, then would lay this ridiculous line out there that would just crack you up.”

Don Knotts loved spending time with his family, especially Karen and her brother, Tom. Karens feels the time was made all the more special due to Knotts’ tough childhood in West Virginia. “He grew up during the Great Depression, his family was impoverished, and his dad was a schizophrenic who couldn’t work,” Karen said. According to her, Knotts’ grandmother picked up the slack by running a boarding house as a source of income.

Karen has a theory that Don Knotts’ neurotic characters are rooted in his unstable childhood. “He was emotionally very volatile and lived with a lot of fear and anxiety,” she said. She referred to Don’s early years, during which he sought refuge in learning ventriloquism and performing shows with the neighborhood kids.“He got through his childhood by being creative,” she said. “He had this creative mind that was unstoppable.”

Karen can’t recall a time when her father wasn’t on TV, but she was never indoctrinated into the world of show business. The family lived a bit outside of the Hollywood bubble in the LA suburb of Glendale. She claims Don Knotts’ high-profile job was normal to her family. “We would watch the show as a family. I loved Barney Fife, just like everyone.”