‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Don Knotts Said Griffith Didn’t Want Lines That Sounded ‘Like a Joke’ in Show

by Clayton Edwards

Few television shows have reached the level of The Andy Griffith Show. Even decades after its original run came to an end, it still holds up. The major factor in the show’s longevity is the brilliant writing that went into each episode. Part of the writing was the subject matter. The storylines weren’t topical. So, they can’t really feel dated. This evergreen storytelling is what makes the show feel fresh today. There was also the humor of the show. It was much like Andy Griffith’s comedy routines. He didn’t tell jokes. Griffith told stories but he told them in a funny way. He wanted to carry that same philosophy on his television show.

Andy Griffith and Don Knotts appeared on The Today Show with Matt Lauer in 1996. They were there as part of the show’s “Classic Cops,” series that looked back at TV’s best law enforcement officers. During that interview, they discussed the comedy of The Andy Griffith Show.

The Comedy of The Andy Griffith Show

The conversation started by discussing the era in which The Andy Griffith Show was set. Andy said that it was never really stated. However, Mayberry was meant to have the feel of a small town in the 1930s. Griffith added that because of this, they focused on keeping their characters “pure.” He said that if a joke “made a lie out of the character,” they would cut it from the script.

At that point, Don Knotts cut in and said, “Andy used to say, ‘if it sounds like a joke, throw it out,’.”

You can see that philosophy at work in every episode of The Andy Griffith Show. If you watch the series with that in mind, you can see that they never tell jokes. The humor comes solely from the situations in which they find themselves and their reactions to those situations. Furthermore, it comes from the way that Griffith and Knotts work off of one another.

Andy Griffith’s Comedy

Andy Griffith plays the straight man to Don Knotts’ comic relief in the show. However, Andy was hilariously funny. In fact, he cut several comedy albums over the course of his career. Andy used the same style of comedy in his albums as he did on the series. He never told jokes. instead, he told stories. His delivery is what made them funny. For instance, listen to his classic comedy bit about wandering into a college football game.

This is a great example of Andy’ comedy style. It is also a one-man example of the comedy they used in the classic series.