‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Jim Nabors Couldn’t Handle Don Knotts Comedy While Trying to Act

by Josh Lanier

Jim Nabors said it was sometimes impossible to share a scene with Don Knotts on The Andy Griffith Show. The bumbling deputy would also cause Nabors to smile or laugh, ruining the take.

In The Andy Griffith Show Reunion: Back to Mayberry special that aired in 1986, Nabors along with most of the surviving cast show up at the Mayberry Court House to catch up and relive some of their favorite memories on the show.

“I think some of the scariest moments in my career have been in this room. And some of my nicest moments” Nabors said. “Scary because the first time I tried to act was right in this room.”

By making matters worse, he was forced to act against one of the funniest men in television history, Don Knotts.

“You know, being totally inexperienced, it was the hardest thing in the world for me to do was to do a scene with Don … because I started grinning in every one of them … I’d start to laugh every time.”

He noted one particularly famous scene where they have to re-block the actors because Nabors couldn’t keep it together. In the episode “Citizen’s Arrest,” Deputy Barney Fife makes an illegal U-Turn and Nabor’s Pyle issues a citizen’s arrest on him.

“You had a line in that show that just broke me up,” Nabors said in the reunion special. “All the townspeople have gathered up, and I”ll never forget Don’s line.”

The line was “Oh, nutsy, here came running after me screaming ‘citizen’s arrest, citizen’s arrest,” as Knotts pitched up his voice to mock Nabors’.

The Gomer Pyle actor said that the shot was originally supposed to have both of them in it, but he couldn’t quit laughing. After several failed attempts from Nabor’s laughing, the director decided to shoot them separately.

Knotts Was Cut-Up On Set of ‘Andy Griffith Show’

Originally, The Andy Griffith Show was a vehicle for Andy Griffith’s comedy. But as soon as Don Knott’s joined the show, Griffith knew things had to change.

“Originally, I was supposed to be funny,” Andy Griffith explained. “By the second episode, I knew that he (pointing at Don Knotts) should be funny, and I should play straight to him.”

Don Knotts then chimed in, “But we seemed to fall right in together with the timing. We seemed to like each other’s timing. It just happened.”

But to get a rise and a laugh out of Griffith, Knotts would make sure to call out the comedy legend anytime he felt his timing was off.

“When I didn’t set him up quite right,” Griffith detailed. “He would say, ‘you wanna just come in a little earlier there, Andy?’” At which all three of The Andy Griffith Show stars burst out laughing.