When it comes to classic comedic actors, Don Knotts is the gold standard. He elevated just about any production that was lucky enough to have him. He was funny, witty, and had great timing. At the same time, he was versatile. Fans of his film and television work only see a portion of his multifaceted talent.
For instance, Don Knotts was the perfect comedic foil on The Andy Griffith Show. Even Andy himself said that the show wouldn’t have worked without him. Knotts didn’t just play his roles. He became them. Griffith once said that he could actually witness Don turn into Barney right before his eyes. Most TV fans know that Knotts was an incredible actor and comedian, though.
However, what many people don’t realize is that Don Knotts started as a ventriloquist. He had a wooden dummy named Danny. Knotts started performing with the dummy in junior high school. Then, while he was in the military during WWII, he was assigned to a traveling show. He and his dummy would entertain troops all over the world. They would go to bases, battleships, and everything in between to boost morale.
That’s also where Don Knotts discovered his love for comedy. He wanted to continue with a comedy act on the military show. However, the higher-ups kept demanding his ventriloquist act. So, Knotts figured out a way to get around that.
Don Knotts talked all about his time as a ventriloquist and the fate of his dummy in an interview with the Archive of American Television before his death in 2006.
What Happened To Don Knotts’ Dummy?
In the interview, Don Knotts said that his comedic training began in the Army. Knotts said he was surrounded by guys who were both older and more experienced than him. So, he learned a lot from them. He started performing as the “second banana” to the show’s main comedian and fell in love with it.
Don Knotts said, “What happened was, they were letting me do my second banana stuff…I liked doing that better than the ventriloquism. But, they kept saying, we need you to do the ventriloquist act. So, one night I left Danny on a beach when we left and reported him missing in action.”
At the time, they were in the Southwest Pacific region. The show was traveling to places like The Philippines and New Guinea. So, Danny the Dummy is probably at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean somewhere.