Don Knotts Revealed How He Created His ‘Nervous Man’ Character for ‘Steve Allen Show’

by Keeli Parkey

Before he played Deputy Barney Fife on “The Andy Griffth Show,” actor Don Knotts was a very “nervous man.”

So, what made him so anxious? Well, it was a character he played on The Steve Allen Show. And, unsurprisingly, that character was known as the “Nervous Man.”

The legendary comedic actor talked about creating the “Nervous Man” character for the popular variety show during an interview with the Archive of American Television.

“At some point, I don’t remember when – I got the idea for this ‘nervous’ character. I wrote a monologue, and a friend of mine knew the owner of a club in Manhattan,” Knott said. “… I went over there and auditioned this nervous guy for the owner of this club. And, he thought it was the most boring thing I think he’d ever seen. So, I put that away. I thought, I guess that’s no good.”

Eventually, though, his “Nervous Man” character became a hit. The path to the character’s success started when Don Knotts was working in a Broadway play. That show was titled “No Time for Sergeants.”

“I got to know the cast pretty well,” Knotts recalled of those days on Broadway. “So, one night I thought I’ll try that out on these guys. So, I tried it out on them and they fell down laughing.”

Don Knotts Begins to Have Success as ‘Nervous Man’ Character

Because his fellow Broadway castmates enjoyed his “Nervous Man” character, Don Knotts had the confidence to try it out on a television show.

“I decided to audition around some more and I took it to the Gary Moore people. Gary Moore had a daytime show then,” Don Knotts recalled. “They said they liked it and they sent me over to see Gary himself and he liked it and he put me right on his show. … It was a hit. The audience liked it.”

So, what was next for Knotts and the “Nervous Man”? The Steve Allen Show, of course.

“Steve was the Johnny Carson at that time. So, I did it there and it was a hit there,” Knotts said.

In fact, the character was such a hit that the powers that be behind Steve Allen’s show asked him to come back in the future.

“So, Bill Dana was the one who auditioned me and put me on. And, they said well you know if you write another one bring it around put you on again,” Knotts recalled. “So, I did. I wrote another one, came back and eventually they put me on. Steve said, okay and they put me on Steve’s big Sunday night show. He had a big variety show once a week.”

Interestingly, some of the details for the “Nervous Man” character came to Don Knotts while he was asleep.

“It came partly out of a dream. Although I had seen a guy to make a speech and he was doing all this – real nervous. It struck me funny,” Knotts also said during the interview. “And, then I dreamed a part of a monologue, actually. I woke up and sat down and wrote the rest of it. That’s how I came by it.”

You can watch Don Knotts play the “Nervous Man” below. Enjoy watching this true comedic talent do what he does best – make people laugh.