‘The Andy Griffith Show’: Griffith Explained Why He Never Wanted Audience to Laugh ‘at’ Characters

by Joe Rutland

Andy Griffith took care of each script for “The Andy Griffith Show” to make them solid. He also didn’t want viewers laughing at the cast.

Griffith, who played Sheriff Andy Taylor on the long-running CBS sitcom, talked about his mindset when it came to jokes in the show during “The Andy Griffith Show Reunion: Back to Mayberry.”

Ron Howard, who played Andy’s son Opie on the show, initially asks about making sure the laughs weren’t against the show characters.

‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Star Threw Out Jokes That Didn’t Fit Character

“I never wanted anybody to laugh at us,” Griffth said. “And if there was ever a joke that didn’t fit the character, we lost the joke.”

That’s a pretty solid attitude to have not only about one’s show in general. Griffith also is thinking about the other cast members, too. Jokes people can laugh with the characters? They were safe. There’s hardly an episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” where viewers aren’t finding themselves laughing along with either Andy, Barney (played by Don Knotts), or other characters.

One of the things Griffith, who had a career in standup comedy and films before his show, loved was having creative freedom. Executive producer Sheldon Leonard, who created “The Andy Griffith Show,” did review scripts and offer his suggestions. But he never forced Griffith or others to stick with his ideas.

TV Show Actually Received Boost From ‘The Danny Thomas Show’

Griffith almost didn’t work with Leonard. The first episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” was a backdoor pilot. That means they included it as an episode of an established show. That show was “The Danny Thomas Show” starring singer-comedian Danny Thomas. Sheriff Andy Taylor ends up throwing Thomas in jail for a traffic violation.

Now Griffith recalled that Leonard and Thomas screamed at one another while he was on the set. It bothered Griffith a lot and he was ready to quit after Day One. Griffith pulled Leonard aside and said, “If this is TV, I don’t think I can handle it.” Leonard, though, took him out of the stage and offered some advice.

“The star dictates what the attitude will be on set,” Griffith recalled from his conversation with Leonard. “He said Danny likes to yell, so we all yell. If you don’t want to yell, nobody yells. That’s the way it was.”

Andy Griffith died on July 3, 2012, at 86 years old.

“The Andy Griffith Show” ran for eight seasons on CBS. It remains alive and well in syndication all over the world. Mayberry is not just a small town. It’s also a state of mind to many…a good one to have.