It’s almost impossible to picture Andy Griffith and not see the friendly sheriff’s uniform. It’s even harder to imagine him without Barney Fife by his side. But the men responsible for the beloved characters on “The Andy Griffith Show” played different roles together before they ended up in Mayberry.
The pair weren’t even on television when they first started working together. In 1955, the two acted in a Broadway play called “No Time For Sergeants.” It was an extremely popular title that started out as a 1954 novel by Mac Hyman.
According to IMDb, the play ran for nearly 800 performances. In 1958, Andy and Don acted together in the movie adaptation of the play. Knotts had a much smaller role than Andy, but it set the stage for their future careers.
A few years later, Andy Griffith remembered Don Knotts from the time they spent working together. He thought Knotts would be a good fit for “The Andy Griffith Show,” and he got him onto the first episode. Their characters worked so well together that Knotts was offered a contract after the first day of shooting.
‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Stars Were Both Comedians
The original plan for “The Andy Griffith Show” was to have Andy play the funny character. He was a comedian, after all. And an accomplished one at that. In the early 1950s, Andy recorded and released his famous comedic monologue “What It Was, Was Football.” It sold nearly a million copies and even made it onto the pop charts.
But according to IMDb, Don Knotts was so good as the bumbling deputy Barney Fife that Griffith was happy to play the straight man.
Knotts himself was no comedic slouch, starting out as an entertainer for the Special Services Branch of the United States Army during World War II. He eventually found success playing funny characters on radio shows in the early 1950s.
You can see the comedic handoff take place on the show. In the first few episodes, there is a focus on Andy delivering his own funny material. Gradually, however, the comedy moves away from Sheriff Andy Taylor and finds a home in the relationship between him and Barney Fife.