Andy Griffith got his start in stand-up comedy. Long before he was a household name for The Andy Griffith Show, he was touring clubs in the South.
When he went on The Tonight Show in 1991, he proved he could still control a room. After they discussed how TV Guide named Matlock one of the worst dressed characters on television, Leno brought the conversation back to stand-up comedy.
Andy Griffith Talks About Playing ‘Tattoo Rooms’
Andy Griffith toured civics clubs in North and South Carolina before he moved up to nightclubs in the mid-1950s. These clubs were notoriously tough rooms for comics because if you weren’t very funny, very fast, your set would be over very quickly.
“I called them tattoo rooms,” Griffith joked to Leno. He doesn’t explain the joke, but I’m sure it’s because they’re quite painful and leave a mark.
But making matters worse for Griffith was his style of comedy. He was famous for a storytelling style, where the set-ups could take minutes. His most famous was his football story. We won’t ruin the jokes here, but the premise is a hillbilly attends his first football game and has to try to explain what happened not understanding any of the rules, facilities, or terminology.
Griffith showed off that he could still control a room when he polished off one of his old jokes for Leno.
“This fellow goes into a lumber mill, you know where they sell lumber,” Griffith laughs, “and he says to the guy give me 4x2s. The guy looks at him and says there’s no such thing. There’s 2×4 or 4×6. Who told you that there were 4x2s?”
The customer replies “That man out there in that truck.” The employee tells him to ask again. So, the customer goes and comes back and says “we want some 2x4s.” OK, the employee says. How many you want? The customer says I don’t know. Well go out there and find out.
He went out that came back and said, “we won’t a hundred and twenty four up we won’t a 124.”
So the employee asks “How long do you want?” The customer replies “I don’t know.”
Well, go out there and find out. So the customer leaves and comes back and says “We want them a long time. We’re going to build a house.
Andy Griffith still had it more than 40 years later.