Barney Fife elevated The Andy Griffith Show. There’s no doubt about that. When Don Knotts joined the cast early in the first season, the quality of the show went up. After his departure at the end of the fifth season, the series suffered. The loss was tangible in each of the later episodes. If Andy Taylor was the show’s soft-spoken heart, Barney was its rowdy but good-natured funny bone. Without that bone, the whole skeleton was weakened.
Fans of The Andy Griffith Show of all ages from all around the world would most likely agree. On the other hand, actors watching the show were more than entertained. They were inspired. Knotts didn’t just show up, say some funny lines, and call it a day. He truly breathed life into his character. When the cameras were rolling, he ceased to be Don. He was Deputy Fife. In fact, Andy Griffith once said that he could watch Knotts transform into his character while they rehearsed scenes together.
So, it’s no surprise that countless people, actors included practiced their Barney Fife impressions.
Don Knotts Inspired One Future Co-Star with His Andy Griffith Show Character
The late John Ritter was a celebrated comedic actor. Ritter starred alongside Don Knotts in the later seasons of Three’s Company. He once told Weekly World News that Barney Fife was an inspiration for him at a young age. He said that he would regularly imitate the Andy Griffith Show character. At the same time, Don Knotts was one of his heroes.
Tim Conway released his memoir What’s So Funny? in 2013, six years before his passing. In that book, he praised Don Knotts and his Andy Griffith Show character. Conway, who was an accomplished comedic actor in his own right, said that he learned a lot from just watching Knotts work on The Andy Griffith Show. “There wasn’t a phony motion in him,” Conway said of Knotts, “everything was character-driven, and, oh, what characters he created! I think Barney Fife… is one of the greatest, funniest, and truest personalities ever seen on the screen.”
So, Don Knotts didn’t just elevate The Andy Griffith Show. He also inspired countless other actors. One of the reasons that Knotts was so great on-screen is that he never saw himself as a comedian. He was an actor first. He just happened to play comedic roles most of the time. This focus on acting allowed him to create characters that were both endearing and enduring.