“The Andy Griffith Show” star Don Knotts may have starred as the easily excitable Deputy Barney Fife, but in real life, he was a bit of a prankster. Especially during high school. Back in high school, Knotts practiced his comedy skills on other students by causing a bit of chaos.
In a 2020 interview with Closer Weekly, Knott’s daughter Karen reflected on her father’s early life. She remembered Knotts high school days in Morgantown. She said Knotts used to play pranks at a small walkway where all the Seniors congregated called Senior Alley.
“It was where all the older teens used to stand and check each other out,” she says. “He used to stand there next to another boy and throw his voice to a girl, and when she turned around to look, she would see that other boy. He was causing all kinds of havoc and having a good time.”
Knotts wanted to be a ventriloquist early in life. He even had his own stage dummy. But after school, Knotts moved to New York and failed to land. He returned home bitterly disappointed and went to college instead. The actor ended up performing broader comedy when he was drafted for World War II. He performed in the military-sponsored comedy show.
Don Knotts on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’
But Don Knotts didn’t abandon his prankster ways entirely. Knotts and co-star Andy Griffith often pulled practical jokes on each other during “The Andy Griffith Show.” They were constantly pulling antics off-camera that sometimes annoyed their co-stars like Frances Bavier.
Knotts and Griffith shared a bond like brothers and worked together as comedic partners. Griffith’s character often grounded Knotts’ character’s flight of fancy. Together, they made “The Andy Griffith Show” into one of the most popular shows on the air at the time. Knotts’ jokes often brought his co-star to tears with laughter.
“Andy was the world’s greatest audience for Don,” Ron Howard remembered. “Don had Andy literally in tears once a week. [I learned] about the spirit of collaboration, which I’ve carried with me forever.”
It’s even more surprising that Knotts originally wasn’t a star on the show. During the first episode, Knotts didn’t even have a contract. He could have easily disappeared without ever being seen again on the show. But producers quickly realized the success they had in the on-screen chemistry between Knotts and Griffith. They signed Knotts to a five-year deal. And the show took off as a result.