There is a reason that Andy Griffith and Don Knotts worked so well together. They were more than “The Andy Griffith Show” comedy duo. In fact, they were close friends behind the scenes. It was this friendship that led to Knotts being on the show. It could be said that they only got closer over time.
Don Knotts passed away in 2006. Shortly after his death, Andy Griffith appeared on “The Today Show,” to talk about his late friend and co-star. During the interview, Andy talks about the last time he saw Don, how they met, and how Knotts would want to be remembered.
Andy Griffith Met Don Knotts on a Broadway Show
Andy Griffith and Don Knotts met while they were working together in the Broadway show, “No Time for Sergeants” in 1955. Before they were on that show, Knotts was on a radio show called “Bobby Benson and the B-Bar-B Riders.” He played a character called Windy Wales. Andy recognized his voice from the radio and approached Knotts asking if he was Windy Wales. That interaction started a decades-long friendship.
Barney Fife Comes to Mayberry
Andy also discusses how Don Knotts came to play his deputy on “The Andy Griffith Show,” during the interview. According to Griffith, the pair hadn’t seen one another in a few years. When the pilot of the show aired, Don Knotts saw it. He then called Andy and asked if he needed a deputy. Andy Griffith loved the idea of working with Knotts again. So, he told his friend to call showrunner Sheldon Leonard. The rest is history.
He went on to say that while he and Knotts didn’t have Writers Guild cards, they both wrote for the show. They would work on scripts for “The Andy Griffith Show,” every Thursday. Griffith said they worked on the scripts because they wanted to make sure they knew they were putting out good material. Furthermore, they did it out of love for the series.
They went on to discuss Knotts’ character on the show as well as the other roles he played. Part of what made Barney Fife and his other roles so funny was that they were always high-strung nervous characters.
The interviewer asked Andy if his friend and “Andy Griffith Show” co-star was like that in real life.
“No,” Andy said with a smile, “He was very much in control of himself. Barney… Don. Don was an extraordinarily bright man. He knew life, he knew how to get around. He had a great admiration of women and he wound up with a good one.”
Andy Griffith on the Last Time He Saw Don Knotts
At the beginning of the interview, Andy Griffith tells the “Today Show” anchor that he lost his best friend. He then goes on to say that he was with Don Knotts just before he passed away. He told the interviewer about their last interaction, at Knott’s death bed.
“I told him, I said,” Then Andy pauses, and a smile comes across his face, remembering his friend, “His first name was Jess. He hated that name but he told me it once so I couldn’t help but call him Jesse. I said, ‘Jess, breathe. You got to make this, you got to pull through. Breathe.’ And, ya know, I saw his chest heave. And I said, ‘That’s a boy, just keep breathing,’ and his shoulder moved.”
Before the interviewer changed the subject, Andy said that he believed Don Knotts heard his voice.
Their partnership on “The Andy Griffith Show,” and beyond can all be summed up with a single sentence from the interview. Griffith said, “Everything we did came out of our friendship.”
How the “Andy Griffith Show” Star Would Want to Be Remembered
To close the segment, the interviewer asks Andy how he thinks Don would want to be remembered. Andy gets a faraway look on his face as he contemplates his answer. He then said Don Knotts would want to be remembered as, “A lovely, funny man who wanted people to laugh and wanted people to enjoy life.”
Here’s hoping Andy and Don are in the next life, making folks laugh and enjoying one another’s company like they did here on Earth.