When I heard the news of Don Knotts’ passing, I thought what can be said about this man that has not been said already or will be said in the days ahead. Many people consider Barney Fife to be the greatest comedic character in the history of television. Prior to playing Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show Mr. Knotts played the nervous Mr. Morrison on The Steve Allen Show. Mr. Morrison’s initials were related to his occupation. For example K.B. Morrison’s job was to place the pins in hand grenades. When asked what the initials stood for, Mr. Morrison replied, "Kaa Boom!" Steve Allen would ask Mr. Morrison if he was nervous and always got the quick one word reply, "No!!!" In 1979, Mr. Knotts joined the cast of Three's Company as the new landlord Ralph Furley. I even remember seeing Mr. Knotts pulling pranks with Allen Funt on Candid Camera but Don Knotts will always be remembered best as Barney Fife.
Why do we love Barney? There are many great comedic characters on TV, but many of these comedic characters went to a farcical extreme. Some even dropped I.Q. points for the sake of a joke. Andy Griffith felt that the integrity of Mayberry’s citizens was more important than a punch line. I think there is a lot of Barney in all of us. We may strive to be like Andy Taylor, act like Andy Taylor and may even fool ourselves into thinking that we are Andy Taylor. But we are really are Barney Fife full of good intentions but with a bullet in our pocket. The same integrity of the Barney character allowed Don Knotts to play the serious moments as well.
I only met Don Knotts once. It was at a local art store where he was having a picture framed. This was on same day that Return to Mayberry was to air. Everyone in the store had to approach Mr. Knotts to tell him how much he or she loves his work and that they would be watching the Mayberry Reunion that night. I’m sure he was in a hurry but he took the time to thank everyone for his or her kind words.
Good Night Mr. Knotts, see you at the fishing hole.
To quote Barney Fife & Andy Taylor
Barney Fife: The last big buy was my mom's and dad's anniversary present.
Andy Taylor: What'd ya get 'em?
Barney Fife: A septic tank.
Andy Taylor: For their anniversary?
Barney Fife: They're awful hard to buy for. Besides, it was something they could use. They were really thrilled. It had two tons of concrete in it. All steel reinforced.
Andy Taylor: You're a fine son, Barn.
Barney Fife: I try.