Andy Griffith and Don Knotts praised these Mayberry characters for creating the town's ''border of insanity''
Don Knotts: "I ruined a lot of takes laughing at Howard.”
Andy Griffith was famously particular about his taste in sitcoms. Perhaps it's because The Andy Griffith Show spoiled him, attracting an impressive cast of some of the finest players of the day to fill in every tiny part that Mayberry's small town required. So while Griffith later would go on to claim the only watchable sitcoms of the 1990s were Seinfeld and The Golden Girls, he always seemed very clear about what made his hit show so successful and, in his opinion, just plain funnier than any other sitcom that would come later:
"[Mayberry] looks like an ordinary town, but it has a little border of insanity around it," Griffith said this is how The Andy Griffith Show director Bob Sweeney explained it, when Griffith talked to the Archive of American Television. Griffith went on to explain further: "All those fine comedic actors like Don Knotts, Howard McNear and Jim Nabors, all of them, made it. They represented that little insane border that was Mayberry.”
In his interview with Archive of American Television, Griffith's costar Don Knotts completely agreed, at times gushing about the quality of comedic character actors like Howard McNear (Floyd the Barber) and also the straighter character actors who added a lot, like Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou). According to Knotts, the barber led the deputy to ruin takes more than once, cracking up Knotts with the natural comedic instincts of these seasoned improvisational players.
Below, we've pulled quotes from Knotts and some from Andy Griffith, so you can delight in these seasoned TV stars heaping praise on the Mayberry residents who made their own characters shine – and even stole the spotlight from time to time.
1. Howard McNear (Floyd the Barber)
Don Knotts on the hilarious Howard McNear:
“Howard McNear was one of the funniest men I’d ever want to see. He was hysterical. He played the barber, and Howard, you really and truly could not tell what he was going to do. What reading he was going to give you, what gesture he was going to give you, I mean, he didn’t know himself. And then they’d turn the camera on and he’d crack you up. I ruined a lot of takes laughing at Howard.”
Don Knotts on Floyd the barber's relationship with Barney Fife:
“He was always friendly with Floyd, but he also sort of lorded himself over him. He’d bring him in as a deputy every once in a while. He’d deputize him and become his boss. Barney loved to do that.”
2. Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou)
Don Knotts on how Betty Lynn played Barney's girlfriend to perfection:
“Well, Betty played my girlfriend Thelma Lou, and she was a fine actress. Of course, Betty Lynn had been a contract player, I think, with MGM. I know she did a lot of pictures. She got a lot of movie work before she came to our show. So she’s been around a lot, and I see her every once in a while in an old movie. Good actress.”
More Betty Lynn: 8 captivating things you never knew about Betty Lynn
3. Hal Smith (Otis Campbell)
Don Knotts on Hal Smith's storytelling continuing behind the scenes:
“Hal Smith played Otis, the town drunk who would come in and lock himself in jail. … It was a very funny character and Hal was very good at it. Hal Smith, he did a lot of voices on radio and he did a lot of voiceover work, animation and the sort. Very busy actor. A great storyteller; Hal was a wonderful storyteller. I never saw Hal when he didn’t have a new story to tell. I don’t know where he got them all, funny guy, very enjoyable.”
4. Jim Nabors (Gomer Pyle)
Don Knotts on funnyman Jim Nabors:
"He came in to play Gomer and work at the service station, a very comic character. Very, very funny."
Andy Griffith on Jim Nabors' singing:
"That boy started to sing and you could feel the hair rising on everybody in that audience.” (Read the story of the first time Griffith heard Nabors sing)
5. George Lindsey (Goober Pyle)
Don Knotts on Gomer and Goober's dynamic:
“George Lindsey played Goober, the other crazy guy.”
Andy Griffith on his lasting friendship with George Lindsey:
"George Lindsey was my friend. I had great respect for his talent and his human spirit. In recent years, we spoke often by telephone. Our last conversation was a few days ago ... I am happy to say that as we found ourselves in our eighties, we were not afraid to say, ‘I love you.’ That was the last thing George and I had to say to each other. ‘I love you.’”
6. Howard Morris (Ernest T. Bass)
Don Knotts on Howard Morris making a big impression:
“Oh, Howie. Well that was just a strong character that today people talk about it. Wherever I go now, people talk about Ernest T. Bass as if he was on every week! I mean, it really made an impression. He was very funny.”
See also: Howard Morris thanked fans of The Andy Griffith Show for helping him create Ernest T. Bass
"I’d like to thank the fans of The Andy Griffith Show. They give you courage to go ahead and they love you regardless of what, they’re there." READ MORE.