Andy Griffith bombed on The Ed Sullivan Show

Even the famous Andy Griffith had a few stumbles along the way.

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Every loyal Andy Griffith fan knows about his breakout standup routine, "What It Was, Was Football". The recording of his act as a bumbling southern preacher discovering this fancy newfangled game hit No. 9 on the Billboard pop charts in 1954. Heck, he was discovered when his agent heard the routine on the radio.

But did you know that the routine was not a hit everywhere? 

In 1954, Andy Griffith appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. This was the same year that "What It Was, Was Football" topped the charts. It should have been a hit, right? Well, it didn't quite work out like that.

"I don’t really remember the appearance," Griffith later said about his time on Sullivan. "All I remember is I walked out and I never got a laugh, not one.”

The lackluster response led to his three further scheduled appearances on the show to be cancelled. "[Sullivan] asked out of the other three [performances] and I was only too glad to let him out," Griffith said.

If you watch the clip, you can see that maybe Andy was his own harshest critic. It might not have been the laugh riot Andy expected, but there weren't zero laughs. In fact, you can hear quite a few.

Nevertheless, you can't keep a good Griffith down. Six years later, The Andy Griffith Show hit TV screens, and the rest is history.

Watch The Andy Griffith Show on MeTV!

Weeknights at 8 & 8:30, Sundays at 6 & 6:30 PM

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AengusDad 35 months ago
While I don't think Andy necessarily "bombed" with his performance on Ed Sullivan, I do recall one individual who bombed in an embarrassingly epic fashion performing the same routine.... ME, in a high-school speech contest in high school in the mid-'70's....

I switched to debate the next year

Debate was much more suited for my comic chops....
FLETCH 35 months ago
Love the Andy Griffith show and I enjoy Matlock also just not as much as TAGS. Having said that, I don't find this bit funny at all.
DoubleNaughtSpy 35 months ago
Oh, stop it. That routine was about as funny as a migraine. No doubt that Capitol Records enclosed a $50 or $100 bill with each promotional copy of the record sent to radio stations -- payola is the only logical explanation for its unexpected ascension on the charts. Even the least successful chart single issued by the late, great Allan Sherman could run laps around "Football."
LoveMETV22 35 months ago
I don't think Andy Griffith bombed. Ed Sullivan was a "showman" and their were many other performers that appeared or had their appearances reduced at Sullivan's decision. And a lot of performers went on to be great performers. Their appearance on his show was only part of their success.
dangler1907 LoveMETV22 35 months ago
Andy Griffith thought he had bombed. He did get plenty of laughs, but comedians craft their act to get the biggest laughs in certain places, and maybe that didn't happen. That would cause him to question his own performance.
dangler1907 LoveMETV22 35 months ago
It's very likely that a northern audience didn't fully appreciate the southern style at that time. And it's common knowledge that Americans don't appreciate subtle satire as much as others do elsewhere ... and that's what this was. Subtle satire.
LoveMETV22 dangler1907 35 months ago
Perhaps and thank you. I enjoy reading others viewpoint and opinions. IMO- Sullivan had the do it my way or.... you know the saying. He did have a way of attracting talent on his terms and maybe attributed for some added visibility- but there were others that disagreed with "his way" and went on to great success.
LisaMiller 35 months ago
Man, I'm way too insecure to even try to attempt show biz. If I thought I had "bombed" I would never be able to show my face in public again. But Andy didn't "bomb." at all. This was his "bit" and he was very successful with it.
WGH 35 months ago
As people in the South know that Andy was "testifying" like he was at church. I doubt that anyone in the audience understood that.

Us Southerners found this routine to be absolutely hilarious. He recorded this routine for an album and it's much funnier on the album. I think he rushed his routine on this show to fit the time allotted... And it wasn't as good.
Tlor 35 months ago
Sounds like the audience was giggling, not huge laughter, but I think they are used to jewish comediences.
HeleneNeiman 35 months ago
They never showed the audience...perhaps it was canned laughter that was added later ?
dangler1907 HeleneNeiman 35 months ago
In 1954 it would have been a 1-camera production.
Moody 35 months ago
Sometimes the most talented performers are their own harshest critics. They are constantly striving for perfection.
mydogmolly 35 months ago
I don’t remember it. But I love the Andy
Griffin show
Michael 35 months ago
Maybe he was gesturing with his hands, and Ed misinterpreted it. I recall a recent story like that.
CaptainDunsel 35 months ago
Something occurred to me while watching this. I wonder, was it possible that the laughter picked up by the recording equipment wasn't nearly as audible to Andy as it was to viewers? Because one of the difficulties in his routine is that he didn't pause much for laughter when it came. If you talk over the laughs, the audience eventually laughs less because they are missing what you are saying. But if you can't hear them laughing, you don't know when to pause.
ncadams27 CaptainDunsel 35 months ago
I agree. I think Andy is better at being a comic actor than doing stand-up comedy. They skills needed to succeed at each are different and few comedians can do both equally well.
HeleneNeiman CaptainDunsel 35 months ago
You are right, Dunsel...I am a singer, and many times my friends in the audience would say, " didn't you hear me cheering and yelling bravo ? " and I didn't !
MikeyMello 35 months ago
I had heard this skit before and thought it was awesome. I was hesitant to watch the Ed Sullivan clip but I didn’t think he bombed either. I heard plenty of people laughing.
Andybandit 35 months ago
How sad that Andy bombed on the Ed Sullivan show. Well he went on to do shows that he was in like TAGS and Matlock.
birddog 35 months ago
Nothing to write home about!! I've seen or heard plenty worse!! Beginning with that Stephen guy! Oh the good old days JOHNNIE...
WordsmithWorks 35 months ago
I though it was a good routine. Seemed like there was plenty of laughs. Of course, Andy Griffith was just starting out at this point and looking back, maybe he expected a "Sheriff Taylor" reaction.
justjeff 35 months ago
I've just watched the video clip. If that was a "bomb", then I don't know what litmus test Griffith, Sullivan or MeTV used for a "hit" performance. There were *many* laughs during the routine, and it seemed it went over well. I think time clouded Andy's memory of his appearance. It was fine - and enjoyable...
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