Andy Griffith once teased Don Knotts for not being a ''tough dad''
Don's daughter Karen tells a hilarious story about Andy's parenting advice behind the scenes of The Andy Griffith Show.
On The Andy Griffith Show, Sheriff Andy is ever the devoted father, and his deputy Barney Fife is an unmarried bachelor who proves to be an invested sidekick in all matters of Andy's life.
However in the real world, both Andy Griffith and Don Knotts had kids and families of their own when the show was on the air, and of the two, it was Knotts who brought his kids along to visit the set most.
Ron Howard's dad, Rance, said he can't recall ever seeing Andy's kids running around behind the scenes, but Knotts' son and daughter, Tom and Karen, would occasionally hang around the Mayberry set, likely getting to know little Ronny Howard and his brother Clint.
While few fans would characterize Andy Taylor on the show as a "tough dad," he was certainly an attentive one, willing to be strict and set his boy straight when the situation required it, and often Barney was right there supporting Andy through Opie's many growing pains.
That's why we think this is a particularly funny story that Knotts' daughter Karen shared, because it shows Andy Griffith for once meddling in someone else's parenting, and frankly not being very supportive!
"I was visiting my dad’s set once," Karen Knotts said in an interview for the book Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show. "And I was extremely slow, everything I did, because I was always daydreaming. And I was in the lavatory, just daydreaming, and my dad and Andy were outside the door talking. And all of a sudden, Andy said, 'Don, I love Karen, but she is so… darn…. slow!'"
She said her dad then called into the restroom to gently nudge her, "Are you done?"
(Parents of daydreamers everywhere likely recognize this scenario.)
Next, Karen said she heard Andy poke fun at his deputy by doing what he does best: speaking in deadpan. She remembers Griffith teasing Knotts for not putting his foot down about his daughter's lollygagging, saying sarcastically to Don on the other side of the door, "You're one tough dad."
However, Karen did think she had a tough dad, just not in the sense Andy meant of being a dad who's stern with his kids. Knotts was the opposite, attentive to Tom and Karen's needs, like buying Karen a little radio to keep by her bed to help her sleep through the night. The impression this made on her daughter was that her dad had the stamina to carry on a grueling work schedule and keep his family close-knit.
Don was very loving and doting when he got the time to be with his kids. Karen said, "He worked very long hours. Sometimes twelve hours. If he missed dinner, he'd always come up to our room and say good-night to us."
Although Karen only visited The Andy Griffith Show a handful of times, she arguably had the best seat in her house when her dad was rehearsing his lines at home. She said she used to sit outside his door while he was practicing new scripts. "He would take each line and break it down maybe thirty ways," Karen said. "It was like a concert pianist learning a new piece."
So next time you're watching The Andy Griffith Show and hear Don Knotts deliver a funny line just perfectly, consider before he nailed it, he sat at home, trying it as many ways as it took to get it right. And giggling on the other side of the door, the little girl who inherited his imagination tried to hide how very proud she was of her hard-working dad, better known to us as the bachelor deputy Barney Fife.