Don Knotts laughed so hard in this Andy Griffith Show scene, it had to be reshot 20 times
Even a comedy pro couldn't help but to crack up and ruin the scene over and over again.
What is the funniest scene from The Andy Griffith Show? Ask 10 fans and you might get 10 different answers. Odds are, though, they all involve Barney Fife. But what if there was a quantitative way to actually measure a subjective thing like "funniest Mayberry moment"? A good metric would be to look at how many times it took Don Knotts himself to get through a scene without laughing.
In 1985, when he hosted The Andy Griffith Show Silver Anniversary Special, Knotts not only revealed his favorite episode of the series ("The Pickle Story"), he shared an anecdote that arguably made the case for the funniest scene from the sitcom. Well, at least it was the one that cracked him up the most in his memory.
The scene can be found in "Guest of Honor" in season two. Barney delivers a rousing speech to three newly deputized Mayberry residents — Sam (Sherwood Keith), Art the Grocer (Frank Warren) and the beloved Floyd the Barber (Howard McNear). Barney marches back and forth before his three fresh recruits, barking like a drill sergeant. Naturally, he delivers his iconic catchphrase: "We've got to nip it! Nip it in the bud! You got that?! Let's hear it!"
And this is when the mild-mannered Floyd Lawson shouts with shivering ferocity, "NIP IT!!"
And that is when Don Knotts lost it. Having McNear holler "Nip it!" in his face broke him. He couldn't help but burst into laughter. Twenty times.
That's right, in that 25th Anniversary special, Knotts admitted, "[I] laughed so hard at Howard McNear's screaming, the entire scene had to be reshot 20 times."
Even a comedy veteran couldn't help but break. What chance would a TV audience have at keeping a straight face?
There is one more interesting note to this episode, which centers around a grifter who drifts into town. A conman named Sheldon Davis attempts to fleece Mayberry on its Founders Day. Jay Novello portrays the character. The Italian-American Chicago native was a particular favorite of Lucille Ball.
Ball cast Novello in three memorable episodes of I Love Lucy — you might remember him Mr. Merriweather in "The Seance" or Mario in "Visitor from Italy." Later, he turned up in a couple of episodes of The Lucy Show, as well. But he is perhaps best known for his recurring role as Mayor Mario Lugatto in the later season of McHale's Navy set in Italy.
But what we wanted to point out is that he turned up in Mayberry again, too. Novello returns in "Otis Sues the County" as a sleazy lawyer who convinces the town drunk to take legal action against the local government. Did you ever catch that they were the same actor?
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Twenty takes? Really, Don? Back in those days, film was a precious and expensive commodity that was not to be wasted. It's quite doubtful that a notoriously grouchy and penny-pinching executive producer like Sheldon Leonard would be happy about 2 or 3 takes, let alone 20.
I dunno. I guess "The Andy Griffith Show" is too esoteric and highbrow for me. I watched the clip 5 times and found there to be nothing particularly side-splittingly hilarious about it.
It's kinda like the French and their adulation of Jerry Lewis. Only the truly enlightened can bear witness to the comedy genius of Don Knotts. And to think my college buddies and I have wasted the last 45 years memorizing the entire script of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail."
- The show was a big success, so the dollars spent on film were meaningless to the producers.
- Don Knotts was not the mindless pie-in-the-face comic like Lewis. It took adult awareness to "get" Knotts. Maybe you should stick with simple things, like Lewis and the Three Stooges.