Don Knotts met a real Barney Fife once directing a parade in his hometown
The Andy Griffith Show star even shared a funny exchange with the local sheriff who had to deal with the deputy.
For The Andy Griffith Show episode "Barney's Bloodhound," deputy Barney Fife takes the lead despite Sheriff Andy's protests, by “training” a dog to track down an escaped convict.
It's one of those perfect episodes that exemplify the extremes of Barney Fife's eagerness as a deputy. Actor Don Knotts said the key to Barney Fife's hilarity was that he represented real people who do the kinds of things that make others shake their heads and smile.
Knotts once explained to The Daily Item in 1964 that he and Andy Griffith had a "pet hate" for situational comedy that relied on hokey depictions of real people to deliver plot points.
He and Andy wanted to forget the plot as much as possible and instead just draw laughs from highly accurate imitations of real people. Knotts gave a really good example that will make any Mayberry fan chuckle.
"What we try to do is make use of those conversational habits people have," Knotts said. "Like Barney telling a joke, hearing laughter, and then telling the joke over again. You've seen people do that. It's terrible, but some can't help it after hearing the laughter — it's a compulsion, and it's funny."
In this interview, the reporter asked Knotts if he'd ever encountered any real Barney Fifes walking around the real world.
Knotts said he absolutely had. Right in his own hometown.
"I ran into one in my hometown, a perfect deputy Barney — ordering people around, acting efficient, loving his job," Knotts said.
Just as in "Barney’s Bloodhound," this deputy was given an inch of authority… and he took it an extra mile.
"They had a parade for me, and the deputy helped put everything together," Knotts said. "After the parade dispersed, the deputy drove the sheriff and myself back, and along the way the deputy hits the siren."
Knotts then related an exchange he had with the sheriff that easily could've taken place in a Mayberry squad car.
"In the back seat the sheriff looks at me and says plaintively, 'I wish he wouldn't do that,'" Knotts recalled.
Knotts said in addition to being a little bossy and way too into his job, Barney's charm relied on his reactionary rawness.
"Barney is a child in a man's body," Knotts said. "If you watch kids, you'll see them react immediately. They don't hide anything. The same thing happens with Barney. He expresses himself right there. If anything, he overdoes it. I think everyone wants to do that, but as grownups, we can’t. That's why it's fun to play the part. Then I'm free to let go."
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I'm convinced that every southern town From Virginia to Louisiana has its own real-life Barney Fife.