Don Knotts understood what made The Andy Griffith Show special
Mayberry just wasn't like other TV towns.
Sometimes it feels like there are more approaches to comedy than there are stars in the sky. Everyone has their own unique sense of humor, and there are a ton of tools to make people laugh. Comedy is such a wide-ranging umbrella term. From the subtlest to the broadest, comedy can encompass many different things.
Even TV comedy can seem infinitely varied. How can one medium contain Mama's Family and M*A*S*H? From All in The Family to Green Acres, comedy on television encompasses a lot of different styles. None are more valid than others, but the shows that know their lane and confidently hit their target are the most successful.
A show that absolutely knew itself was The Andy Griffith Show. There was nothing desperate or needy in its approach to laughs. The Andy Griffith Show presented what felt like a lived-in small town filled with believable characters.
The show was successful because it understood why it was special. Don Knotts put it best in a 1988 quote in The Akron Beacon Journal.
While speaking of the show's success, Knotts said The Andy Griffith Show was "character comedy, not joke comedy." To him, that was what made Barney and Andy so much fun to watch.
Whereas other shows might center scripts around joke delivery, The Andy Griffith Show instead prioritized truth through circumstance. There were no clever one-liners. While there were definitely catchphrases, the show didn't rely on them. "Shazam," and "Nip it in the bud," were punctuation more often than they were punchlines.
Mayberry's gift was its clearly written characters. Viewers could predict hilarity by certain characters being placed in certain situations. Instead of well-worn set-ups and cliched gags, The Andy Griffith Show's "character comedy" is why it continues to resonate with viewers today.