Don Knotts would write poetry in his time away from The Andy Griffith Show
Knotts was a silly comedian who wrote some serious poetry after his time in Mayberry.
Barney Fife was a central character on The Andy Griffith Show from 1960 to 1965. He brought a little unhinged energy to the usually peaceful Mayberry with his nervous ticks, his range of physical and vocal mannerisms, and his flustered fumbling.
Barney was played by Don Knotts. In real life, Knotts conducted himself much more calmly than his character in the series did.
In fact, according to a 1967 interview with The State, Knotts said he was a writer of some serious poetry during his time on and after The Andy Griffith Show. At the time, he was writing a poem called "The Man," which traced the anonymous subject's life.
"I wrote a long, serious poem," Knotts said. "I keep getting rejection slips, and boy, it really hurts! It starts, 'And then he was born,' and the last line is 'And then he died.'"
According to the interview, Knotts said The Saturday Review liked the poem but didn't print it. Knotts was trying to get his poem published somewhere and with his time on The Andy Griffith Show previously ending, he was anxious to find more opportunities.
Besides trying to become a published poet, Knotts said his goal was to "keep making pictures and try to improve each time."
The actor and poet said he was nothing like his character on The Andy Griffith Show. Besides sounding and looking the same, the two didn't share the same overzealousness or anxious behaviors. Although, he was still just as funny in real life as he was onscreen.
"Of course, I suppose there is a little of Barney in all of us," Fife said. "Certain things are inside you whether you show them or not. An actor taps those things when he portrays a character."
Knotts found a knack for playing the guy with anxiety early in his career. His problem with the typecast started early in his career while on The Steve Allen Show. He played a shaky, nervous member of the comedian's wacky Man in the Street troupe.
Although he had a little Barney Fife in him, he wanted to be taken as a serious actor. In another interview with The Sacramento Bee, Knotts said he wished people would stop thinking he was as nervous in real life as he seemed onscreen.
"A hypochondriac - yes, but nervous, no," Knotts said. "But I'm tired of it now. I don't like to do it. People think I'm really that way!"
That sounds like a pretty nervous statement for someone who claimed to be nothing like Barney Fife!