Hal Smith faced a little backlash for playing Otis Campbell

"I enjoy making people happy as Otis."

One of the last things a fan of The Andy Griffith Show might expect to see happen on the show is a champagne toast for the town drunk Otis Campbell. Usually, folks prefer to keep Otis away from the bubbly.

But in the first season episode "A Plaque for Mayberry," they pop the cork for Otis to celebrate Otis, as the town has just learned he is a descendant of a Revolutionary War hero. For fans of Hal Smith, the funny scenes that follow form an indulgent tribute to the veteran character actor, featuring some of his funniest exchanges with Don Knotts.

For Smith, however, not everybody got the joke. He said playing Otis toyed with the public's perception of him as a person. In an interview heard on the TAGS podcast Two Chairs No Waiting, Smith even once said his young son got picked on during elementary school because other kids didn't know what to think of his dad, who as far as they could tell was always locking himself up in the Mayberry jail.

"They used to call him Little Otis," Smith said. "He didn’t really like that."

"When I took him to school, the other kids gave me funny looks," Smith added, explaining that he felt bad that his curious public image had blurred the lines between TV sitcom fantasy and actual reality for some folks in their own hometown. He said the confusion even introduced real tension at times.

"I was in a hardware store one time," Smith said. "My son Terry was with me. There was a guy looking through some nuts and bolts and stuff, and he looked up at me and said, 'Oh, you're the guy from The Andy Griffith Show. I hate you.'"

As in Mayberry, Smith said he rolled with the punches, and that the majority of his encounters were with fans who clearly understood the comedy of the classic TV character that made him famous.

"People today love the show and the character," Smith said. "It's unbelievable. They come up to you and want to hug you."

For his part, in the real world Smith had a reputation for going out of his way to be warm to the people around him, known behind the scenes for cracking up the cast of The Andy Griffith Show. Apart from playing Otis Campbell, Smith also became well-known as a voice actor. His reputation as Otis Campbell followed him there, too. "Hal Smith was Otis the town drunk on The Andy Griffith Show," said Barbara Donatelli in an interview for the book Think Pink! The Story of DePatie Freleng.

Donatelli said that’s how she knew him in her early days working in the animation department for the 1970s cartoon Doctor Dolittle. For that show, Smith voiced Tommy Stubbins, the boy who becomes Doctor Dolittle's assistant. But behind the scenes, Donatelli said Smith made time to make her laugh, too, even though she played such a minor part in the production.

"My function was to gather the scenes and all the backgrounds and transport them over to the camera service," Donatelli said. "That was at night. I had a little room outside the camera department and across from Ink and Paint. Hal Smith would come in and stick his head in and he would always tell me that I looked like Cher. At that time, my dark brown hair was long and I did resemble Cher — a shorter version of Cher. He would always come in and tease me about it. He was the sweetest man. It was really nice of him to come in and tease me like that."

So the lovable part of Otis Campbell's character absolutely checks out, if the kids who picked on Terry Smith in elementary school happen to be reading this post and still wonder if his dad Hal Smith was anything like his Mayberry character.

The important thing to Smith remained how connected he continued to feel with The Andy Griffith Show fans through time. "I enjoy making people happy as Otis," Smith said.

We enjoy it, too, and it’s our favorite reason to toast to Otis when you re-watch "A Plaque for Mayberry."

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PhDWIllie 19 months ago
I always appreciated the fact that when the cast rejoined for their “Return to Mayberry” reunion they had dried out old Otis, and he was a responsible member of the Mayberry society. Quite a wonderful thing to do for a treasured - if not completely pickled - cast professional!
RandySkretvedt 19 months ago
I saw him at that collectors' show on January 15, 1994, and he passed away on the 28th. Here's an article about that show.
RandySkretvedt 19 months ago
For me, Hal Smith was always "The Pancake Man," the character he played as the host of a weekday morning kids' show on KHJ-9 in the Los Angeles area. I met him at a collectors' show and thanked him for my many happy memories of watching him as a child. He said, "Thank you -- I would give you one of the finger puppets, but I just recently ran out of them." (These were a premium on the show.) Only a few days later, I was listening to the news on radio and heard that Hal Smith had died. I wish he had lived longer, but I'm glad that I got to meet him and thank him.
MadMadMadWorld 19 months ago
I've always thought the Otis-Barney verbal fights were some of the funniest and highlights of the entire series. Comedy gold, and so many of them to laugh at on how strong the arguments were!
Rearea870 MadMadMadWorld 19 months ago
Absolutely! I love the interaction between those two!! Golden TV.
leannie429 19 months ago
It must have been quite a shock for people to know that Hal Smith also did several voices on “Davey and Goliath”back in the day when I was a kid.
jholton30062 20 months ago
He was in a few episodes of "Hogan's Heroes" as well. He was a busy man, a testament to his ability as an actor.
Kittywhisperer 20 months ago
Hal Smith was also on Green Acres. He played different characters but never a town drunk.
jorel 20 months ago
I love Otis Campbell. I wish he was in more episodes but every one he was in was wonderful. Thank you Hal Smith for that role and your incredible voice acting too.
madmark1 20 months ago
Hal Smith reminded me a lot of Norm Peterson on cheers.By the time Cheers came around as a sitcom Hal Smith was a very old man but he would’ve made a good Norm but George Wendt did an excellent job at playing Norm Peterson.They could’ve just about have been interchangeable George Wendt would’ve made a good Otis.
daDoctah 20 months ago
There was another famous actor named Harold Smith whose career overlapped with the one whose stage name was the shortened version "Hal". That other Smith came from Canada, where he had been a lacrosse player before going into show business, and in that sport acquired a nickname referencing his speed, a nickname that he used when he became an actor: Jay Silverheels.
HectorV 20 months ago
As far as I am concerned, Hal Smith and Foster Brooks played their “being drunk” roles beautifully! They were both amazingly funny! They were so convincing that one couldn’t help but to think they were actually drunk. When a comedian actor and a stand up comedian “ fool” you ( so to speak) in to believe their acting, that is just genius! Always love them both, for who they were and for giving us many many moments of pure happiness and laughter. PS: just loved when Otis would anger Barney.
MichaelSkaggs 20 months ago
He did an anti-drunk driving commercial years ago. It had him walking down a road, then he turned to the camera and said, "I'll walk home before I get behind the wheel of a car!!" You're a good man, Hal.
GaryWalden 20 months ago
Hal Smith was a regular gas customer of mine at a convenience store in prescott, Arizona in the late 1970's...he was one of the nicest friendliness people I ever met. I still have his autograph.
rockyd57 20 months ago
Let's have another one,Otis...
rockyd57 20 months ago
Let's have another one Otis...
BrianThetubewatcher 20 months ago
You could win a trivia contest on this question: What TV sitcom showed the most illegal drug use in the 60s? Yep, it’s Andy Griffith!
I've been watching TAGS on Amazon Prime. I've noticed that a lot of the episodes have a warning that the episode contains drug use. I'd thought that this was a mistake until I realized that they were probably considering Otis. "Slow it down and let me in or I'll run out and get some gin!"
Alcohol hasn't been illegal since prohibition.
daDoctah Wiseguy 19 months ago
No, but Otis was getting his stuff from an illegal moonshiner.
Hogansucks1 20 months ago
Hal Smith had to have been a Strong person mentally, especially off of the set. So many other actors played parts that came with a Lifelong stigma, and it ruined their careers and real life’s! HATS OFF to Hal !! 🎩. And here’s one for him- CHEERS! 🍺. 🙂
Silverbelle52 20 months ago
I didn't realize Hal Smith voice Mr Whittaker on AIO! One of my very favorite shows on radio, very well crafted.
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