The Andy Griffith Show's Howard McNear described himself as a ''second banana''

Floyd the Barber knew how to serve his audience.

CBS Television Distribution

It's important in life to know yourself and your strengths. Too many people spend too much time being untrue to their nature. Whether it's a pursuit of someone else's goals, or trying our best to fill someone else's shoes, we can often find ourselves molded into something we were never meant to be. Not everyone is a leading man, but in Hollywood, they sure try to put everyone into the same box.

"I don't like to play straight parts anymore," Howard McNear admitted in the Journal Herald in 1960. The article was published in January, almost a full calendar year before McNear debuted on The Andy Griffith Show as Floyd Lawson, Mayberry's resident barber. Luckily for McNear, the show played to his strengths and Floyd was anything but a straight part.

But before he joined the cast of The Andy Griffth Show, McNear put in work, honing his comedic craft for decades. Floyd Lawson was the culmination of years of experience. During those years, McNear learned that he wasn't meant for parts where he'd be playing the voice of reason.

"Just last week I turned one down," he said. "My agent could have killed me, and so could my wife. But it was a serious thing; they wanted me for a judge who was committing a girl to a mental institution. I didn't think it was right for me. I prefer specialized bits."

It seems as though many of Floyd's characterizations predate The Andy Griffith Show, as McNear revealed in his conversation. The jittery, frustrated mannerisms we might associate with the barber served McNear for years before he landed in Mayberry. 

While the act would bring him fame, McNear also understood the value of undersaturation. He referred to himself as a "second banana," saying that the character was too intense to be done too often.

"He's sort of a nervous wreck and you can't be on too much with it," said McNear.

"I fitted him into the part of an absent-minded lawyer for a Jack Benny show that isn't released yet. [...] At first, he wanted me to play it straight and I tried it for a couple of rehearsals. Then they agreed it would be better for me to do it my own way. Jack said he thought I was master of this peculiar thing and he couldn't remember anyone doing a character quite like it."

For what it's worth, we have to agree with Jack Benny on this one.

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14 Comments

Mark112763 24 days ago
I always recognized Mr.McNear's voice when he played a character on the Flintstones. No one else sounded like him...
Markone23 25 days ago
Aside from the Big Two on TAGS the best of the best were Gomer, Otis and Floyd. These three always enhanced any scene they were in to new heights of hilarity.
Sooner 25 days ago
He was a one of a kind like Barney.
brian153 25 days ago
He was only 56 when he first appeared as Floyd. He also had a massive stroke in the 3rd season which is why you never see him walking or even standing in later episodes. That was the reason why they brought Emmit the fix it guy n and fade out Floyd.
jmworacle 25 days ago
Probably one the if not the greatest "Second Banna's" of all time Andy Devine once said about his status of not being a "First Banna" solidly stated he might not have been a first banna but he lent a lot of first bannas money.
AgingDisgracefully 25 days ago
Which Mayberry gal (their word, not mine) was thought of as Third Prune?
seltaeb 26 days ago
He played a barber named Andy on one episode of Leave It To Beaver who gave Wally a shave.
FrankensteinLover 26 days ago
I agree how could you not love Howard especially in his Floyd Role.
JHP 27 days ago
his voice on old time radio was as obvious as an air raid siren, His roles were great
Coldnorth JHP 22 days ago
He had a very distinct voice. I don’t think anyone could imitate it. Just his delivery of any line was funny
JHP Coldnorth 22 days ago
extra unique delivery and voice
Irish 27 days ago
How can you not love Howard McNear?💕
Mark112763 Irish 24 days ago
Oh yes. My...
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