You never saw Barney Fife faint for a reason

Don Knotts had a real problem feeling faint in big life moments.

On Now
Top 10 Andy Griffith Show Guest Stars
Up Next:

On The Andy Griffith Show, Barney Fife was not always the bravest deputy, although he certainly always tried to face his fears.

We watched his eyes bulge, his hands shake, his gun misfire, his knees wobble, and his voice tremble, but we never once, in the history of The Andy Griffith Show, saw Barney Fife faint.

Here's something you may not know about The Andy Griffith Show. Series co-creator Aaron Ruben was the guy you have to thank for making sure that the characters on the show were written to be consistently funny.

As documented in the Journal of Pop Culture, Andy Griffith once said that Ruben "saw to it that perfectly suited material was provided" for Andy and Barney so that the humor of the show would be in perfect balance between the two actors and their unique capabilities.

A good example of Ruben's careful consideration of what made the comedic duo work is the fact that he would not allow any writer to make Don Knotts faint as Barney Fife.

In the memorable fourth season episode "The Haunted House," Barney's gun misfires, and the episode writer Harvey Bullock thought it would be really funny if Barney fainted at the sound of his own gunshot.

"I don't think he'd better faint,” Ruben explained to Bullock, "because if he faints this week, he'll have to faint funny next week, then next time he will have to faint funnier, and soon the credibility of the character is gone."

And with that, a line was drawn in Mayberry, and no writer ever tried to make Don Knotts faint in their scripts.

That doesn't mean Knotts wouldn't have been up to it.

As any Don Knotts fan knows, the man can faint with the funniest physical comedians of all time.

In fact, one of the first things Knotts did after he left The Andy Griffith Show was to star in The Shakiest Gun in the West, a 1968 western comedy written by Andy Griffith Show writers in which his character faints.

They'd clearly waited a long time to watch Don Knotts do that dance.

The faint happens in the movie during a scene where Knotts' character is being seduced. After his romantic interest tells him she thinks he's very nice, Knotts stumbles, saying, "I think I might faint," before swooning onto her clumsily.

In the real world, Knotts actually had a real problem with feeling faint in certain moments.

In fact, the first time he had to introduce Andy Griffith on stage in 1955, he said he nearly fainted then. He didn't think he could budge, he felt so weak. But, like Barney Fife, he summoned his courage and walked onstage to do his duty.

"I've never seen a man so frightened," said actor Roddy McDowall, who was involved in the 1955 stage show, according to the book Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show.

Knotts didn't just feel faint when he was nervous, though. He also felt the same woozy feeling when he got exceptionally good news.

Like when he found out he got the part of Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show.

When his agent called, Knotts said again he nearly fainted, this time from delight. If you're wondering what it would take to nearly faint from sheer joy, perhaps it's sensing the huge star you're about to become:

"I had a good feeling about this," Knotts said of joining The Andy Griffith Show. "I had a real good feeling, even before it started."

Watch The Andy Griffith Show on MeTV!

Weeknights at 8 & 8:30, Sundays at 6 & 6:30 PM

*available in most MeTV markets
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


JosephScarbrough 40 months ago
Smart call. There is such a thing called overkill, and Aaron Ruben's reasonings for this were definitely justified. Similarly on BEWITCHED, although yes, Samantha's usual method of executing her magic was to twitch her nose, Elizabeth Montgomery and Bill Asher both wanted to avoid overdoing it to the point that the novelty of it wore off on audiences. I myself have had an experience as a puppeteer on a live TV broadcast, and adlibbing a joke that became a running gag for the rest of that broadcast day: it was hilarious, but I knew if I kept it up any longer after that day, it wouldn't be funny anymore, so I never made mention of it ever again during that particular gig of mine.
Newyorkcitygal 41 months ago
Don Knotts was an awesome actor on both of Andy's shows.
Jeffrey 41 months ago
I never watched it very often growing up, but my younger sister did. That and Perry Mason were her favorites. I never knew that about Don Knotts, as Barney Fife never fainting on The Andy Griffith Show.
MrBill 41 months ago
He almost fainted in the "Haunted House" episode when he saw the axe moving after going back inside to find Andy but Andy caught him in time.
JHP 41 months ago
how could BAR NAY faint? He had no time - spent most of it yelling at his BOSS
harlow1313 41 months ago
When he got that sinking feeling, he simply needed to eat a Mr Cookie Bar.
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?