Don Knotts

Actor


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

Tab

About
About this interview

In his three-hour Archive interview, Don Knotts (1924-2006) discusses his early comedy routines and ventriloquism acts which led to radio and television appearances on "The Lanny Ross Show" (radio), Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts (radio/television), The Garry Moore Show (television) and Steve Allen's Tonight show (television). The latter show's appearances segued into Knotts's work as a regular on The Steve Allen Show, appearing memorably in the "Man on the Street" sketches with Tom Poston and Louis Nye, which Knotts describes. He also discusses his early work in radio as a regular on the juvenile western adventure show "Bobby Benson and the B-Bar-B Riders" as well as the television soap opera Search For Tomorrow. He goes into great detail in his discussion of The Andy Griffith Show, on which he played "Deputy Barney Fife," a role that won him five Emmy Awards. He talks about his personal and professional relationship with actor Andy Griffith that began with their appearance together on Broadway in "No Time For Sergeants" and continued throughout both of their respective careers. He also discusses his appearances on various television variety shows and specials, his feature film appearances, and his work on the series The Don Knotts Show, Three's Company, and Matlock. Gary Rutkowski conducted the interviewon July 22, 1999 in Los Angeles, CA.

"I think it requires being conscious of timing and conscious of your straight man. Andy and I, in essence, I was really being a second banana. Not that Andy played it that funny, but he had jokes. Not jokes, but he had some humor to his character. It's just all part of comedy."

Highlights
Don Knotts on working with Andy Griffith: the ultimate "straight man"
01:13
Don Knotts on where his sense of humor came from
02:26
Don Knotts on a moment in live TV in the 1950s when fellow actor Les Damon went up on his lines on soap opera Search for Tomorrow
00:57
Don Knotts on Three's Company director Dave Powers' one-take policy and a joke he played on Powers on his first day
02:03
Don Knotts on a big laugh he got playing the nervous character in the "Man on the Street" sketch on The Steve Allen Show
00:57
Don Knotts on how The Andy Griffith Show developed into a character-driven (rather than joke-driven) sitcom 
00:41
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his hometown and background; on his interest in magic, the movies, and radio; on performing as a ventriloquist as a teenager; on his schooling
08:47
On performing during his WWII service; on breaking in to professional show business on radio (through singer Lanny Ross) and television, including an appearance on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts
09:40
On his regular role as "Windy Wales" on the radio show "Bobby Benson and the B-Bar-B Riders"; on his radio colleagues; on getting a part from actor-turned-producer Charles Irving on Search for Tomorrow; on his character, "Wilbur Peterson," his fellow actors, and performing "live" (including a story about actor Les Damon going up on his lines) on Search for Tomorrow
07:57

Chapter 2

On appearing on The Imogene Coca Show; on seeing a funny act of Ben Blue, prompting him to get his first television set; on his "nervous man" act that he performed on The Garry Moore Show and Tonight (with Steve Allen)
13:58
On appearing on The Garry Moore Show; on his regular appearances on The Steve Allen Show and the famed "Man on the Street" recurring sketch that he did with Allen, Louis Nye, and Tom Poston
05:47
On a big laugh he got playing the nervous character in the "man on the Street" sketch on The Steve Allen Show; on Steve Allen (and his writers); on a funny take-off of To Tell the Truth (he accidentally references What's My Line) that he participated in on The Steve Allen Show with guest star Errol Flynn
08:16

Chapter 3

On his Steve Allen Show co-stars Louis Nye, Tom Postman, and Dayton Allen; on co-star/writer Bill Dana (and on the weatherman sketch on The Steve Allen Show); on when The Steve Allen Show went to Havana
10:19
On getting cast on The Andy Griffith Show; on Andy Griffith Show executive producer Sheldon Leonard and producer-writer Aaron Ruben; on a production workweek of The Andy Griffith Show
09:38
On the settling in of the "Barney"/"Andy Taylor" characterizations on The Andy Griffith Show; on director Bob Sweeney; on how The Andy Griffith Show developed into a character-driven (rather than joke-driven) sitcom; on Andy Griffith, personally
07:58

Chapter 4

On shooting exteriors for The Andy Griffith Show; on The Andy Griffith Show's setting of Mayberry; on working with Andy Griffith: the ultimate "straight man"; on Andy Griffith Show co-stars Frances Bavier, Ron Howard, Howard McNear
10:54
On Andy Griffith Show co-stars Hal Smith, Betty Lynn, Jim Nabors, and Howard Morris; on the working methods of Andy Griffith Show director Bob Sweeney
08:33
On Andy Griffith Show writers Jim Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum; on winning his first Emmy Award; on leaving The Andy Griffith Show as a regular (in 1965)
07:08

Chapter 5

On Red Skelton, and his famed "blue" rehearsals and joke file; guesting on The Andy Williams Show; on a funny bit he did with director Stanley Kramer on The Jerry Lewis Show; on being typecast; on his subsequent Emmy wins for playing "Barney Fife" on The Andy Griffith Show
09:30
On his work on a string of Disney films; on working with Tim Conway in movies; on The Ghost and Mr. Chicken and The Incredible Mr. Limpet; on his impressions of MCA executive/agent Lew Wasserman; on TV specials: The Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, Jim Nabors Special and Don Knotts' Nice Clean Decent Wholesome Hour
08:19
On his short-lived comedy-variety series The Don Knotts Show; on Lucille Ball (with whom worked on Here's Lucy); on working with Orson Welles on Hallmark Hall of Fame's "The Man Who Came to Dinner"; on TV pilots; on getting Three's Company
09:50

Chapter 6

On Three's Company producers Michael Ross and Bernard West; on his Three's Company character "Ralph Furley" and his outrageous clothes; on getting used to the three-camera sitcom filming style; on going up on his lines when first doing Three's Company
07:41
On his Three's Company co-stars; on performing his Three's Company character "Ralph Furley's" "fainting spell" backward falls; on Suzanne Somers' departure from Three's Company; on Three's Company director Dave Powers' one-take policy and a joke he played on Powers on his first day; on the end of Three's Company
11:53
On the experience of doing the Andy Griffith Show reunion TV movie Return to Mayberry; on his appearance as a recurring character on Matlock, without the comedy he could play off of, as he did with Andy Griffith on The Andy Griffith Show; on the feature film "Pleasantville"; on his approach to acting
07:43

Chapter 7

On where his sense of humor comes from
03:16
Shows

Andy Griffith Show, The

View Show Page
Don Knotts on getting cast on The Andy Griffith Show
02:11
Don Knotts on The Andy Griffith Show executive producer Sheldon Leonard
01:11
Don Knotts on The Andy Griffith Show producer-writer Aaron Ruben (and Knotts' contribution to the writing of the show)
01:30
Don Knotts on the workweek during production of The Andy Griffith Show
02:22
Don Knotts on his Andy Griffith Show character "Barney Fife"
00:15
Don Knotts on the settling in of the "Barney"/"Andy Taylor" characterizations on The Andy Griffith Show
01:05
Don Knotts on The Andy Griffith Show director Bob Sweeney
01:18
Don Knotts on how The Andy Griffith Show developed into a character-driven (rather than joke-driven) sitcom 
01:20
Don Knotts on Andy Griffith, personally
00:44
Don Knotts on shooting exteriors for The Andy Griffith Show
00:59
Don Knotts on The Andy Griffith Show's setting of Mayberry (and the episode "Man in a Hurry")
00:57
Don Knotts on working with Andy Griffith: the ultimate "straight man"
01:13
Don Knotts on Andy Griffith Show co-star Frances Bavier ("Aunt Bee")
00:57
Don Knotts on The Andy Griffith Show episode "The Pickle Story"
01:11
Don Knotts on Andy Griffith Show co-star Ron Howard ("Opie")
01:05
Don Knotts on Andy Griffith Show co-star Howard McNear ("Floyd, the Barber") and the episode "Convicts-at-Large"
02:02
Don Knotts on Andy Griffith Show co-star Hal Smith ("Otis, the town drunk")
00:49
Don Knotts on Andy Griffith Show semi-regular Betty Lynn ("Thelma Lou")
00:24
Don Knotts on Andy Griffith Show co-stars Jim Nabors ("Gomer") and George Lindsey ("Goober")
00:34
Don Knotts on Andy Griffith Show semi-regular Howard Morris ("Ernest T. Bass")
00:28
Don Knotts on Andy Griffith Show director Bob Sweeney's method for getting a funny take (even at the expense of the actor)
02:31
Don Knotts on Andy Griffith Show director Bob Sweeney's interest in the depth of a scene (and director Alan Rafkin's approach)
00:39
Don Knotts on Andy Griffith Show writers Jim Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum
01:18
Don Knotts on a funny sight gag from the Andy Griffith Show episode "Barney's Sidecar"
00:22
Don Knotts on winning his first Emmy Award (for The Andy Griffith Show)
00:24
Don Knotts on leaving The Andy Griffith Show as a regular (in 1965)
01:28
Don Knotts on being typecast from his popularity as "Barney Fife" on The Andy Griffith Show
00:38
Don Knotts on his subsequent Emmy wins for playing "Barney Fife" on The Andy Griffith Show
00:27
Don Knotts on the experience of doing the Andy Griffith Show reunion TV movie Return to Mayberry
02:53

Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, Jim Nabors Show, The

View Show Page
Don Knotts on how The Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, Jim Nabors Special came about
00:58

Andy Williams Show, The

View Show Page
Don Knotts on how he came to guest on The Andy Williams Show
00:28

Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts

View Show Page
Don Knotts on asking a friend to be a talent scout to "discover" him when he was booked on (the radio/TV simulcast of) Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts
00:40

Don Knotts Show, The

View Show Page
Don Knotts on his short-lived comedy-variety series The Don Knotts Show
03:37

Don Knotts' Nice Clean Decent Wholesome Hour

View Show Page
Don Knotts on the premise of the special Don Knotts' Nice Clean Decent Wholesome Hour
01:21

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

View Show Page
Don Knotts on winning his first Emmy Award (for The Andy Griffith Show)
00:24
Don Knotts on his subsequent Emmy wins for playing "Barney Fife" on The Andy Griffith Show
00:27

Garry Moore Show, The

View Show Page
Don Knotts on his "nervous man" act that he performed on The Garry Moore Show and Tonight (with Steve Allen)
02:53
Don Knotts on a practical joke Garry Moore played-- passing Don Knotts off as a network executive
00:59

Hallmark Hall of Fame

View Show Page
Don Knotts on working with Orson Welles on Hallmark Hall of Fame's "The Man Who Came to Dinner"
01:47

Here's Lucy

View Show Page
Don Knotts on Lucille Ball (with whom he worked on Here's Lucy)
00:33

Imogene Coca Show, The

View Show Page
Don Knotts on appearing on The Imogene Coca Show
00:32

Jerry Lewis Show, The (1963)

View Show Page
Don Knotts on a funny bit he did with director Stanley Kramer (when cast members of the movie "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" were reunited on The Jerry Lewis Show)
01:23

Matlock

View Show Page
Don Knotts on his appearance as a recurring character on Matlock, without the comedy he could play off of, as he did with Andy Griffith on The Andy Griffith Show
00:33

Red Skelton Show, The

View Show Page
Don Knotts on Red Skelton, and his famed "blue" rehearsals and joke file
02:09

Return to Mayberry

View Show Page
Don Knotts on the experience of doing the Andy Griffith Show reunion TV movie Return to Mayberry
02:53

Search For Tomorrow

View Show Page
Don Knotts on getting cast on Search for Tomorrow through fellow radio actor-turned producer Charles Irving
01:08
Don Knotts on his character, "Wilbur Peterson," on Search for Tomorrow (which he played from 1953-55) and working with his co-stars Lee Grant and Nita Talbot
01:17
Don Knotts on a moment in "live" TV in the 1950s when fellow actor Les Damon went up on his lines on soap opera Search for Tomorrow
00:57

Steve Allen Show, The (1956-61)

View Show Page
Don Knotts on his regular appearances on The Steve Allen Show and the famed "Man on the Street" recurring sketch that he did with Allen, Louis Nye, and Tom Poston
02:52
Don Knotts on a big laugh he got playing the nervous character in the "Man on the Street" sketch on The Steve Allen Show
00:57
Don Knotts on Steve Allen
01:34
Don Knotts on a funny take-off of To Tell the Truth (he accidentally references What's My Line) that he participated in on The Steve Allen Show with guest star Errol Flynn
00:41
Don Knotts on his Steve Allen Show co-star Louis Nye
00:26
Don Knotts on his Steve Allen Show co-star Tom Poston
00:15
Don Knotts on his Steve Allen Show co-star Dayton Allen's sense of humor
00:37
Don Knotts on co-star/writer Bill Dana (and on the weatherman sketch on The Steve Allen Show)  
01:33
Don Knotts on when The Steve Allen Show went to Havana
00:48
Don Knotts on a "moment" for him when ventriloquist Edgar Bergen asked him to hold famed puppet "Charlie McCarthy"
00:25

Three's Company

View Show Page
Don Knotts on taking matters into his own hands, calling executive Fred Silverman's office to get him out of his CBS contract (so he could do Three's Company)
00:38
Don Knotts on Three's Company producers Michael Ross and Bernard West
01:19
Don Knotts on his Three's Company character, "Ralph Furley," and his outrageous clothes
01:06
Don Knotts on getting used to the three-camera sitcom filming style on Three's Company (after doing one-camera on The Andy Griffith Show)
00:44
Don Knotts on going up on his lines when first doing Three's Company
00:52
Don Knotts on a typical workweek on Three's Company
00:54
Don Knotts on Three's Company co-star John Ritter
00:53
Don Knotts on performing his Three's Company character, "Ralph Furley's," 'fainting spell' backward falls
00:17
Don Knotts on Three's Company co-star Joyce DeWitt
00:16
Don Knotts on Three's Company co-star Suzanne Somers
01:15
Don Knotts on Suzanne Somers' departure from Three's Company
00:34
Don Knotts on one of his Three's Company character, "Ralph Furley's," memorable "fainting spell" backward falls
00:58
Don Knotts on Three's Company director Dave Powers' one-take policy and a joke he played on Powers on his first day
02:03
Don Knotts on the end of Three's Company
00:40

To Tell the Truth

View Show Page
Don Knotts on a funny take-off of To Tell the Truth (he accidentally references What's My Line) that he participated in on The Steve Allen Show with guest star Errol Flynn
00:41

Tonight

View Show Page
Don Knotts on his "nervous man" act that he performed on The Garry Moore Show and Tonight (with Steve Allen)
02:53
Topics

Bloopers

View Topic
Don Knotts on a moment in "live" TV in the 1950s when fellow actor Les Damon went up on his lines on soap opera Search for Tomorrow
00:57

Characters & Catchphrases

View Topic
Don Knotts on performing his Three's Company character "Ralph Furley's" "fainting spell" backward falls
00:17

Pop Culture

View Topic
Don Knotts on The Andy Griffith Show's setting of Mayberry (and the episode "Man in a Hurry")
00:58
Don Knotts on performing his Three's Company character "Ralph Furley's" "fainting spell" backward falls
00:17

TV's Golden Age (1940s & '50s)

View Topic
Don Knotts on a moment in "live" TV in the 1950s when fellow actor Les Damon went up on his lines on soap opera Search for Tomorrow
00:57
Don Knotts on the challenges of performing on "live TV" in the 1950s
01:01
Don Knotts on TV actors not needing agents during the early days of TV in New York City
00:50

Technological Innovation

View Topic
Don Knotts on the eventual overtaking of TV over radio as the dominant medium for entertainment
00:50

We Laughed

View Topic
Don Knotts on Andy Griffith Show co-star Howard McNear ("Floyd, the Barber") and the episode "Convicts-at-Large"
02:00
Genres

Comedy Series

View Genre
Don Knotts on how The Andy Griffith Show developed into a character-driven (rather than joke-driven) sitcom 
01:20
People

Steve Allen

View Interview Page
Don Knotts on Steve Allen
01:34

Dayton Allen

View Person Page
Don Knotts on his Steve Allen Show co-star Dayton Allen's sense of humor
00:37

Lucille Ball

View Person Page
Don Knotts on Lucille Ball (with whom he worked on Here's Lucy)
00:33

Frances Bavier

View Person Page
Don Knotts on Andy Griffith Show co-star Frances Bavier ("Aunt Bee")
00:57

Edgar Bergen

View Person Page
Don Knotts on a "moment" for him when ventriloquist Edgar Bergen asked him to hold famed puppet "Charlie McCarthy"
00:25

Ben Blue

View Person Page
Don Knotts on seeing a funny act of Ben Blue, prompting him to get his first television set
00:50

Imogene Coca

View Person Page
Don Knotts on appearing on The Imogene Coca Show
00:32

Tim Conway

View Interview Page
Don Knotts on essentially playing the "straight man" in films with Tim Conway
00:52

Les Damon

View Person Page
Don Knotts on a moment in "live" TV in the 1950s when fellow actor Les Damon went up on his lines on soap opera Search for Tomorrow
00:57

Bill Dana

View Interview Page
Don Knotts on co-star/writer Bill Dana (and on the weatherman sketch on The Steve Allen Show
01:33

Joyce DeWitt

View Person Page
Don Knotts on Three's Company co-star Joyce DeWitt
00:16

Errol Flynn

View Person Page
Don Knotts on a funny take-off of To Tell the Truth (he accidentally references What's My Line) that he participated in on The Steve Allen Show with guest star Errol Flynn
00:40

Jim Fritzell

View Person Page
Don Knotts on Andy Griffith Show writers Jim Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum
01:18

Lee Grant

View Interview Page
Don Knotts on his character, "Wilbur Peterson," on Search for Tomorrow (which he played from 1953-55) and working with his co-stars Lee Grant and Nita Talbot
01:16

Everett Greenbaum

View Interview Page
Don Knotts on Andy Griffith Show writers Jim Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum
01:18

Andy Griffith

View Interview Page
Don Knotts on Andy Griffith, personally
00:44
Don Knotts on working with Andy Griffith: the ultimate "straight man"
01:13
Don Knotts on Andy Griffith Show director Bob Sweeney's method for getting a funny take (even at the expense of the actor)
02:31

Ron Howard

View Interview Page
Don Knotts on Andy Griffith Show co-star Ron Howard ("Opie")
01:05

Sheldon Leonard

View Interview Page
Don Knotts on The Andy Griffith Show executive producer Sheldon Leonard
01:11

George Lindsey

View Person Page
Don Knotts on Andy Griffith Show co-stars Jim Nabors ("Gomer") and George Lindsey ("Goober")
00:34

Betty Lynn

View Person Page
Don Knotts on Andy Griffith Show semi-regular Betty Lynn ("Thelma Lou")
00:24

Howard McNear

View Person Page
Don Knotts on Andy Griffith Show co-star Howard McNear ("Floyd, the Barber") and the episode "Convicts-at-Large"
02:00

Garry Moore

View Person Page
Don Knotts on a practical joke Garry Moore played-- passing Don Knotts off as a network executive
00:59

Howard Morris

View Interview Page
Don Knotts on Andy Griffith Show semi-regular Howard Morris ("Ernest T. Bass")
00:28

Jim Nabors

View Person Page
Don Knotts on Andy Grifith Show co-stars Jim Nabors ("Gomer") and George Lindsey ("Goober")
00:34

Louis Nye

View Person Page
Don Knotts on his Steve Allen Show co-star Louis Nye
00:26

Tom Poston

View Interview Page
Don Knotts on his Steve Allen Show co-star Tom Poston
00:15

Dave Powers

View Person Page
Don Knotts on Three's Company director Dave Powers' one-take policy and a joke he played on Powers on his first day
02:03

Alan Rafkin

View Person Page
Don Knotts on Andy Griffith Show director Bob Sweeney's interest in the depth of a scene (and director Alan Rafkin's approach)
00:39

John Ritter

View Person Page
Don Knotts on Three's Company co-star John Ritter
00:53

Michael Ross

View Person Page
Don Knotts on Three's Company producers Michael Ross and Bernard West
01:19

Gary Ross

View Person Page
Don Knotts on meticulous "Pleasantville" writer-director Gary Ross
00:41

Aaron Ruben

View Interview Page
Don Knotts on The Andy Griffith Show producer-writer Aaron Ruben
01:29

Red Skelton

View Person Page
Don Knotts on Red Skelton, and his famed "blue" rehearsals and joke file
02:09

Hal Smith

View Person Page
Don Knotts on Andy Griffith Show co-star Hal Smith ("Otis, the town drunk")
00:49

Suzanne Somers

View Interview Page
Don Knotts on Three's Company co-star Suzanne Somers
01:15
Don Knotts on Suzanne Somers' departure from Three's Company
00:34

Bob Sweeney

View Person Page
Don Knotts on The Andy Griffith Show director Bob Sweeney
01:18
Don Knotts on Andy Griffith Show director Bob Sweeney's interest in the depth of a scene (and director Alan Rafkin's approach)
00:39

Nita Talbot

View Person Page
Don Knotts on his character, "Wilbur Peterson," on Search for Tomorrow (which he played from 1953-55) and working with his co-stars Lee Grant and Nita Talbot
01:16

Lew Wasserman

View Person Page
Don Knotts on his impressions of MCA executive/agent Lew Wasserman
01:37

Orson Welles

View Person Page
Don Knotts on working with Orson Welles on Hallmark Hall of Fame's "The Man Who Came to Dinner"
01:47

Bernard West

View Person Page
Don Knotts on Three's Company producers Michael Ross and Bernard West
01:19

Andy Williams

View Interview Page
Don Knotts on how he came to guest on The Andy Williams Show
00:28

All Interviews

Q
S