7 nutty things you never knew about Howard Morris of The Andy Griffith Show

Ernest T. Bass was also Mayor McCheese, Jughead Jones, Atom Ant and so much more!

Ernest T. Bass first showed up in "Mountain Wedding," at the end of the third season of The Andy Griffith Show. With his frayed cap, black vest and tattered pants, the mountain man was the kookiest character in the Mayberry area. He was something like a hillbilly leprechaun, often hootin', hollerin' and hoppin' around in the woods and the streets.

"If you were to ask me, this Ernest T. Bass is a strange and weird character," Sheriff Andy remarked upon first meeting him.

Barney simply said, "I think he's a nut!"

Thanks to the madcap performance of Howard Morris, Ernest T. Bass quickly became one of the most beloved characters of The Andy Griffith Show. But Morris was far more than a colorful character. As a voice actor and director, the Bronx native helped craft some of your favorite childhood memories. Let's take a look.

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1. He only appeared as Ernest T. Bass five times.

Though the character immediately comes to mind when you think of Mayberry, Ernest only turned up in five mere episodes. His final appearance came in season six with "Malcolm at the Crossroads." But that is not all you can see (and hear) of Morris on Andy Griffith

Image: The Everett Collection

2. Ernest was not the only character he played on The Andy Griffith Show.

In the episode "Andy and Helen Have Their Day," the two lovebirds try to spend a peaceful date alone by the pond. Of course, folks keep interrupting them. One of those pesky romance interrupters is George the TV Repairman, and geeky fellow in spectacles and bowtie. Yep, that's Morris, who also happened to direct the episode. Morris also played an unseen WMPD radio announcer ("the voice of Mt. Pilot") in "The Family Visit" and "Barney's Bloodhound."

3. He voiced loads of famous cartoon characters.

Morris was a man of many voices. His long association with Hanna-Barbera kicked off with The Jetsons, in which he portrayed Jet Screamer, the pop star who sang "Eep Opp Ork Ah Ah." Some of his other notable characters for the animation studio included Atom Ant, Mr. Peebles of Magilla Gorilla, dozens of creatures on The Flintstones. He also landed a big gig with Filmation, voicing Jughead Jones of The Archies.

Image: The Everett Collection

4. He had a big hand in your favorite McDonald's commercials and characters.

Oh, and Morris was the original voice of Mayor McCheese. Plus, he took over for Larry Storch as the Hamburglar in the 1980s. How did Morris have such an in with McDonald's? Well, he happened to helm most of the McDonaldland commercials. He directed dozens of the spots. "My dad Howard Morris directed the vast majority of the original and now classic McDonaldland commercials," his son David wrote in 2018. "He helped cast some amazing actors to play the various crazy characters." Those included Billy Curtis and Jerry Maren from The Wizard of Oz.

Image: McDonald's

5. He directed the pilot episode of Get Smart.

As you're beginning to see, Morris' credits in the director's chair are quite impressive and overlooked. He also directed the pilot episode of Get Smart, which stands out from the rest for a couple of reasons. It's the only black-and-white episode, for starters. And for that episode only, Max drives a Ferrari.

Image: The Everett Collection

6. He directed Doris Day in her final film role.

His work could be seen on the big screen, too. Morris directed several zippy comedy romps in the 1960s, including With Six You Get Eggroll. The cast was stuffed with famous TV faces, including Jamie Farr, William Christopher, George Carlin, Brian Keith and even Creed Bratton, who turned up on The Office decades later. But the blended-family comedy (which happened to arrive a year before The Brady Bunch) is historically significant as the final feature-film role of Doris Day.

Image: The Everett Collection

7. He entertained troops with Carl Reiner and Werner Klemperer during World War II.

Morris served in the United States Army Special Services, the entertainment branch tasked with entertaining the troops. His outfit included future TV power-players, including Carl Reiner and Werner Klemperer. Maurice Evans of Bewitched and Batman was the company commander! Reiner and Morris would later craft comedy gold on Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows. Modern comedians like Conan O'Brien and Billy Crystal credit their work, in particular the sketch "This Is Your Story," for inspiring their careers.

Image: The Everett Collection

SEE MORE: 15 things you never knew about Don Knotts

Learn more about the man behind Barney Fife, from his Army days to Pleasantville. READ MORE

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Clifford 1 month ago
He also did the voice of Wade Duck on Garfield & Friends and played the hobo in the movie End of the Line (1987)
Roger 1 month ago
"It's me, it's me, it's Ernest T. I can see you, but you can't see me!
What a great character!
KirwoodDerby 1 month ago
One of my favorite lines of his as Ernest T. Bass is when Ramona, trying to make small talk, says” it rained last week” Ernest says “I know, I was right there in it .”
Non__Cents 1 month ago
He was also Professor "Little Old Man" in Mel Brooks' "High Anxiety".
SusanSmithKercher 4 months ago
Anyone ever notice his resemblance to Phil Collins?
daDoctah 7 months ago
Around the same time he was making his several appearances as Ernest T Bass, Morris also showed up on his old friend Carl Reiner's "Dick Van Dyke Show" as the art expert who identifies the painting that Rob accidentally bought at an auction (and the weird gizmo that Laura bought to make a lamp out of).

One of his latter on-screen roles was in an episode of "Head of the Class", where he's an Ernest T-like yokel in a roadside diner who along with his friends and neighbors show the class of highly educated students that country people can be smart too.
JoeSHill 7 months ago
Howard Morris, may he rest in peace, was THE most multi-talented actor/director, and his trademark voice was his biggest asset! but while he made his rounds in cartoons as a known voiceover, his work at the now-defunct Filmation Associates ( 1962-1989) was very plentiful! in addition to voicing "Jughead" on "THE ARCHIE SHOW" (1968-69) "THE ARCHIE COMEDY HOUR" (1969-70) "ARCHIE'S FUNHOUSE" (1970-71) "ARCHIE'S TV FUNNIES" (1971-72) and "THE US OF ARCHIE" (1974-75) Howard Morris also worked on other Filmation produced cartoon shows like "THE GROOVY GOOLIES" (1970) "WILL THE REAL JERRY LEWIS PLEASE SIT DOWN! (1970) and "THE SECRET LIVES OF WALDO KITTY" (1975) as Lou Scheimer and Norm Prescott invested wisely in Morris' outstanding versatility! Morris also worked with "LOST IN SPACE" co-star Jonathan Harris voicing an animated version of "MY FAVORITE MARTIANS" that Filmation made for CBS in Fall 1973, and also appeared with Mr. Harris as a guest star on Filmation's live-action "SPACE ACADEMY" in Fall 1977 as "Capt. Rampo" - so while the endless list of credentials are stacked in Howard Morris' amazing career, I didn't leave out his origins on TV's classic "YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS" with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, or his work on Mel Brooks' "LIFE STINKS" (1991) and "HISTORY OF THE WORLD, Pt. 1" (1981) or numerous TV shows that he went on to direct, like "HOGAN'S HEROES" and "ONE DAY AT A TIME", the entertainment business will never be the same without Howard Morris' impressive talents as a character actor, successful film and TV director, and a fantastic voiceover for many iconic cartoon characters!
Lacey JoeSHill 7 months ago
He is one of those Hollywood talents that was around for years, but nobody ever heard of.
A great loss.
JosephScarbrough 7 months ago
As far as voice acting goes, I remember him best as Flem from COW AND CHICKEN, one of Chicken's best friends, who was noted for his short, stocky stature, his glasses, and unusually big red lips (that presumably had lipstick on them).

Another interesting note is that in Brian Jay Jones's biography about Jim Henson, sometime in the 60s, when Henson was going through his experimental filmmaking period, he shopped around a treatment for a teleplay about an androgynous-looking young man being mistaken for a female fashion model - it was brought to an unidentified director who rejected it; he recognized Henson's talent and potential, but admitted the subject matter of the teleplay scared him, adding, "it's not dirty, but it ain't quite clean either." I later learned said unidentified director was Howard Morris.
Patrick 7 months ago
Somewhere I read that one of the main reasons he was hired as a writer / performer by Sid Caesar was, Sid wanted someone small enough for him to pick up during certain comedy skits.
RonLavalleeJr 7 months ago
The nuttiest thing is you didn't mention his connection to Jerry Lewis---Howard played Jerry's' father Elmer Kelp in The Nutty Professor! He also played the sex-starved astronaut Schmidlap in Jerry's Way Way Out...and voiced many characters in the Filmation Saturday morning cartoon "Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down" (with David L. Lander providing the voice of Jerry)
Molto_Sceticco 7 months ago
He made one last appearance as Bass in 'Return To Mayberry', 1986
RogerClyneIsAGod 7 months ago
Just watched him in Mel Brooks "High Anxiety."
harlow1313 7 months ago
As I like to remind people, he was the original gangsta rapper.

Old Aunt Maria, jump in the fi-ah,
Fire too hot, jump in the pot,
Pot to black, jump in the crack,
Crack to high, jump in the sky,
Sky to blue, jump in canoe,
Canoe too shallow, jump in the tallow,
Tallow too soft, jump in the loft,
Loft to rotten, jump in the cotton,
Cotton so white she stay there all night.
JeffTanner 7 months ago
You mean, ''One of those pesky romance interrupters is George the TV Repairman, A, geeky fellow , NOT AND geeky fellow, in spectacles and bowtie.''
cperrynaples JeffTanner 7 months ago
Was that Andy or Barney who said that?
cperrynaples 7 months ago
And don't forget that Morris entered the Twilight Zone! His episode was "I Dream Of Genie".
"With the light brown hair?" ARR, ARR, ARR!
Actually, his genie was Jack Albertson, not Barbara Eden!
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