Howard Morris thanked fans of The Andy Griffith Show for helping him create Ernest T. Bass
"It's me, it's me, it's Ernest T!"
"It's me, it's me, it's Ernest T!" Fans of The Andy Griffith Show won't be able to read that introduction without hearing the squeaky voice of actor Howard Morris who played the mischievious Ernest T. Bass causing trouble on the show from 1963 to 1965. But what fans might not realize is that their instant connection to the character is what gave Morris the courage to push the character to its funniest limits.
In an interview with the Archive of American Television, Morris took time to stop and show sincere gratitude for all of Mayberry's most fervent fans:
"I’d like to thank the fans of The Andy Griffith Show. They give you courage to go ahead and they love you regardless of what, they’re there."
According to Morris, the story of how Ernest T. Bass came to be goes like this. Producer of The Andy Griffith Show Aaron Ruben came across the character in a script, and he was positively stumped how to portray that character in the show. So he called Morris up and said, "Howie, we’ve got a problem with this character in this script. We don’t know what to do with it. Would you look at it and maybe come up with something?” Morris said sure, and when he read over the script, ideas for the character stirred in him immediately. Morris put it this way in the interview, "I was so excited by it, because I felt that it was something to which I could contribute and which could contribute to me." If only more TV shows operated like this today!
What many fans may not realize is that Morris is an actor from New York City, born and raised in The Bronx. The Southern voice of Ernest T. — a redneck from the hills outside Mayberry who descends into town mainly to cause trouble, sometimes by literally tossing rocks —is completely of Morris' invention, as are all of Ernest T's many hilarious mannerisms. In the interview, Morris explained what he thinks audiences loved about Ernest T. Bass after reading so much fan mail. He said it's this simple: "[It's] because he does everything the audience would like to do, bad behavior, and gets away with it, so that appeals to them, and it’s funny!"
So if Ernest T. Bass has never failed to make you laugh, here's some news to make you smile more: It's all thanks to giant fans like you. Because viewers reacted so positively to Bass, Morris was allowed to take the character to all its most hysterical extremes. From Me to you, here's an extra thank you, too!