R.I.P. Jack Burns, the man who replaced Barney on The Andy Griffith Show

The comedian began as George Carlin's partner and later voiced a famous crash test dummy.

Barney Fife may have weighed, oh, about 120 pounds soaking wet, but the Mayberry deputy left behind a massive uniform to fill. After five hit seasons on The Andy Griffith Show, and a few Emmy awards, Don Knotts decided to nip it in the bud and leave the sitcom. The comedic actor pursued a career on the big screen.

His Barney Fife character would return to Mayberry here and there in later seasons, earning him a couple of fresh Emmy trophies, but the series was never really the same without him. That was not all due to his departure. Jim Nabors was gone by that point, too, heading his own spin-off, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. But the biggest change to The Andy Griffith Show beginning in season six was color. Mayberry went from a quaint black-and-white hamlet to a vibrant, rainbow-colored town.

Often overlooked in all this change — intentionally, in some cases — is Deputy Warren Ferguson.

Introduced at the start of season six, Ferguson came to Mayberry as Andy's new deputy. He was the nephew of Floyd the barber, though he stuck out in rural North Carolina like a sore thumb. You see, Warren was a city slicker from Boston.

Playing the role — complete with a haaahd Boston accent — was Jack Burns. A true Boston native, Burns got his start in Chicago, as part of the esteemed Second City comedy troupe. Andy was his first big role, but audiences might have already been familiar with Burns through his stage work. He'd cut a popular comedy record (more on that later) and popped up on talk shows.

Despite his pedigree, Burns lasted a mere 11 episodes on The Andy Griffith Show

Burns started out in a duo with George Carlin. They first met working at a radio station in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1959. A year later, the twosome recorded an album, Burns and Carlin at the Playboy Club Tonight, which was not released until 1963. Oh, and it was not recorded at the Playboy Club, rather in a joint called Cosmo Alley. But that's just a small taste of the sly humor Burns would ply throughout his career.

By the time …at the Playboy Club Tonight was released, Burns and Carlin had amicably split to pursue separate careers. Carlin began his climb as a solo act, while Burns paired with another comedic mind, Avery Schreiber, a shaggy physical force most Boomers might remember from Doritos commercials. The two sharpened their routines on the stage at Second City in Chicago. A decade later, after numerous guest spots on variety shows, the two earned their own series, The Burns and Schreiber Comedy Hour, which aired in the summer of 1973.

By 1977, Burns had transitioned to more of a behind-the-camera career. Notably, he landed a gig as the head writer and producer on the first season of The Muppets. He then co-wrote The Muppet Movie with Jerry Juhl, who would take over the reins as head writer on The Muppet Show.

Burns contributed his pen to the corn-pone humor of Hee Haw, as well. This just goes to show that he could have done the rural comedy of Andy Griffith, given the chance.

Years later, Burns voiced Vince, a crash test dummy in public service announcements for the U.S. Department of Transportation. The TV ads reminded audiences, "You could learn a lot from a dummy."

Burns passed away on January 27, 2020, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The actor, writer and comedian was 86.


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EmBee 3 months ago
How could you leave out Fridays?
Mike 9 months ago
Addenda:
In addition to writing for Hee-Haw! (and helping create the format), Jack Burns occasionally appeared on-camera with George Lindsey.
The bits were set at "Goober's Gas Station": Burns played his "conventioneer" character, a city slicker who was always out-slickered by Goober (I've heard that some of these bits may have been improvised).
Galeval2 9 months ago
Also he was the announcer, writer, and producer of ABC late night tv show Fridays. Its rating were even better than Saturday Night Live (SNL). It was moved to Friday evenings for Ted Coppell's show Nightline. The actors and comics showed their frustration of this chance and the rating went down. The show was cancelled.
MarkSpeck Galeval2 8 months ago
He was involved in the on-camera fracas between Fridays regular Michael Richards and guest star Andy Kaufman. Both Burns and Richards later claimed that the entire incident was 'faked' for the camera and that they were both friends with Kaufman.
MarkSpeck 6 months ago
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ShreveportKid 9 months ago
The best of the Jack Burns episodes was Otis the Artist Season 6 Episode 16. It focused mainly on Otis (Hal Smith) and was a very touching episode. One of my favorites from that season.
JoeGuenther 9 months ago
Why no mention of his comedy work with Avery Schreiber? They were on a Love American Style episode and numerous variety shows including one they hosted.
Wiseguy JoeGuenther 8 months ago
"...while Burns paired with another comedic mind, Avery Schreiber, a shaggy physical force most Boomers might remember from Doritos commercials. The two sharpened their routines on the stage at Second City in Chicago. A decade later, after numerous guest spots on variety shows, the two earned their own series, The Burns and Schreiber Comedy Hour, which aired in the summer of 1973."
JoeGuenther 6 months ago
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Jeffrey 9 months ago
am sad about his passing - BUT OH BOY here comes all those stinky "warren eps"
Nadya92129 9 months ago
Jack Burns wasn't a good fit for TAGS, but neither was Jerry Van Dyke. He didn't get all the vitriol that was heaped on Burns, but he was even more insufferable.
EricFuller 9 months ago
RIP Jack. He also provided to voice of right-wing neighbor Ralph on "Wait Till Your Father Gets Home."
booster 9 months ago
I really liked Jack Burns when he was teamed with Avery Schreiber. Their taxicab routines were really funny. R.I.P Jack. You will be missed.
JoeGuenther booster 9 months ago
They did a bit where Jack was asking questions from the audience to Scheiber's computer that "spit out" the answers. Very funny and bent. Look for their stuff on you tube.
Garloo57 9 months ago
Thelma Lou ( Betty Lynn) Ellie Walker ( Elinor Donahue) ( Charlene Darling (Maggie Mancuso) comes to mind.. a few others like Barbara Eden appeared once... but memorable characters, etc
msdemos 9 months ago
.

Since I'm sure there are people here MUCH more knowledgeable than I, when it comes to this show, where does this now leave us in terms of surviving regular, or semi-regular cast members of the show?

Obviously, Ron Howard.....but after that I'm guessing there aren't too many others still with us.

Anybody know??

.
booster msdemos 9 months ago
Betty Lynn, who played Barney's girlfriend, Thelma Lou, is 93 years old, Elinor Donahue, who played Ellie Walker, Andy's first girlfriend, is 82, and Maggie Mancuso, who played Charlene Darling, is 79, Rodney Dillard who played Rodney Darling is 77. There may be some that only appeared in a couple of episodes still around, like some of the kids who played Opie's friends, but all of the main cast is deceased.
Garloo57 msdemos 9 months ago
Thelma Lou ( Betty Lynn) Ellie Walker ( Elinor Donahue) ( Charlene Darling (Maggie Mancuso) comes to mind.. a few others like Barbara Eden appeared once... but memorable characters, etc
Nadya92129 msdemos 9 months ago
I believe "Thelma Lou" is still with us.
Rick 9 months ago
"Mayberry went from a quaint black-and-white hamlet to a vibrant, rainbow-colored town."

Yes, that was as big a change as the loss of Barney Fife. I think after five seasons everyone associated with making the show no longer saw that everything in town was the shade of green Pepto-Bismol would be if it were green (I guess that shade read well as white in black and white?).

But we the viewers did. Every wall was so, so pastel green. Oh, how green it was. Nothing looked like Mayberry, but a set lot.
Wiseguy Rick 8 months ago
What about the thousands (if not millions) of people who did not have color TVs in 1965? Did they notice a difference when the series switched to color? If not, there was no difference of importance.
GoUTVols1961 Wiseguy 8 months ago
You are correct. We did not get a color TV until 1972. Dad must have gotten a big raise. We got our first color TV and our first window air conditioner that year.
AgingDisgracefully 9 months ago
Yeah? Huh? Yeah? Huh? Yeah? Huh? Yeah? Huh?...etc.

YOUR cab ride may vary.
Barry22 9 months ago
He once hosted SNL and did a funny Rocky routine. He was also the executive producer of ABC's Fridays.
MissouriOzarks 9 months ago
Thank you for sharing all your wonderful information of our stars we had when I was growing up! It is my dream to make it out to California one day to visit the studio.
Nobody will miss you. You can leave right now.
jeff8 9 months ago
Jack Burns did not replace Don Knotts. He was only in 11 episodes, and he began five episodes after Don Knotts left.

Don Knotts was a regular on Andy Griffith from Season 1, Episode 1 in 1960 to Season 5, Episode 30 in 1965... Jack Burns started Season 6, Episode 5. His last episode was Season 6, Episode 20. While the Andy Griffith show continued to Season 8, Episode 30.

So it would be much more accurate to say that Howard Spraig and Emmet’s Fixit Shop replaced Barney Fife.

In the last episode of Andy Griffith, Andy left and Ken Barry started Mayberry RFD. Aunt Bea was in 36 of 78 episodes of that show.

The Andy Griffith Show was the second thing that Jack Burns ever did on screen. He was in a fairly large number of TV shows after this, and went on to be a writer on The Muppet Show...

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0122698/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1
Wiseguy jeff8 8 months ago
Jack Burns replaced Don Knotts because the character Jack Burns played replaced the character Don Knotts played.
harlow1313 9 months ago
He is cool with me for having hosted the SNL-knock-off, "Fridays," which I quite liked.

(I particularly enjoyed Devo's first appearance, as well as Andy Kaufman's bizarre and unrehearsed flip-out.)
Russ harlow1313 9 months ago
Fridays was better than SNL, but was never given a chance.
Barry22 Russ 9 months ago
In it's first season, even though they did not directly compete against SNL, Friday's garnered higher ratings than SNL.
booster harlow1313 9 months ago
Fridays was good, as was SNL at that time. I still think the best was SCTV, which followed SNL on Saturday night at midnight.
Jeffrey booster 9 months ago
Please someone air SCTV - sooooooooooo darn Funny!!!
Utzaake harlow1313 9 months ago
Always opened the show's introduction with "LIVE FROM THE L.A. BASIN, IT'S FRIDAYS!" As for that Andy Kaufman dust-up, Burns was also in on the ruse. Had to because his sense of humor was as warped as Kaufman's. https://www.nytimes.com/1981/02/24/arts/was-fight-on-tv-real-or-staged-it-all-depends.html

Most memorable aspect of Burns' collaboration with Avery Schreiber was a conversation segment that basically went like this:
JB: "Jeez, what a megillah, huh."
AS: "Yeah."
JB: "Huh."
AS: "Yeah."
JB: "Huh."
AS: "Yeah."
JB: "Huh."

Funny, unique, memorable.
kristenpa Utzaake 8 months ago
He would do the same skit on TAGS and to me it was annoying. "YEAH" "HUH" "YEAH" "HUH" "YEAH" "HUH"
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