Ron Howard remembers the first time he saw Don Knotts

''Is that man crazy?'' Ronny asked his pa.

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"Is that man crazy?" little Ronny Howard remembers asking his dad, Rance Howard, the first time he saw Don Knotts on the set of The Andy Griffith Show.

"No, no, no," Rance told Ronny. "He's a very funny actor."

Ron Howard soon learned just how funny. Growing up on The Andy Griffith Show, the young boy never saw anyone make the show's star Andy Griffith laugh as hard as Don Knotts.

But when Knotts was getting started, the actor — who was surely one of the funniest physical comedians to ever perform on TV — wasn't brimming with confidence. Instead, he felt deep pessimism.

As you might expect, the actor who became famous for playing twitchy characters had a lot of uncertainty about his abilities to make it in Hollywood.

Way before Andy and Don got together for their classic sitcom, Andy remembers Don coming to see him in his dressing room to perform a skit. Don wasn't sure if anybody else would really like it. It was a sketch Don had written earlier for an audition, but he got shot down for a role following a prior performance. Still, he'd cautiously decided to revive the comedy bit.

The skit was, fittingly, about a nervous man who had never given a speech before. He steps to the podium for the first time. In a book about the actors' friendship called Andy and Don, Andy remembers Don demonstrating the skit. The piece ended and Don had one uneasy question to put to his honest friend Ange: "Is it funny?" We imagine Knotts' eyes bugged a little when he asked.

"Lord, Don," Andy recalled saying. "That’s brilliant." To prove it, Andy then broke into a fit of laughter that lasted a long time and stretched pretty much through the duo's life-long friendship.

After Knotts performed this skit for Andy, Griffith encouraged his friend to use it to try out for No Time for Sergeants. This time, the skit was a hit! So of course, Knotts got cast and from that point on, he trusted that Andy understood not just his sense of humor, but his value as a performer. For many classic TV fans, the pair’s comedic chemistry remains unrivaled.

Howard got one of the earliest glimpses of this genius, but like anyone taking in a strange sight for the first time, he was baffled by Knotts a bit. At just five years old, Howard had to adjust to the chaotic energy that Knotts brought to set — both onstage and off.

Behind the scenes, Ron says Don didn't tone anything down. He remembers Andy and Don singing country tunes that Don always cranked up a notch. "He'd get Andy singing and doing these kooky harmonies," Howard said.

For Knotts, the impression he got of his young costar couldn't have been further from the way he felt about his own acting. "To be as good as he was at the age of five was incredible," Knotts told "I couldn't believe it."

It was young Ronny's range that struck Knotts as inspiring: "He could do a tearful scene or a funny scene. Whatever you gave him, he just instinctively knew how to do it. Amazing."

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Bardown1 42 months ago
The great genius of Don Knotts was his ability to make people laugh without saying a word. His facial expressions and mannerisms made people laugh out loud. A true comic genius!!
AmyWeissend 45 months ago
I remember seeing Don Knotts on Candid Camera, he was a nervous jeweler. He was looking at a gem, he was shaking so much! I just have 1 question that I would like answered: Okay! We know that Barney Fife can't sing but could Don Knotts sing?
Laurean 45 months ago
Don Knotts was on The Steve Allen Show (very early tv) as the nervous man in The Man in the Street skits. So, so funny. Classic!! Correct me if I am wrong. I was only a young kid.
Tgoguen1 45 months ago
I just love Don!! I would say I wish he never left the show but we would not have some Disney classics he made! Don was the special sauce and him and Andy were like the Beatles....great on their own but transcendent together!!
FrankensteinLover 45 months ago
The Man was a Comic Genius, and unlike Today's Comedians he didn't have to Cuss or be Provocative to be Funny.
Asil 45 months ago
I never get tired of watching the black and white episodes. So many unforgettable characters. The show was and is pure genius!
daDoctah 45 months ago
I'm surprised that Rance didn't show his son clips of Knotts along with the other performers from the Steve Allen Show. Perhaps in close comparison with comics like Louis Nye and Pat Harrington he wouldn't have seemed quite so crazy.

Then again, maybe Nye's swishy "Hi-ho, Steverino" persona would have been a little much for an impressionable kid.
Purlie8 daDoctah 45 months ago
They didn't have "clips" readily available for access by the public; no means for us to record, store or retrieve it, and no way to "show" them either. Lol
Purlie8 45 months ago
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SRG 45 months ago
I ADORE "The Andy Griffth Show" - watch it daily! So beautifully done. Gotta' take issue w/this statement: "For many classic TV fans, the pair’s comedic chemistry remains unrivaled." Simply because Laurel & Hardy does rival the duo - remaining the #1 comedic duo of all time. Do LUV Andy & Barney & Opie!
Tgoguen1 SRG 45 months ago
Not sure of the all time debate...but huge respect for anyone who know a daily dose of mayberry is a great mental ballast nowadays!
hermanstein2015 45 months ago
Absolutely love that man! How to Frame a Figg is one of his greatest movies!!
Pacificsun 45 months ago
There aren't many actors who put their own personalities so skillfully into the role they're playing. In the case of Don Knotts (after reading the article) you can see how he infused his own insecurities (as a performer) into Barney, matched with his over-the-top expressions (need for attention). Barney was clearly over-compensating for many things, and relying on his association with Andy Taylor for the prestige and self-worth that Barney craved.

How interesting to learn of Ronny Howard's reaction to Don Knotts. Thanks MeTV for a very good article!
texasluva 45 months ago
Laughter is the best medicine. It cures a lot of Blues. Don was just that medicine needed .
JHP 45 months ago
BAR-NAY just loved to yell at everyone
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