Mr. Don Knotts

Being a child of the ’60s and also being fifty percent raised by the television set, it was my privilege to witness and learn from the master comedian of self-deprecating humor and ultimate humiliation. And there is no better preparation for becoming a Texas public school teacher than to learn how to be laughed at from Don Knotts.

I have spent a goodly number of hours during our recent COVID quarantine watching old DVDs of Don Knotts movies. The last four nights I viewed, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, The Shakiest Gun in the West, The Reluctant Astronaut, and The Love God. If you have never seen them, they come with the highest of Mickian recommendations, “They made me laugh so hard I cried.”

Of course, my favorite Don Knotts movie of all time is The Incredible Mr. Limpet.

Knotts always seems to play a character put upon by life in general, yet always believing that he has the inner something to make himself into a huge success. Every time he gets knocked down he quivers with frustration and throws a punch at his tormentors that invariably hits nothing unless he hits himself. In Mr. Limpet, we find a man so frustrated in his inability to help in the war effort that he throws himself into the sea, turning himself into a fish… a fish that helps defeat German U-boats. He makes himself into a hero, He even finds love among the fishes.

Knotts found the perfect comic partner in Tim Conway as they made The Apple Dumpling Gang and its sequel, The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again. Slapstick antics and serious battles against the laws of physics somehow manage to win out over real bad guys with real guns and horses.

I guess the thing that makes Don Knotts such an important part of my television-sourced education is how much I identify with him. Life is a never-ending parade of humbling defeats and blush-inducing humiliations. I have spent most of my life being one with the little-guy within me, the put-upon fellow who has never quite overcome all the little hurts incurred by a desire to overcome the gravity holding me down.

And in a Don-Knotts world, based on a Don-Knotts movie script, things eventually turn out all right in the end. Mr. Chicken is proved right. Abner Peacock ends up marrying the beautiful girl who is the perfect one for him. The dentist who is mistaken for a gun-fighter still gets to be the hero in the end. So, there are worse things than living a Don Knotts sort of life.

Rest in peace, Don Knotts. For though you are no longer with us, you will always live on in my heart… and the hearts of many other Don Knotts wannabes.

5 Comments

Filed under art my Grandpa loved, autobiography, comedians, education, empathy, goofiness, humor, movie review, nostalgia, strange and wonderful ideas about life

5 responses to “Mr. Don Knotts

  1. I will always remember the feckless Barney Fife from Andy Griffith. He carried a single bullet in his front shirt pocked and an unloaded gun. When he went to take that bullet out he was shaking so badly he might as well not have tried. I found myself feeling very sorry for him.

    Most of his roles left me feeling sad.

    • But he always gets the girl and wins at the end of the movies. And he had a pretty nice girlfriend in Mayberry too. The kind of comedy he was doing is called pathos, so he was trying to be pathetic. Nobody was better at ir than him.

  2. Mickey, I am huge fan of “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken” plus “The Andy Griffith Show.” My favorite line from the former is “atta boy Luther.” In the latter, whoever came up with having Barney Fife be allowed to carry a gun, but had to keep his lone bullet in his buttoned pocket is comedic genius. Seeing Fife reach for that bullet in a crisis is just too funny. Keith

    • I agree with everything you just reminded me of. I need to write a post just about Mayberry sometime. Maybe even about the music on that show.

      • Mickey, you should. We have a CD of Andy Griffith doing a stand-up routine and he sings words to the Mayberry song. We picked it up at a museum in Mt. Airy, NC where Griffith is from (we used to live about 45 minutes away). Griffith insisted the show be an ensemble show. One of my favorite stories is the actor who played Floyd the barber had a stroke and could not move very well. So, afterwards, Griffith had him stand behind the chair and hold onto it so he would not fall.

        Great show. It was not as good when Barney left, though. Keith

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