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The Life and Times of Don Knotts: Remembering an Entertainment Icon.

Mackenzie Freeman

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Don Knotts was an American actor, comedian, and entertainer most associated with his role on The Andy Griffith Show. As one of the most well-known television actors of all time, Don Knotts would go on to enjoy a career spanning 50+ years, 5x Emmy Awards, and multiple starring roles in some of the most famous television series of all time. With that being said, you probably knew all about that. Today, we are going to dig a little deeper into one of the largest icons in Hollywood history.

Keep on reading to find out 40 stunning facts about The Andy Griffith Show star, Don Knotts!

An Unconventional Childhood

Jesse ‘Donald’ Knotts was born on July 21, 1924, to William and Elsie Knotts in West Virginia. He was raised alongside three brothers on a farm. Don’s mother was 40 when she gave birth to her son. Don’s father struggled with a variety of afflictions including alcoholism and schizophrenia before passing away from pneumonia when Don was only 13-years-old.

Don Served During WWII … in a Comedy Troupe

Knotts served during WWII from 1943 until 1946. During his time in the armed forces, Knotts would perform with a military comedy troupe known as Stars and Gripes. The troupe would perform across the Pacific. Knotts would eventually be discharged with the rank Technician Grade 5 which is the rough equivalent of a Corporal.

Career Before Finding Fame

Most celebrities have an interesting job or two before they make it big in Hollywood. Brad Pitt worked as an extra in-between shifts as a sign-spinner. Rachel McAdams worked in a McDonald’s. Don Knotts? Well, our favorite comedian from the 50s enjoyed life as a chicken plucker before scoring his big break in Hollywood.  This meant that Don was plucking the feathers from dead birds all day. What a job!

Don Had a Ventriloquist Act

The Andy Griffith Star was a comedian unafraid to take risks. Knotts would explore comedy by way of ventriloquism for several years before his acting career took off. Knotts would perform alongside a wooden dummy named Danny ‘Hooch’ Matador for a couple of years. Yeah, we agree, Danny Matador definitely looked like a Goosebumps villain.

A Secretly Serious Soldier?

Don Knotts was more than just capable of cracking jokes while in service of the United States military. Alongside his work in an army comedy troupe, Knotts would earn a reputation for being a fierce and demanding soldier. This would of course turn out to be a joke as it was later revealed that Knotts was an incredibly kind soldier. Knotts focused on providing laughs even while in the army.

He Threw Danny Matador in the Ocean

While Don Knotts may have enjoyed his work as a ventriloquist, he sure didn’t want to keep any memories of the job. According to the legendary icon himself, Knotts would end up throwing Danny Matador into the South Pacific Ocean. Why would he do that? Well, take one look at the wooden dummy and tell us you wouldn’t do the same!

Landing His First Acting Role

Even though we know Don Knotts for all the laughs he has provided us, that wasn’t where his acting career first began! Knotts would break into the acting world with a role on the televised soap opera, Search for Tomorrow. Knotts would work on the series from 1953 until 1955 as the character, Wilbur Peterson.

Enjoyed a Decorated Army Career

We now know that Don Knotts was in the army for three years and that he served in a comedic troupe known as Stars and Gripes. Despite his outgoing comedic personality, Knotts would land several major medals during his time. Knotts laid claim to WWII Victory Medals, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medals, and even an Honorable Service Lapel Button for marksmanship.

Nearly Lost The Andy Griffith Show

The Andy Griffith Show very nearly missed out on Don Knotts altogether. Knotts hadn’t been a shoo-in for the series due to a variety of factors. Alongside his contractual instability, which we will delve into later, the character Barney Fife was originally written as a one-episode character. It would take Knotts’ electrifying performance for The Andy Griffith Show to change.

Recorded Just ONE Comedy Album

Comedy albums are a mainstay in the comedic performing world. Despite Don Knotts laying claim to a comedy crown, the actor only ever released a single stand-up comedy album, ‘An Evening With Me’. The album would feature many of Don’s favorite bits including, “What It Was, Was Football” and “Weatherman”.

Griffith Gave Him the Best Lines

Andy Griffith and Don Knotts would form a serious friendship on and off the set. This friendship would benefit Knotts and Griffith accordingly. Andy was so in love with Don’s comedic timing that the star of the show gave away some of his best lines! That’s right, Andy was willing to let Knotts shine in his place instead.

Frequently Butted Heads With Griffith

While Andy and Don were close friends both off and on the show, that didn’t mean that tempers never flared. Don Knotts was often the butt of Andy’s jokes and pranks which would be hard to deal with on a daily basis. Knotts would fire back with his own jokes, so this ‘tension’ may be overblown, to say the least.

Won 3x Emmy Awards in First Five Seasons 

When Don Knotts signed on to appear in an episode of The Andy Griffith Show, he had no idea what he was getting into. Knotts would end up appearing on the series for five seasons, winning three consecutive Emmy Awards along the way. Knotts would go on to influence such future comedic legends as Jim Carrey as well as Martin Short.

Doubted Success of The Andy Griffith Show

We now know that The Andy Griffith Show is an iconic member of the television landscape. However, Knotts chose to leave the series after just five years because he considered it something of a pending failure. When Knotts realized the series was a hit, it was already too late as he had signed a five-year deal with Universal Pictures. Knotts would leave the show altogether.

Almost Stuck With The Andy Griffith Show

Even though Knotts would end up leaving The Andy Griffith Show due to a contractual obligation, the actor portraying Barney very nearly stayed. Knotts had negotiated with Griffin for a stake in the production in return for his contract being renewed. Griffith would balk at the very idea and Knotts would end up walking from the series.

Film Work Inspired By Television Success

As Don Knotts cemented his name in Hollywood history as Barney Fife, the actor behind the role would continue to use his character in the future. Knotts would co-write a feature film titled The Ghost and Mr. Chicken which was heavily influenced by The Andy Griffith Show

Meet The Incredible Mr. Limpet

We will always revere Don Knotts for his work on television but we would be remiss if we did not highlight his work as Henry Limpet in The Incredible Mr. Limpet (1964). The film blended animation and live-action performance into one comical hybrid that was as wacky as it was fun to watch. Knotts was famously proud of his efforts on this project.

Enjoyed a Short-lived Variety Show

Who wouldn’t want to watch Don Knotts on a variety show? Unfortunately for Knotts, viewers at the time were not as in love with The Don Knotts Show as they were The Andy Griffith Show. Don’s series lasted only a single season with notable appearances by Gary Burghoff (M*A*S*H), Jill St. John, and Florence Henderson.

An Unusual Style and Persona

Even though he was a man of many costumes, Don Knotts always liked to be presented well when he was in public. When Knotts wasn’t dressed as Barney Fife, the actor liked to wear glasses and suits as often as possible.  Don would make wearing a suit a part of his acting process with notable examples in The Incredible Mr. Limpet and The Reluctant Astronaut.

Interesting History With Suzanne Somers

Tensions on the set of Three’s Company were almost always in existence. When Suzanne Somers made contractual demands at the height of her fame, producers were suddenly in need of an actor to take on more lines. Knotts volunteered and his character would adopt many of the lines that Suzanne Somers had been offered.

An Unconventional Ladies’ Man

We love Don Knotts but it would be hard to describe him as the traditional ‘lady’s man’. With that being said, Knotts was popular with women during his time. Knotts was described as ‘kind of wild’ by his daughter during an interview with People in 2006. Karen would go on to say, “He was really quite the ladies’ man, especially between marriages.”

Man of Many Marriages

Speaking of being a ladies’ man, Don Knotts enjoyed three separate marriages during his life. Don’s first marriage was with Kathryn which lasted from 1947 until 1964. Don would go on to marry Loralee Czuchna from 1974 until 1983 before marrying Frances Yarborough from 2002 until he died in 2006.

Tensions Rose on Three’s Company

After experiencing otherworldly success on The Andy Griffith Show, Knotts would come back to mainstream stardom as Ralph Furley on Three’s Company. Already an established hit, Knotts’ arrival would coincide with contract drama surrounding star Suzanne Somers. As Somers faded from the program, Knotts stepped into her place.

Almost Lost a Role to Dick Van Dyke

Most of Knott’s success in Hollywood was on television. With that being said, Knotts had a few slam-dunk film roles in his catalog as well! One such role was in the film Pleasantville as Rob Petrie of Rob’s TV Repair. The producers had originally intended to cast Dick Van Dyke in the role, however, Knotts would ultimately win out.

Did Not Record All His Lines in Pleasantville

With a tender ferocity on screen, Knotts was quick to earn critical acclaim for his work on Pleasantville. With that being understood, Knotts also was not able to record all of his dialogue for the production. As a result, the producers would hire a comedian impersonator named Craig Shoemaker to finish the production.

Barney Fife Statue Unfortunately Destroyed

Upon the passing of Knotts in 2006, a Barney Fife statue would be erected in Mount Airy, NC, under the commission of Tom Hellebrand. Ostensibly made to honor Knotts, the statue was eventually torn down due to a lack of usage rights. Paramount/CBS would halt work on the project before having it destroyed altogether.

Karen Knotts Continues Father’s Legacy

Even though the legend Don Knotts is now gone, his daughter is looking to keep her father’s legacy alive. Karen Knotts has been a vocal presence in support of her father’s work, even touring the country with her one-woman stage performance, Tied Up in Knotts. During the series, Karen discusses her father as well as growing up on the set of The Andy Griffith Show.

Cracked Jokes on his Deathbed

Don’s passing in 2006 came with his family and friends by his side. Even in his waning hours, Knotts never lost the sense of humor that endeared him to so many viewers around the world. According to his daughter, Don had cracked a joke on his deathbed that was so funny that she and her mother had to leave the room from laughing too hard. What a legend.

West Virginia Erected a Don Knotts Statue

If you were sad about the Barney Fife statue being destroyed, we have some good news. Knotts’ hometown in West Virginia would erect a statue in 2016 to honor the late comedian. The sculpture was created by Jamie Lester for display in Morgantown, West Virginia.

Andy and Don Remained Best Friends

When you create an iconic television series together, it probably doesn’t hurt that to be best friends. Don Knotts and Andy Griffith grew beyond close in their time on and off of set together. Griffith and Knotts first met in Broadway while co-starring in No Time for Sergeants. The two would stay close friends until Don’s passing in 2006.

Don Knotts Was Frequently Mailed Bullets

A running gag in The Andy Griffith Show was that Barney had been banned from carrying more than a single bullet in his gun. Barney wasn’t exactly trustworthy with a loaded gun, so Andy made sure he only ever had the one bullet. Fans took this gag into real life when they began mailing Don Knotts’ bullets. That’s an interesting letter to open!

Don Knotts Had a Favorite Andy Griffith Episode

There were 249 episodes written for The Andy Griffith Show. With how many hardcore fans there are of the series, there are no doubts favorites among the fandom. With that being said, Knotts had his favorite episode: “The Pickle Story”. This episode featured Andy and Barney eating pickle after pickle which apparently led to laughter on set.

Chose Andy Griffith’s Nickname

During the series, Andy was tagged with the nickname ‘Ange’. According to the series, Don Knotts was the person who chose the nickname. Ange was a mashup of ‘Andy’ and ‘Griffith’ and Andy Griffith liked the nickname so much that he kept using it away from his time on set.

Do You Know Don’s Favorite Suit?

Barney Fife was almost always represented in a salt-and-pepper suit with a nifty little red bowtie. This was Barney’s best suit and also his nicest, so it makes sense that we got used to seeing it on screen. Don Knotts would appear in the very same suit for other projects including The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, The Reluctant Astronaut, How to Frame a Egg, and of course The Incredible Mr. Limpet.

Knotts Was Cast Without a Contract

Did you know that Don Knotts appeared for his first day of filming without a contract? It’s true! The legendary actor appeared on set ready to shoot without having signed any paperwork. This potentially could have led to a huge problem with the production, meaning that Barney could have only lasted a single episode!

Andy and Barney Were Written as Cousins

Barney and Andy weren’t always written as odd-duck best friends. Instead, Andy and Barney were originally introduced in the series as family members, cousins! Eventually, the writers would push the characters in different directions by making them childhood friends instead.

Don Knotts Stole The Andy Griffith Show

Did you know that Andy Griffith was originally supposed to be the character with all of the joke lines? The writers had wanted to set up Andy as the comedic foil for the series but Don Knotts had other ideas. Andy would fall in love with his co-star’s charisma, offering Knotts the best jokes in the show while propping him up as the comedic element.

What WAS Barney’s Middle Name?

If you are looking for inner consistency concerning Barney Fife’s middle name, you aren’t going to find it. Barney was given a variety of middle names before the production settled on ‘P.’ Yup, just the letter P. Andy would later lampshade this inconsistency by saying, “I thought your middle name was Oliver.”

Knotts Spent His Final Hours With Andy Griffith

Don Knotts and Andy Griffith were so close to one another that they shared Don’s final hours together. Griffith would join Don after his long battle with lung cancer and muscular degeneration and the two would share precious moments alone together during Don’s final day. Who could have predicted such a fruitful and compassionate relationship?

Passed Away February 24, 2006, at 81 Years Old

Don Knotts would pass away at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Knotts officially passed away from complications of pneumonia as related to his lung cancer. The comedic legend would receive a granite headstone with a bronze plaque that showcases loving artwork from the actor’s most prominent performances.

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Life

35 Life Hacks That Will Revolutionize Your Life

Lea Lomas

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Life is all about learning and as we age, boy, do we learn a lot! In order to make the most out of the wisdom we gain from age, we’ve decided to collect 35 of the most clever life hacks on the internet. You can use these simple life hacks for everything from work and travel to getting chores done faster around the house. 

Once you learn these life hacks, you will never want to go back!

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Life

35 Life Hacks That Will Revolutionize Your Life

Sherry Rucherman

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Life is all about learning and as we age, boy, do we learn a lot! In order to make the most out of the wisdom we gain from age, we’ve decided to collect 35 of the most clever life hacks on the internet. You can use these simple life hacks for everything from work and travel to getting chores done faster around the house. 

Once you learn these life hacks, you will never want to go back!

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Animals

A Koala Mother Babysits Three Joeys

Mackenzie Freeman

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The parents who have several young children at home often talk about the challenges that they face. Caring for even one very young child is certainly difficult. Having three kids like this just multiplies all of the associated obstacles. Strangely enough, many animal parents don’t quite seem to have the exact same issues. Then again, it’s possible that koala parents might have some of the same problems. 

Very young children tend to squirm and kick whenever they’re held. Parents who have twins sometimes have a difficult time holding both of the kids at once for that reason. They might get used to it, but it still might pose a lot of challenges physically. These situations are even tougher on the parents who actually have triplets. There are koala mothers who have to care for three joeys at once. A koala mother at the Billabong Zoo was in that situation recently. 

Human parents have certain inherently advantages. The fact that humans are comparatively tall certainly helps. Human infants and toddlers are very small compared to their parents. Many animal parents are not as fortunate, including the koala mother at Australia’s Billabong Zoo.

While these koala joeys are actually capable of climbing trees on their own, they seem to prefer resting on her back. While they’re still smaller than she is, the size difference is actually relatively modest. The mother koala seems to be only around three times the size of each individual joey. Since there are three of them, she seems to be at least somewhat overwhelmed. 

The koala joeys can’t seem to sit still, and all four of them seem as if they’re struggling to get comfortable and stay that way. They aren’t resting peacefully on the mother’s back. Instead, they’re constantly shifting and stepping on her. As this is happening, she’s still trying to hold onto the tree. They almost look as if they’re scratching her at times, which is enough to make anyone feel sorry for the mother koala.

It’s an entertainingly adorable image, but the mother koala still seems to be struggling to keep up with all of these joeys. She’s being remarkably patient, especially when people consider the situation overall. These koala joeys were not actually hers. She was just looking after them.

This sort of thing might surprise a lot of people, since koalas are not especially social animals. In fact, plenty of relatively unsocial animals will care for babies that aren’t theirs. They’ll still have the caregiver instinct, which can be helpful in a zoo environment. 

Koala joeys are actually very strongly connected to their parents emotionally. They spend months in pouches, and aren’t even remotely independent for a full year. It takes them even more time to become truly independent, and they’re still very attached to their parents from that point onward. This koala is not actually their mother, but they have the same sort of bonding instinct that her actual children would have. She’s acting as their mother, and that appears to be good enough for the joeys. 

Even though they could spend time on the tree alone, many of them are not going to want to do so. Koalas are generally very inactive animals. The mother koala in particular just seems to want to rest, and the joeys are not making that easy. Still, as energetic as they are, the joeys still settle down some of the time. 

It almost looks as if all four of them are going to fall any second. Still, all koalas are adapted to this sort of situation, and they’re astonishingly good at staying on trees. 

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