The two actors became good friends in the years following The Andy Griffith Show, but according to biographer Daniel de Visé, there was a bit of jealousy between them.
For the better part of the 1960s, Andy Griffith and Don Knotts co-starred in one of the most beloved family comedies TV has ever seen. Knotts’ Barney Fife was a hilariously boastful and often inept counterpart to Griffith’s straight-shooting widower Andy Taylor.
Clearly, Andy’s bumbling deputy was intended to be the funny one of the pair. So why did Griffith get competitive about which was funnier? Well, bear in mind that while Sheriff Andy Taylor isn’t the most comical of characters, Andy Griffith himself was an accomplished comedian.
Add to that the fact that Don Knotts won a handful of Emmy Awards for his portrayal of Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show to Griffith’s none, and the jealousy monster couldn’t help but rear its ugly head.
But for all of his comedic actor awards, Don Knotts dealt with some jealousy on his end too. According to Daniel de Visé in his autobiographical book Andy & Don, Knotts’ third wife, Frances Yarborough, found Griffith hilarious.
The Andy Taylor actor would crack her up when they all went out to dinner. Eventually, her praise of Griffith’s jokes frustrated Knotts to the point of insisting that he was the funny one, not Andy. But say what you will about their competing comedic natures; there was no jealousy strong enough to drive them completely apart. The pair remained close friends throughout their entire lives.
But Which One of ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Stars Was Funnier?
Fortunately, comedy is a pretty subjective field. A silly joke might have your dad in stitches while your sister just rolls her eyes. That said, was Don Knotts’ so much more comedically gifted than Andy that his portrayal of Barney Fife deserved five Emmys to Griffith’s zero?
First of all, we can’t even be sure that The Andy Griffith Show’s title character was ever even jealous of his friend’s awards. After all, Griffith decided to bring Knotts in as the comedic relief.
The original plan was for comedian Andy Griffith to pull all of the comedic weight with his patented style of hilarious storytelling. But he quickly discovered that the show would benefit from a different format, one with another comedian to bounce jokes off.
“That’s what made the show a hit, was Don. I knew by the second episode that Don should be the comic and I should play straight for him, and that made all the difference,” Griffith told the Archive of American Television in 1998.
For our money, The Andy Griffith Show stars were equally funny in their own ways. Griffith was the more nuanced joke teller, and Knotts’ brand of physical comedy was unrivaled.