Don Knotts’ Daughter Remembers Her Dad, ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ and Much More

The one and only Don Knotts, the beloved Barney Fife of The Andy Griffith Show, was on his deathbed in February 2006, when his daughter, Karen, felt the need to run out of the room … so she could laugh. As horrific as that might sound, anyone who knew Don wouldn’t be the least bit offended to hear that response.

“Here’s the thing about my dad,” says Karen Knotts in an exclusive interview. “He had this funniness that was just completely, insanely natural. When he was dying, he was making us laugh in hysterics. He was literally dying, but he did something or said something that caused my stepmother and I to go into fits of laughter, which is why I ran out. I thought to myself, ‘I don’t want to be standing there in front of this man, my dearly beloved father, who’s dying, and laughing. I was telling this story to Howard Storm, who’s a director, and he said, ‘You should have stayed and laughed out loud. That’s what comedians live for!’ He was right; I should have just stood there and blasted out laughing.”

For his part, when Don was interviewed by Emmy TV Legends, he reflected on what drew him to comedy in the first place: “I think it was because I grew up around comedy with my brothers, especially my brother Shadow. I think it just became a part of my whole person. I don’t think I ever did consciously think about it. It just became instinctive. Somebody once told me that timing is something you learn, but I think I learned that by making my family laugh.”

Well, obviously he was on to something, which became apparent to anyone who ever laughed at Don playing Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show, Ralph Furley on Three’s Company or any of his many different movie roles. “Being funny,” Karen notes, “was just something so natural. It was a gene or …. well, I don’t know what it was, except that it was just an out of control natural funniness.”

Please scroll down for the rest of Karen Knotts’ reflections on her father.