Karen Knotts, the daughter of famed actor Don Knotts, will perform two shows this week as part of the Mayberry Days festivities.
Knotts, making her eighth visit to the Granite City, has a performance Friday morning at the Historic Earle Theatre on Main Street called “A Deputy’s Daughter.” Then she has “Tied Up in Knotts” on Saturday at the Andy Griffith Playhouse. Both shows begin at 11:30 a.m. with tickets at $20.
Knotts, 63, gives her comedy routine “Tied Up in Knotts” each year, but she likes to bring in some fresh material when she performs in Mayberry because she knows a lot of fans of “The Andy Griffith Show” like to return each year.
“He gave me plenty of material to work with,” she said of her father, best known as Deputy Barney Fife.
She typically features comedy, skits and stories about her father and her childhood. She said people seem starved for behind-the-scenes facts about the man who played one of the most memorable characters of the show.
“The question I’m most asked is, ‘what was he like as a father?’” Knotts told an audience in her 2015 performance. “He was an awesome father – sorry, tabloids,” she said as the audience laughed. He was just as warm and caring in real life as he was on the show.
“I have to admit it was different growing up as his daughter,” she said, being in grade school during the time her father was portraying Barney Fife.
There were, however, the occasional unannounced visitors to their home.
“I wasn’t really aware of how much the kids in school watched the show, but our house was well known and people would knock on the door all the time asking for autographs,” Knotts said. “Even at a young age I thought that was odd.”
“He loved to go out and eat at nice restaurants, and we’d go out a lot,” she said. “Whenever we did, people would come up and monopolize him, and he would be unavailable to us for a while. But he was just so cordial a person, he would give of his time whether he wanted to or not.”
While she describes “Tied Up in Knotts” as her proven home run, last year was the debut of a second show.
Knotts said “A Deputy’s Daughter” is targeted especially for this audience.
“It really focuses on my father’s early career and his time on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’,” explained Knotts. “It should definitely appeal to Mayberry fans.”
The comedian said the production is less of a performance and more of an intimate experience, featuring stories, photos and memories.
“It’s a little different,” said Knotts of the program. “It’s a sit-down show. It’s as if we were just a bunch of people in a living room.”
Knotts’ friendship with Andy Griffith began in the 1950s when they worked on the Broadway play “No Time for Sergeants.” The two also appeared in the movie version of the same name.
After Knotts watched the pilot episode for “The Andy Griffith Show,” Karen recalled her father reaching out to his friend: “Andy, could you use a deputy?” This led to an audition with producer Sheldon Leonard. “And Barney Fife was born.”
Knotts said she had the opportunity as a child to visit the set of “The Andy Griffith Show” a lot.
“It was wonderful,” she said during a visit in 2014. “It was like stepping into a make-believe world … but you could see the reality of things at the same time.”
She learned during her time on the set, for example, that not every police car on the screen was an actual car.
“They had a cutout of the police car that they used, and I found out later it was because it was so difficult to move the actual car in and out of the set, so they made a mock-up of the car to use in background shots,” she said.
“I had two great parents and a brother I adore,” said Knotts. ” I was very naive and thought everybody had that.”
Knotts said many children grow up without such a supportive environment. For some of them, “The Andy Griffith Show” was about much more than laughs.
“The show taught values and morals some kids don’t learn at home,” said Knotts. “You’re not going to get that from shows on the air today.”
Knotts said that’s one of the reasons the show remains on the air decades after the first episode. It’s one of the reasons it will likely continue to show for decades to come.
Knotts has become a bit of a mainstay at Mayberry Days, and she said it’s for good reasons she opts to come to Mount Airy every September.
“I’ve made a lot of friends … and the fans are just delightful,” she said. “The festival in some ways has become even bigger than the (TV) show.”
She pointed out that the Surry Arts Council was the first organization to give her the opportunity to perform seven years ago. Now she said her show is thriving and she has performed it in more than half the states in the Union.
“People love the show, and people love Don Knotts all over the country,” said Knotts.
And perhaps nowhere more so than here during Mayberry Days.
“I enjoy connecting with the fans. There is so much enthusiasm.”
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.