“Mayberry’s Got Talent” isn’t one of the new television programs debuting this fall, but it could have been the title of a show Thursday night at Cross Creek Country Club in Mount Airy.
More than 300 people jammed into the banquet room at the country club for a dinner that concluded with actors from “The Andy Griffith Show” taking turns doing brief comedy routines and cracking jokes for the appreciative crowd.
Similar to episodes from the classic TV series being celebrated this weekend with Mayberry Days here, laughter was the order of the evening as the Cross Creek facility became a temporary comedy club.
While George Lindsey, the late actor who played Goober, is no longer around, the audience got the next-best thing Thursday when his son, George Jr., showed up wearing a familiar beanie and produced some of the night’s biggest belly-laughs.
When taking the microphone, Lindsey uttered three famous words that are well-known to fans of “The Andy Griffith Show” — “Judy, Judy, Judy,” which Goober always said when trying to imitate movie star Cary Grant.
Lindsey then performed a whimsical song on the guitar and concluded his time in the spotlight by urging everyone to yell in unison, “Goober says hey!”
Also drawing plenty of chuckles was actor James Best, who appeared in multiple episodes of the Griffith show, as a hometown musician hoping to make the big time. Jim Lindsey, the character he played, apparently sank into oblivion, but Best himself would go on to become a popular co-star of “The Dukes of Hazzard” TV series.
After initially greeting the audience in street clothes Thursday night, Best had soon pulled off his outer garments — leaving him wearing the blue uniform of Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane of “Dukes” fame as onlookers roared with approval. He and David Browning, the Mayberry deputy who served as master of ceremonies for the program, then treated the audience to a rare comic confrontation between Barney Fife and Sheriff Rosco.
In another segment, Maggie Peterson Mancuso (Charlene Darling on “The Andy Griffith Show”) told the audience that fans always ask her two questions regarding her work on the series. One is “What was Andy Griffith really like?” and the other is “Do you still get residuals?”
“The answer to that first one is Andy Griffith was great,” said Mancuso, who journeyed to Mayberry Days from her home in Las Vegas.
“The answer to that second one,” she added of the residuals-related question, “is what do you think I’m doing here?”
Jackie Joseph (“Sweet Romeena,” the love interest of Ernest T. Bass) sang a song for the audience which gave the Mayberry Deputy one of many opportunities to inject his own brand of humor into the occasion.
As Joseph belted out the lyrics in a deliberately humorous manner, a cappella, Browning stood by and grimaced. And when she was finished, he offered this assessment: “That was free verse? That was no verse.”
Though the real actor who portrayed Barney, Don Knotts, now mans the Mayberry Jail in the great beyond, his daughter Karen filled in Thursday night, showing up in a pink wig and otherwise tickling the audience’s funny bone.
She appropriately ended her routine with a bar joke about a skeleton who walks into an establishment and tells the bartender that he wants two things: a beer and a mop.
Browning said the annual banquet during Mayberry Days has grown to become one of the annual celebration’s most-entertaining events, and pointed out that part of its attraction is never knowing what might happen.
Along with humor, there were some serious moments and during one, Browning told the audience what an honor it was to be in the presence of people who share a key common bond. “This is television history right here,” he said while gesturing to the living links to “The Andy Griffith Show” seated together in a corner of the room.
“It’s just really something to see all you folks.”
Thursday night’s event offered other thoughtful reflections as well.
Peggy McCay, longtime cast member of the “Days of Our Lives” daytime drama, shared her experience when appearing on a bittersweet episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” titled “Class Reunion.” McCay portrayed Sharon DeSpain, Sheriff Taylor’s childhood sweetheart who gets reacquainted with him years later when the former schoolmates gather.
When reviewing the script with Griffith, a question arose about whether they should really kiss as it directed.
Without hesitation, Andy said “Yes,” McCay recalled.
“And it was a great kiss,” she said when it subsequently was filmed. “I gave Andy his first on-screen kiss.”
She ended Thursday’s appearance by reciting the words to a rap-style poem she had written which concluded with a message to the late star: “We’re all here together to share our love, as your friendly grin comes down from above.”
George Lindsey Jr. also alluded to the outpouring from Mayberry fans after the death of his father in May. “I’ve received thousands of condolences,” he said.
Betty Lynn of Mount Airy, also known as “Thelma Lou,” made her way to the microphone amid a standing ovation, and told everyone what an honor it is to greet Mayberry Days fans every year.
“I don’t always remember your names, but I do remember your faces,” said Lynn, who added that she hopes to continue being a part of the annual celebration for a long time to come.
“I look forward to seeing you all again and again and again.”
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.