THE INCREDIBLE MR. KNOTTS
A TRIBUTE TO DON KNOTTS BY BRADLEY MASON HAMLIN

Don Knotts, a man known for his quirks and divine nerdiness, was not normally what we think of as a “leading man.” He wasn’t a John Wayne or even a George Clooney, yet, as both a support character and as a lead actor—he was every bit as important as those other chick magnets.

Don was the other guy.

Don was you.

Me.

Your neighbor.

He was our Clark Kent in a Hollywood full of Supermen.

But most importantly, what I got from Don Knotts was the ability to truly see the underdog as the hero, and you can only really get that feeling if you both sympathize and empathize with the character. I mean, we all wanted Barney Fife to shoot himself in the foot, at least once in a while, right? Sure. But we also wanted Barney to succeed. We wanted Barney to catch the bad guy (even if secretly aided by good Sheriff Taylor), and we wanted Barney to get the girl (maybe not the girl, but his girl), and why? Because Barney represents our own awkwardness, an awkwardness we want to relate to and laugh at, and yet know that in the end things will generally work out for Barney, and therefore, maybe for us as well.

Remember The Shakiest Gun in the West?

I was especially fond of that picture growing up. I specifically remember feeling the nervousness of Knotts’ gunslinger dentist—and wishing he could not fumble so much. There’s a point where you can only watch your hero stumble so far before you want the shakiest gun in the west—or  the reluctant astronaut for that matter—to take a shot of whiskey or a good cold root beer, shake it off, stand with your shoulders straight—and shoot a bullseye.

Remember The Incredible Mr. Limpet?

Talk about being sympathetic, here we had a fella who felt so awkward inside his own skin he wished he could be a fish. And when that dream came true—we’re not only rooting for him, but we’re totally invested in his aquatic love life as well.

Now that’s good acting, the kind of acting that comes from the IT factor of just totally being a likeable person, and that likeability is not something you can fake. Don Knotts was a good man. You just knew that as soon as he made you smile. And if you’ve read this far you’re probably one of the people that Don not only made smile, but laugh from the honest bottom basement of belly. Just think of how many times that has happened? If I had only known Don Knotts as Mr. Furley on "Three’s Company" I could honestly say Don made me laugh more times that I can count. What a gift he gave us. What a blessing.

Thank you Don Knotts.

And rest in peace.

But keep 'em laughing.

-Bradley Mason Hamlin, February 26, 2006.

 

 

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