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.
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.
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
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.