Saturday, February 25, 2006

R.I.P. Don Knotts

The beloved Don Knotts -- the actor behind one of the all-time great television characters, Barney Fife, and whose comedy performance style has had an incalculable influence on two generations of actors and comedians -- has died at the age of 81. Mark Evanier shares some of his memories of Knotts.

Here is perhaps the greatest Barney Fife dialogue exchange, from the episode "One-Punch Opie," where Barney lectures Andy on the necessity of stopping children from becoming delinquents. Of course the dialogue loses a lot without Knotts's superb delivery and his nervous pacing and gestures. He was unique.

BARNEY: I don't like it. I don't like it one bit.
I tell you this is just the beginning: goin' around breaking street lamps -- city property, mind you! Next thing you know they'll be on motorcycles and wearin' them leather jackets and zoomin' around. They'll take over the whole town... a reign of terror!

ANDY: Barney, these are just boys you're talkin' about. They're only about 8 years old.

BARNEY: Yeah, well today's 8-year olds are tomorrow's teenagers. I say this calls for action and now. Nip it in the bud. First sign of youngsters goin' wrong, you got to nip it in the bud!

ANDY: I'm gonna have a talk with 'em. Now what more do you want me to do?

BARNEY: Well, just don't mollycoddle 'em.

ANDY: I won't.

BARNEY: Nip it! You go read any book you want on the subject of child discipline and you'll find that every one of them is in favor of bud-nippin'.

ANDY: I'll take care of it.

BARNEY: Only one way to take care of it.

ANDY: Nip it.

BARNEY: In the bud.

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