Arts & Culture

Karen Knotts shares memories of her father in comedy show

Karen Knotts’ show includes stories about backstage happenings on “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Karen Knotts’ show includes stories about backstage happenings on “The Andy Griffith Show.” Courtesy photo

Karen Knotts is coming to Wichita.

It is one of the few times the daughter of comedian Don Knotts has been to Kansas, unless you count that trip to Kansas City years ago when her dad invited her to perform together or that one time she did solo as a stand-up in at the Oakley High School auditorium.

The show, “Tied Up In Knotts,” will be at 7 p.m. Saturday at Century II’s Mary Jane Teall Theater.

Don Knotts was best known as Barney Fife, a character he played for five years (1960-1965) on “The Andy Griffith Show” before moving on to other movie and TV roles.

Karen Knotts has developed her own comedy routine based on her memories and stories of her father, who died in 2006.

“When my father passed away, there were all these stories he had told over the years that were fun stories,” Karen Knotts said in a phone interview. “All my life I’ve been asked what is it like growing up with him. When he died, it seemed like a good time to answer those questions while the stories were still in my mind.”

The show she will be doing in Wichita will be based on life with her father, including back-stage experiences on “The Andy Griffith Show,” his career following the show and movies he made with Tim Conway.

Knotts is a graduate of the University of Southern California and has done some acting and comedic work through the years.

It came naturally, she said, to put the show together. Much of her audience in the shows are part of the baby-boomer generation and older.

“People who come to the show are already fans of Don Knotts and Andy Griffith,” she said. “People still watch the show. Every city has a channel that still runs it.”

In recent years, there has been a resurgence among fans of “The Andy Griffith Show” yearning for simpler times and the types and quality of entertainers who used to perform, Knotts said. Festivals have popped up, particularly in California, as part of the Mayberry Movement.

Her show includes stories about what characters were like backstage — how Aunt Bee, Frances Bavier, could be seen smoking on break; how Andy Griffith would laugh so hard and loud, he could sometimes punch holes in the set walls.

“The story is about growing up in a celebrity lifestyle,” Knotts said. “It is about looking through the eyes of a kid at my father. He and I were very close. It is a loving story. There is no celebrity backbiting.”

Her first memory of visiting the set was when she was 8 years old.

“He was on the show for five seasons, and I was so young, I didn’t have a chance to know what normal was like,” Knotts said. “He was always on television from the time I was born. Before Andy Griffith, he was on the ‘Steve Allen Show’.”

Her comedic show, Allen said, is also a history lesson on television and the friendship that developed through the years between her father and Andy Griffith. The two met when they performed in “No Time For Sergeants” on Broadway.

Andy Griffith died July 3, 2012, in North Carolina.

“My father was a multifaceted character,” she said. “He was always a bit of a mystery. He could be so outgoing and charming, but he could also be introverted and shy. He outgrew some of those neuroses. I was impressed with how he worked through those things and was always down to earth. He always had a little Barney Fife in him.

“He always said that Barney was a character that came from his childhood. He would say Barney was like a child who wore his emotions on his face. And, my dad’s childhood probably was like that.”

Reach Beccy Tanner at 316-268-6336 or btanner@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @beccytanner.

If You Go

Tied up in Knotts!

What: Karen Knotts, daughter of Don, shares stories about growing up with her famous dad

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Century II’s Mary Jane Teall Theater, 225 W. Douglas

Tickets: $20, www.wichitatix.com or 316-303-8100

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