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Bernard "Barney" Fife is a fictional comic character in the Americanmarker television program The Andy Griffith Show, portrayed by comic actor Don Knotts. Barney Fife is a deputy sheriff in the slow, sleepy southern community of Mayberry, North Carolina. He appeared in the first five black and white seasons (1960 – 1965) as a main character, and, after leaving the show at the end of season five, made a few guest appearances in the following three color seasons (1965 – 1968). He appeared in the first episode of TAGS spin-off Mayberry R.F.D. (1968 – 1971), and in the 1986 reunion telemovie Return to Mayberry.


Don Knotts had previously co-starred on the "Steve Allen Show", along with Tom Poston, Pat Harrington, Jr., and Louis Nye - which is where a frantic, twitching "man on the street" character was introduced. He created Deputy Barney Fife in the same fashion, as a hyperkinetic but comically inept counterpart to Mayberry's practical and composed Sheriff Andy Taylor. Sometimes considered a blowhard with delusions of grandeur, Barney fancies himself an expert on firearms, women, singing and just about any other topic of conversation brought up while he is around. Conversely, Andy knows that Barney's false bravado is a smokescreen for his insecurities, and low self-confidence.

Barney is often overly analytical and alarmist about benign situations, such as the modest Mayberry crime scene. He takes a minor infraction, blows it out of proportion, and then concocts an elaborate solution (sometimes involving inept civilians, like Otis Campbell or Gomer Pyle) to resolve it. This only inflicts tremedous angst on Andy. In one episode, where Andy was briefly summoned away, acting sherriff Barney proceeds to book and lock-up nearly everyone in town. Despite his short- comings, Barney is zealous about law enforcement, regularly spouting off penal codes and ordinances to thugs and jaywalkers alike.

An emotional powderkeg, Barney often over-reacts with panic, despair, or bug-eyed fear. He has what he describes as a "low sugar blood level". Barney is smug and self-confident, until true leadership is sought, wherein he dances about in a fluster. Outwardly "a man of the world", Barney is truly naïve and easily duped. Though constantly warned by Andy, Barney falls for countless scams. This gullibility is evident in many episodes, including, ("Barney's First Car") where he is conned into buying a lemon from a crafty old widow.

A gossip and gadfly, Barney is known for blabbing both personal and police secrets (such as Andy's scrutiny of women's rings at the jewelry store, or the locale and time of a stakeout or arrival of an armored car). While this may expose him as a halfwit, Barney is at heart a caring, amiable soul. Despite a knack for exasperating the townsfolk, he is fondly embraced by most of them.

Nonetheless, Barney still has his moments of moxey and loyalty. One episode demonstrates Barney's ability to rise up to challenges. In the second season episode, "Andy on Trial", a millionaire wants revenge on Andy for giving him a traffic ticket. The traffic violator then dispatches a seductive, female reporter to town and bleeds Barney of Andy's transgressions. It all comes back to haunt both deputy and sherrif when said information puts Andy on trial for misconduct. Barney sheepishly admits to playing-up to the sexy reporter, but vowing that Andy is an outstanding lawman, whose caring methodology is far more effective than "going by the book".

One major comedic source is Barney's lack of ability with a firearm. After numerous misfires (usually a Colt or Smith & Wesson M&P .38 caliber revolver), Andy restricts Barney to carrying only a single bullet in his shirt pocket, "in case of an emergency." The bullet always seems to find its way back into the pistol, where, predictably, it is accidentally discharged. The accidental discharge of Barney's pistol becomes a running gag: Barney gives a lecture on gun safety and either shoots the floor through his holster, or assuming the safety latch is on, causes the gun to fire! Another gag has Barney locking either himself, or both Andy and himself in one of the jail cells- with the keys just a tad out of reach. When both are held in self-captivity, they shamefully yell for help.

Early in the series, Andy and Barney comment that they are cousins. However, several episodes muddy the lineage and suggest that Barney may not be directly related to the Taylors. On "Aunt Bee's Invisible Boyfriend", Barney tells Andy, "If she {Aunt Bee} were my aunt, I'd wanna investigate this fella" (no familial Taylor ties). In one porch dialogue, Barney speaks to Andy about buying his folks a septic tank for their anniversary. Andy does not refer to them as aunt and uncle (no familial Fife ties). On several occasions, Aunt Bee reminds Andy that, "he's YOUR friend" (suggesting no blood kin to either Taylor). Yet in another installment, "Cousin Virgil", Andy is introduced to Barney's backward cousin, who is obviously not related to the sheriff. While one can rule out a shared Taylor bond, the two could be related via Andy's maternal side, or most probably via Andy's late wife. Genetics aside, the two are best friends, having grown up together in Mayberry.

When he's not patrolling the streets of Mayberry, Barney spends his free time dating a local girl named Thelma Lou (Betty Lynn) (whom he eventually marries in "Return to Mayberry", a 1986 NBC movie). Thelma Lou is Barney's main girlfriend until his 1965 departure. Barney also dates other women, in particular, an oft-mentioned but never seen Bluebird Diner waitress named Juanita. Barney takes up residence in a few places including the Raleighmarker YMCA and Mrs. Mendelbright's boarding house (where she forbids him from owning either a "hot plate" cooker or too bright a light bulb). When not on duty, he is usually seen in a fedora and a tweed suit. Although the deputy fancies himself a singer, he has a "tin ear". Nearly being barred from singing engagements was a dilemma for Barney, and is highlighted by several episodes, most notably, "Barney and the Choir" and "The Song Festers". He does, however, serenade Juanita over the office phone, without complaints.

Some continuity slip-ups can be expected, as the series had several writers. An illustration of this is with the various middle names given for both Barney and Andy. In the episode "Class Reunion", Barney's middle name is Milton, though at other times he is called "Bernard P. Fife". In another episode, where he believes he is the descendant of Nathan Tibbs, a Mayberry Revolutionary hero, he says his name is "Barney 'Tibbs' Fife". Andy jokingly says, "I thought your middle name was Oliver." A similar problem exist with Andy's middle name which was given as Jackson on his own show (when his high school photo was shown), but his newborn son's name was given as Andrew Samuel Taylor Jr. on "Mayberry RFD" (during a christening).

Like Andy, who was stationed in Francemarker, Barney served in World War II, although he was a file clerk who never left the United States (he stated that "me and this other fella ran the PX library" on Staten Islandmarker). (It should be noted that both Andy and Barney graduated from Mayberry Union High in June, 1945 and that the war in Europe was over in May 1945. With at least six weeks of basic training, Andy couldn't have been in Europe before August, 1945. Andy couldn't possibly have seen action on a European battlefield.) Barney was nevertheless proud of his war record: "I did my part to lick the dreaded Hun," he boasted on one occasion. Ironically, Barney later acquired knowledge of military discipline from Hugo Hopfleisch, a retired German soldier who served in World War I and eventually took up residence in Mayberry. "[He] may have been on the wrong team back in '18," Barney admitted, "but he's a heck of a soldier!"

Barney Fife appeared on The Andy Griffith Show from the show's beginning in 1960 until 1965, when Knotts left the show to pursue a career in feature films. It is explained that Barney Fife had left Mayberry to take a job as a detective in Raleigh. Knotts reprised the character in guest appearances each season until The Andy Griffith Show left the air in 1968. Barney was also on the inaugural "Mayberry RFD" episode, in which Andy and Helen marry. Andy Griffith struggles to keep a straight face as driveling "best man" Barney seemingly objects to the union and then fumbles to find Helen's ring. Nearly two decades would pass before the character is reprised in the reunion film Return to Mayberry in 1986, by which time Fife has moved back, become acting sheriff, and was running for sheriff himself.

Calling a police officer or authority figure "Barney Fife" has become an Americanmarker slang term for gross ineptitude or overzealousness. (This was done recently in the Scott Peterson case, where the defendant's mother referred to the local police captain as "Barney Fife".)

Famous quotes

  • "Nip it in the bud!"
  • "Heartaches!"
  • "Nip it! Nip it! Nip it!"
  • "Rule Number One: Obey ALL rules!!"
  • (Referring to Ernest T. Bass) "He's a nut!"
  • "There are two kinds of cops. The quick and the dead."
  • (After being seen performing an unusual action) "What's the matter? Haven't you ever seen a man (performed action) before?"
  • "You know what they say about a man that puts off getting married? They say he starts getting irritable, yep. That's what they say."
  • "Now, men, I have just one thing to say. This isn't gonna be kid's stuff, and you'll be on your own, and there will be no mollycoddling."
  • "That badge means something! Don't disgrace it!"
  • "It is definitely no fun when that iron door clangs shut on you." (This is from an instance where Barney teaches Opie and his friends about the law.)
  • "The kindness of mercy is not strained; it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven."
  • "Floyd, if you would keep your mind outta Washington and stick to your barbering, I might get a better haircut. Now, what did you do with my sideburns?"
  • (Paying Floyd) "Here, go buy a barber book!"
  • "Hablae usted espanoly?"
  • "Here at 'the Rock,' we have two basic rules. Memorize them so you can say them in your sleep. Rule One: Obey all rules! Second, do not write on the it takes a lot of erase of walls."
  • "All right, all right, all right! Of course you smell gas. What do you think this car runs on, coal?"
  • (Referring to Floyd) "See what I mean? He's blind as an owl!"
  • "You're real funny, you know that? We ought to book you on one of those excursion lines." (There are various versions of this theme, after Andy has gently poked fun at Barney).
  • "I had my eye on you right from the start, mister!" (spoken by Barney whenever Andy exposed a con artist whom Barney up to that moment had naively trusted)
  • "Guess! Come on guess!
  • "Tick a lock!"
  • "This is BIG! BIG! BIG BIG! Really Big!"
  • "Alright, SHAKEDOWN!"


In Popular Fiction

  • In Donald Jeffries' 2007 sci-fi novel "The Unreals," The Andy Griffith Show is referenced many times, with the main characters being huge fans of the show. One chapter is even entitled "Barney Fife Slept Here."

  • In the film "Scream 2," David Arquette's character is referred to by Courteney Cox Arquette's character as having a "Barney-Fife-ish presence."

  • In one episode of The Simpsons, a TV segment shows Charles Bronson as a brief replacement for Andy's character. Barney appears and questions, "What happened to Otis?" Bronson replies, "I shot him. Now I'm off to Emmett's Fix-It Shop to fix Emmett." Another episode shows a depressed Chief Wiggum receiving encouragement from Barney on TV (though statements confuse Wiggum as to whether he's talking to the actor or the character).

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