The hardest I ever saw my dad laugh was back when I was a senior in high school. It was late at night, and the two of us were the only ones up in the house. There was a movie on TV that I had never seen before – something called “No Time For Sergeants.”
For some reason, this memory has always been vivid in my mind. My dad was laughing hysterically – and my dad was not a man who ever laughed hysterically – as he watched young Andy Griffith playing a bumpkin Army recruit named Will Stockdale.
“What’s this movie called?” I asked him.
“It’s ‘No Time For Sergeants,’ ” he said. “I love this movie. It’s the funniest movie I’ve ever seen.”
We stayed up and watched the whole thing, and by the end, I was in full agreement. It was the funniest movie I had ever seen. If you’ve never seen it, trust me – you’re missing something special.
I cherish that memory for two reasons. First, because it’s one of my favorite memories of my dad – just the two of us, staying up late at night, watching a great old movie on TV. I love that memory.
And second, because that night, I fell even more in love with the comic excellence of Andy Griffith.
As a child of the ’60s, I had grown up watching “The Andy Griffith Show,” but it wasn’t until I became a man – and started watching the reruns every day on TV – that I came to truly love and appreciate how brilliant that show was.
It was funny, of course. Incredibly funny. The episode called “Barney’s First Car” is the funniest half-hour in the history of television, and if you don’t agree, well – then you’re just plain wrong.
But more than just being funny, “The Andy Griffith Show” was tender, smart, sweet, kind and honest. It also had the greatest opening segment of any TV show ever.
As the theme song was whistled, Andy and his son Opie headed down to the fishin’ hole in Mayberry – fishing poles in hand, tossing rocks as they walk along the road. Just a dad and his son, spending time together. There was nothing special about that moment. And at the same time, there was everything special about that moment.
When you see the opening of “The Andy Griffith Show” – even today – every son thinks of his dad, and every dad thinks of his son. Like most everything Andy Griffith did, it was simple and brilliant at the same time.
Now that I think about it, Andy had the trifecta of favorite comedy pieces in my book. He’s responsible for my favorite comedy movie (“No Time For Sergeants”), my favorite TV show (“The Andy Griffith Show”) and my favorite stand-up comedy routine.
The comedy routine is called “What it Was, Was Football,” and it was recorded by Griffith way back in 1953. Griffith plays a hickish country preacher who sees a college football game for the first time and wonders what the heck it is. Again, it’s pure comic brilliance.
I was sad when I heard the news that Andy had passed away. But I’m so thankful that he had given me so many laughs and so many great memories. What a wonderful, talented person he was.
And if you want to do yourself a favor, do this: Get a hold of the film “No Time For Sergeants,” and make time this summer to watch it with your son. Or your dad.
It’ll give you a memory you’ll never forget. Trust me.