- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 23, 2005

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - There’s a recurring plot on “The Andy Griffith Show” in which outsiders from the big city — sometimes the state police aiming to set the locals straight, sometimes crooks stalking an easy mark — pay a visit to tiny Mayberry.

With a single bullet tucked in his shirt pocket, Deputy Barney Fife invariably finds a way to bumble things and confirms the outsiders’ bias about small-town yokels.

But by the end of the episode, Sheriff Andy Taylor has outfoxed everyone, and good old-fashioned country wisdom has once again trumped big-city sophistication.

It’s a classic story line of country comedy, one of the most recognizable exports of the South, a region that arguably is lampooned — and lampoons itself like no other.

“We understand that other people laugh at us,” said comedian Jeff Foxworthy, “but I think it’s also understood amongst us that even though we talk like this, we’re not nearly as stupid as other people think we are.”

Blending music with cornpone wisecracks, early country comedians found a wide audience on radio shows such as the National Barn Dance in Chicago and the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Uncle Dave Macon, Grandpa Jones, Archie Campbell and, most notably, Minnie Pearl, were Opry regulars.

In the 1960s, with the Federal Communications Commission scrutinizing TV for increasingly violent content, programmers turned to country comedies, including “The Andy Griffith Show,” whose fictional Mayberry was modeled after Griffith’s hometown of Mount Airy, N.C., “Petticoat Junction,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Gomer Pyle USMC,” “Green Acres” and the long-running variety program “Hee Haw.”

George Lindsey, an actor from Jasper, Ala., who played Goober on “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Hee Haw,” said Southerners have historically relied on a sense of humor to help them deal with the region’s poverty.

“You have to have something to laugh at when you don’t have anything,” he said.

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