RIP Don Knotts, comic genius

Don Knotts in The Love God?Don Knott’s death Friday at 81 is a great loss, even though Knotts’ real talent will hardly receive its just appreciation amidst the inevitable references to Barney Fife and Mr. Furley. Although the Barney character certainly deserves the accolades it receives, Mr. Furley encapsulates much of the tragedy that dogs brilliant comedians.

Thus Knotts achieved a kind of perfection on the Andy Griffith Show, and amazingly extended it further in a series of movies that Hollywood unfortuately pegged to the children’s market. But those movies, forced like many of the Marx Brothers’ best films into a fundamentally compromised format, allowed Knotts to develop his painfully nervous persona without the shackles of Mayberry’s rigid moral economy. Ultimately even that format was not commercially viable, however. And although Three’s Company’s Mr. Furley may be a beloved character for many, it represents our culture’s ultimate failure to find for Knotts a venue equal to his talent.
Second or third banana to John Ritter or Tim Conway in the Disney movies hardly does him justice, but his plight wasn’t much different from the Marx Brothers and such depressing ventures as The Big Store, or Buster Keaton appearing in beach-party movies, or Steve Martin and his low-grade family fare (most recently The Pink Panther).

You can read the LA Times’ obituary here. (Forgive the registration requirement, please.) Or my own appreciation of Don Knotts from 1990.

Signage Update

I’ve added some new signs in the course of reorganizing how I present them. I’ve mostly separated Chicagoland signs from the rest of the world and I’ve reorganized most of Western Avenue Art Gallery signs into geographical pages rather than thematic. This makes it far more likely that I’ll get signs posted, since it makes them much easier to post. Check out the four new groups:

Western Avenue
Western Avenue vernacular signs

Clark Street
Clark Street vernacular signs

Pilsen
Pilsen vernacular signs

Varieties
Vernacular signs from around Chicago

Put the X back in Xmas

Whatever the War on Christmas poseurs may say, Christ is all over the place in the holiday season. But how many blow-up Xes do you see on front lawns? How often do store clerks says “Merry Xmas”? And why don’t we call it Xgiving, too? It would make for a more efficient season and add more variety at the same time.