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|The Andy Griffith Show character|
Otis Campbell portrayed by Hal Smith
|Portrayed by||Hal Smith|
Otis Campbell is the fictional "town drunk" in Mayberry on the American TV sitcom The Andy Griffith Show. Otis was played by Hal Smith and made frequent appearances on the show from 1960 to 1967 but stopped appearing toward the end of the series because of concerns raised by the sponsors over the portrayal of excessive drinking.
Otis works as a glue dipper in a furniture factory Monday through Friday and drinks all weekend. After a binge, Otis will usually lock himself in the town jail until he is sober. He has a key to the front door of the courthouse and the cell keys are hung on a nail near the cells (presumably, to accommodate Otis). The lack of crime in Mayberry and the laid-back attitude of the Sheriff's department, easily accommodates Otis's drinking habit. On one occasion Otis brings a suit to the jail on Friday before his binge so that he can change into the suit for church on Sunday without going home first. Otis often lets himself in jail on the same day that a dignitary or a superior of Sheriff Andy Taylor is arriving at the courthouse, much to the chagrin of the sheriff or Deputy Barney Fife, played by Don Knotts.
In the episode "The Case of the Punch in the Nose", it is revealed that Otis was first arrested for drunkenness on September 23, 1941, at 2 p.m. (a Tuesday) but was released because it was "his first offense."
A common joke on the show was to have Otis see something bizarre or unexpected while he was inebriated that was actually present, but which he would assume to be a drunken hallucination. Once, Sheriff Taylor locked a dynamite-laden goat in a padded jail cell to prevent an explosion. Predictably, Otis stumbled in after a night of drinking, and let himself into the same cell, only to find the mattress nailed to the wall (curiously, along with the blanket). Otis attempted to climb into the bed anyway, and naturally fell on the floor. Believing the peculiarity to be a result of his intoxication, he exclaimed, "First time I ever fell off a bed onto the wall."
If Barney deemed a situation urgent enough, he would sometimes deputize Otis. Otis often became agitated with Barney's dictatorial style, and a verbal shouting match would ensue. On the Danny Thomas Show episode that was the pilot for The Andy Griffith Show, Andy had deputized another town drunk, Will Hoople, so that Will could arrest himself every time he got drunk. It could be assumed that Andy had probably given Otis this same "authority," since Otis regularly "arrested" himself, and so he could be called upon to help when needed.
An episode in Season 1 reveals Otis is the descendant of a local war hero. The Women's Historical Society want to award Otis an honorary plaque, which causes Barney and the mayor to worry about Otis' condition at the upcoming ceremony; and, they pressure Andy to find a substitute. Otis, however, appears sober, clean-shaven and in a suit. He humbly gives the award to the town stating that he cannot take credit for "just being born."
In the Season 1 episode, "Bringing Up Opie," Aunt Bee is concerned with Opie's frequent trips to visit Andy at the jail because of the nature of Andy's work. This includes Otis' presence. Near the end of the episode, Opie is allowed to conditionally return if Otis is not there. Opie, then 7, responds "You mean when he's had a snootful?"
At one point, Otis buys a car which concerns Barney who stakes Otis out for a possible DUI. When Otis emerges from a party drunk, Andy and Barney intervene and trick Otis into believing he died while driving drunk. Otis reveals he had already sold his car.
Otis is usually found "smashed, buzzed, tiddly, gassed, off the wagon and back on the sauce, or just plain drunk," by Barney Fife.
In the episode "Ellie For Council," viewers are introduced to Otis's wife, Rita Campbell. In that episode, Otis is jailed for assault — the only time for an offense other than drunkenness. During a fight with Rita, Otis tries to hit her with a leg of lamb, misses, and hits his mother-in-law in the mouth (much to his delight).
Towards the end of the series, Andy mentioned he is now doing his drinking in Mt. Pilot.
- "Deputy Otis (TAGS Episode)". Mayberry Historical Society. Retrieved 13 May 2018.