7 nutty things you never knew about Howard Morris of The Andy Griffith Show

Ernest T. Bass was also Mayor McCheese, Jughead Jones, Atom Ant and so much more!

Ernest T. Bass first showed up in “Mountain Wedding,” at the end of the third season of The Andy Griffith Show. With his frayed cap, black vest and tattered pants, the mountain man was the kookiest character in the Mayberry area. He was something like a hillbilly leprechaun, often hootin’, hollerin’ and hoppin’ around in the woods and the streets.

“If you were to ask me, this Ernest T. Bass is a strange and weird character,” Sheriff Andy remarked upon first meeting him.

Barney simply said, “I think he’s a nut!”

Thanks to the madcap performance of Howard Morris, Ernest T. Bass quickly became one of the most beloved characters of The Andy Griffith Show. But Morris was far more than a colorful character. As a voice actor and director, the Bronx native helped craft some of your favorite childhood memories. Let’s take a look.

1. He only appeared as Ernest T. Bass five times.

Though the character immediately comes to mind when you think of Mayberry, Ernest only turned up in five mere episodes. His final appearance came in season six with “Malcolm at the Crossroads.” But that is not all you can see (and hear) of Morris on Andy Griffith

Image: The Everett Collection

2. Ernest was not the only character he played on The Andy Griffith Show.

In the episode “Andy and Helen Have Their Day,” the two lovebirds try to spend a peaceful date alone by the pond. Of course, folks keep interrupting them. One of those pesky romance interrupters is George the TV Repairman, and geeky fellow in spectacles and bowtie. Yep, that’s Morris, who also happened to direct the episode. Morris also played an unseen WMPD radio announcer (“the voice of Mt. Pilot”) in “The Family Visit” and “Barney’s Bloodhound.”

3. He voiced loads of famous cartoon characters.

Morris was a man of many voices. His long association with Hanna-Barbera kicked off with The Jetsons, in which he portrayed Jet Screamer, the pop star who sang “Eep Opp Ork Ah Ah.” Some of his other notable characters for the animation studio included Atom Ant, Mr. Peebles of Magilla Gorilla, dozens of creatures on The Flintstones. He also landed a big gig with Filmation, voicing Jughead Jones of The Archies.

Image: The Everett Collection

4. He had a big hand in your favorite McDonald’s commercials and characters.

Oh, and Morris was the original voice of Mayor McCheese. Plus, he took over for Larry Storch as the Hamburglar in the 1980s. How did Morris have such an in with McDonald’s? Well, he happened to helm most of the McDonaldland commercials. He directed dozens of the spots. “My dad Howard Morris directed the vast majority of the original and now classic McDonaldland commercials,” his son David wrote in 2018. “He helped cast some amazing actors to play the various crazy characters.” Those included Billy Curtis and Jerry Maren from The Wizard of Oz.

Image: McDonald’s

5. He directed the pilot episode of Get Smart.

As you’re beginning to see, Morris’ credits in the director’s chair are quite impressive and overlooked. He also directed the pilot episode of Get Smart, which stands out from the rest for a couple of reasons. It’s the only black-and-white episode, for starters. And for that episode only, Max drives a Ferrari.

Image: The Everett Collection

6. He directed Doris Day in her final film role.

His work could be seen on the big screen, too. Morris directed several zippy comedy romps in the 1960s, including With Six You Get Eggroll. The cast was stuffed with famous TV faces, including Jamie Farr, William Christopher, George Carlin, Brian Keith and even Creed Bratton, who turned up on The Office decades later. But the blended-family comedy (which happened to arrive a year before The Brady Bunch) is historically significant as the final feature-film role of Doris Day.

Image: The Everett Collection

7. He entertained troops with Carl Reiner and Werner Klemperer during World War II.

Morris served in the United States Army Special Services, the entertainment branch tasked with entertaining the troops. His outfit included future TV power-players, including Carl Reiner and Werner Klemperer. Maurice Evans of Bewitched and Batman was the company commander! Reiner and Morris would later craft comedy gold on Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows. Modern comedians like Conan O’Brien and Billy Crystal credit their work, in particular the sketch “This Is Your Story,” for inspiring their careers.

Image: The Everett Collection

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