Otis Campbell was 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.
As Andy and Bee Taylor told deputy Warren Ferguson, Otis worked as a glue dipper in a furniture factory Monday-Friday and drank all weekend. After a binge, Otis would usually lock himself in the town jail until he was sober. He had a key to the front door of the courthouse and the cell keys were 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 accommodated Otis’s drinking habit. Otis would often let himself in jail on the same day as a dignitary or one of Andy’s superiors was arriving at the courthouse, much to the chagrin of Sheriff Andy Taylor or Deputy Barney Fife.
Otis was first arrested for drunkenness on September 23, 1941 at 2PM, but was released as it was “his first offense”.
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 proclaimed, “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.
In one episode, it is revealed that Otis has a brother named Ralph, who is the town drunk of another town.
Otis is usually found “smashed, buzzed, tiddly, gassed, off the wagon and back on the sauce, or just plain drunk,” by Barney Fife.
A common joke on the show was having Otis see something genuinely bizarre or unexpected while inebriated. In his last appearance, he had an invisible dog named Spot.
In the episode “Ellie For Council,” viewers are introduced to Otis’ 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.
In the 1986 television movie Return to Mayberry, it was revealed that Otis was now completely sober and was currently employed as the town’s ice cream man.
Ironically, Hal Smith (the actor who portrayed Otis) was a teetotaller, according to Andy Griffith (Larry King Live, 2003), and never had even one alcoholic drink.