Comedy king kills ’ em at the Zoo
Honestly. You come to the zoo to have a look at the animals, only to find some plonker in a blazer acting the goat in pet’s corner . . . Just why the comedian Norman Wisdom was at Dublin Zoo on this summer day in 1971, when a group of children with intellectual disability were brought to the Phoenix Park on an outing from Stewart’s Hospital, Palmerstown, remains a mystery.
The children, who ranged in age from four to 15, were joined on their bus by an Irish Times reporter and, as the article entitled “At the Zoo with Norman Wisdom” puts it, “three very gentle nurses”. Perhaps the young visitors assumed Wisdom was just a regular keeper – after all, Dublin zookeepers nowadays make regular appearances on the telly.
With his famously childlike sense of humour and fondness for visual gags, Wisdom was just the man to entertain a group of kids without scaring the horses.
His portrayal of a modest Everyman struggling against unseen larger forces – he liked to pretend to stumble and trip himself up on stage – made him a superstar in Albania, and apparently endeared him to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth when he repeated the trick on receiving a knighthood in the year 2000.
Our photo shows him posing in a pristine pets’ corner – where, according to the article, he “clowned around for the children and pretended to sweep up after the innocent goatlets, or to be terrified of their baby horns”.
The writer, who is not named, also notes that they “saw a baby rabbit which pleased the children more than anything else on display”.
But there was no sign of “the com- mon or garden cat which used always drive my mother mad when we were being brought to the zoo as children, because we apparently spent our whole time playing with it and ignoring the expensively imported fauna of a more exotic nature . . .”
Does the writing style seem familiar at all? The article is signed only with initials: MB. But if that’s not Maeve Binchy, I’ll eat an armadillo.