Go: Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild Live Show

by Cate on January 7, 2013

As a parent, I feel a certain obligation to help feed my kids’ passions. So when I saw that Jack Hanna was bringing his live show to a local theater, I quickly looked up ticket availability.

I mean … animals? With my kids, particularly Madeline?

It’s a no-brainer.

Especially when it means I have the opportunity to introduce them to someone who followed their passion and made a career out of it.

That was a few months back. The tickets were a little pricey. And I hesitated.

For a good month.

Month and a half.

And then a Groupon for the very show I wanted to buy tickets for happened to pop up in my e-mail box.

It was as if they knew.

And then. Then there was no hesitation.

I didn’t tell the kids about the show beforehand. As we crossed the street to go to the theater yesterday, they asked again where we were going.

“Well, we’re going to meet a very famous zoo director, and he’s going to bring some of his favorite animals and tell you some stories about his travels and research.”

Ohmygosh.Animals?Mommy, really?Animals?I love animals.I want to work with animals when I grow up.And take care of them.And love them.And be with them.And help them.Oh my gosh, Mommy, I love you, I love you, I love you, this is the best day ever.Thank you so much!

So said a very breathless excited Madeline. And her reaction was the best ever. And how I wish I could better show you her excitement, other than stringing all the words together without proper punctuation. It was pure awesomeness.

And exactly why I knew we needed to go.

When we entered the theater, we got a quick glimpse of Jack as he sat in the front lobby and signed autographs and took pictures with people that attended the earlier show.

We took our seats and I read the blurb in the program to them. Twenty minutes later, and he was on stage.

If you ever get a chance to see Jack Hanna in person, go.

The opportunity to see someone who has such passion for his job was such a gift. To me. And especially to my children. Knowing a lot of the audience were children, he spoke to them about following their dreams. And I loved that. He told them that if they worked hard and had enthusiasm for what they were doing, they would reach their dreams. And to do something they love.

When he was 11 years old, he started by working at his local veterinarian’s office. He offered to clean up after the animals, and they thought he would last a week.

He was there for six years.

When he became the Director/Zookeeper for the Columbus Zoo, he was looking for a job at a zoo, but the criteria was that it had to be close to a St. Jude’s facility because his daughter was being treated for cancer. The Columbus Zoo (currently voted the #1 zoo in America) fulfilled both requirements.

When he started there, it was run-down and the facility was in disrepair. Through his tireless efforts and passion, it is night and day different. (And when I spied the pictures of their polar bear tunnel on Pinterest, I about died. And added “Columbus Zoo visit” to our bucket list).

During his show, he and his assistants brought out about 20 different animals, most from the Columbus Zoo. Everything from a kangaroo, penguin, snake, and two-toed sloth, to a fox, lemur, owl, a 15-week-old mountain lion, and a cheetah.

The kids were awe-struck from beginning to end.

With each animal, there were personal stories that he shared, and videos.


Visiting zoos is the nation’s largest recreational activity. Above even things like football game attendance. Which is all sorts of awesome. Last year, there were 176 million visits made to zoos.

During his talk, Jack acknowledged his mentor, who was in the audience and from the area, and the Turtleback Zoo.  His spirit, fire, and passion for what he does, and the animals he works with, was such a fun thing to encounter and witness. And he seems to be such a good, down-to-earth person.

Through his career, he has visited all the continents at least twice (he travels 220 days a year). He has been to Rwanda many times to watch and research the silver-backed gorillas, but he said nothing compared to when he took his family with him. They traveled 8,000 miles to spend an hour with the gorillas.

Beyond seeing the animals and learning fun facts about each one, the stories that Jack peppered his show with were highlights as well. He said he gets a lot of questions about what to do if you encounter a bear, and his biggest piece of advice is not to run. A black bear can run a football field in six seconds, so unless you can beat that, it’s best to stay put. He mentioned his other tip, that when you encounter a bear, was to take off your jacket or backpack, lay it down on the ground, and start to slowly back away. Odds are that most bears will come and sniff the jacket or backpack, giving you more time to slowly move away.

He said that when he gave this tip last year at one of his shows, there were some guests from an Idaho park in the audience, and one of the gentlemen raised his hand.

“Excuse me, but with all due respect, it’s against park policy to leave your clothing or anything else in the park.”

And that’s when Jack said that if it meant a $500 fine or his life, he would gladly take off his pants and leave them behind in the park if he had to.

Once his show was done, he said with regret that he couldn’t stay for pictures like he did for the other show because he had a six hour drive to get to the Pittsburgh area for tomorrow’s adventures, but that he would sign autographs in the lobby for the thirty minutes it would take his crew to load the animals up into the trucks. Such a sweet man.


We skipped out on the last few minutes of his bloopers reel to get in line to get an autograph, and the kids were seriously awestruck to be standing in front of him, watching him sign a card for them. It shows you what a wonderful man and show that it was … when two hours earlier, they had no idea who he was. Yet hearing him talk and listen to his adventures and stories, they were clearly smitten.

After the show, the kids and I went next door to a trattoria for dinner (review coming later this week), and then next door to that to Strawberry Fields for a frozen yogurt dessert. On the way home, I was reflecting on our evening together. I honestly enjoy the kids’ company and our adventure of the show, dinner, and dessert was the perfect ending to the weekend. Of course there was a little bit of bickering in the theater (because Nick was leaning too much into Madeline’s space in his effort to see the stage better) and we had to drive all the way back to the frozen yogurt place because Nick forgot our dinner leftovers there, and nothing is ever perfect.

But it’s perfect in its imperfectness.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Joanne January 8, 2013 at 7:53 am

That really does sound like the ideal weekend activity for the kids. I’m so glad you guys had so much fun! And I’m keeping this in mind for when I have kids. :)
Joanne recently posted..Recipe: Pomegranate-Glazed Eggplant with Tempeh, Butternut Squash, and Ricotta Salata


Sister In-law January 8, 2013 at 8:24 am

I saw him last year in a live taping of the Late Show & he was great, very funny too.



patsy January 8, 2013 at 9:34 am

Sounds like a perfect show for your kids! How exciting for them… and I love that he shared how his love of animals grew into a career that he’s so passionate about… those are the people we need to expose our kids to while they are figuring out what they want to be when they grow up!
patsy recently posted..Shawnee Mountain in PA & Chili to Warm You Up


mandy January 8, 2013 at 9:17 pm

I am a huge fan of Jack Hanna. He literally turned around the Columbus Zoo here in Ohio. He frequently gives lectures at a local college and really seems like a neat individual. I am glad that you were able to see him!
mandy recently posted..Meeting Up


Patrizia January 9, 2013 at 11:53 pm

Sounds like a great time!!!


Jack January 8, 2016 at 2:54 pm

Saw Jack @ the Fox Theater in Tucson last night, 1/7/16.
We are big fans of Jacks’. Watch his shows, Late Night appearances and specials.
“Into the Wild” is a sponsored event, despite the price of admission, and they need their time exposure, just like commercials on TV! That being said;
His show is story tell, video, live animal(s), repeat, maybe 5 times in an hour and a half. Any true follower of Hanna will recognize the same videos or of something similar. His stories precede the video.
The highlight of the show was a Harris hawk in free flight to/from stage center; a King Condor doing the same thing and a Kangaroo hopping up one aisle and down another. A lethargic 5′ alligator, a porcupine on a leash and some other exotic cuties rounded out the short presentation.
For the price of $56 each for a balconey seat, I wouldn’t do it again BUT I would HIGHLY recommend it for someone who has never seen his TV show or has never been to a zoo or wildlife preserve, but with a caveat.
Some parents, grandparents or other “do-gooders” mistakenly think that this is a great learning tool for their babes in arms. It is not! Since it involves video in the dark and instructional adult conversation (he is not a good speaker), a small child’s attention level is not long. I counted it in seconds, then they fidgit, talk, scream and cry and the plaintive hue and cry of “Shhhh, quiet.” seems like a never ending echo across the theater. Other parents think it is cool to bring their spawn to this presentation in costume of an animal. Quite a distraction to the other children who are clad in pajamas or street clothes. And when adults laugh, it’s per se permission for all children to yell, squeal and just plan holler. Let us not forget the adults who are either illiterate and cannot read or choose to ignore the “No Photo” “No Taping” signs to get that jerky video or washed out picture of a 12″ kinkajoo swallowing a banana.
My humble opinion and subtle warning. No applause, please!


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