Trouble on Tour – Norman Wisdom
Norman Wisdom was one of Britain’s most well loved and admired comics of his generation.But he was much more than just a comedian, for Norman was also a great clown. He had the most infectious laugh that brought tears to your eyes, without him even delivering a line. We captured Norman’s Live stage show Trouble on Tour, and this timeless classic is now available to licence.
Norman Wisdom (1915 – 2010) was perhaps best known for his original ‘gump’ character, Norman Pitkin. The series of films starring Norman in the late 50s and early 1960s, were some of the most popular British Films at the time, grossing even more than James Bond in the box office..
Norman Wisdom achieved a rather peculiar cult following, most notably in Albania, where his films were the only western films allowed. The Dictator Enver Hoxha, believed that Norman’s films personified a struggle against capitalism.
The character of Norman Pitkin, in his flat cap, always on one side of his head; and his suit two sizes too small became his trademark. The continuous battle as the downtrodden helpless and incompetent character against the upper class straight-man ‘Mr Grimsdale’ gained him a catch phrase; and even 50 years later, when we toured with him for a week, people would shout out ‘Mr Grimsdale !’ Norman Pitkin can also be see in our film on the Best of British Comedians.
Norman was an infectious and mischievous character. I can recall on the tour bus, when Norman asked the driver to pull over at a pub for lunch. He made the tour manager go into the pub and ask if they served ‘Butter Beans’ as he said he couldn’t eat there unless they did. On another occasion he told the driver he knew a shortcut, instructing him to turn off the main road into a small narrow lane.
As the driver navigated the 40ft coach down the lane, it became narrower and narrower, until finally ending up at a farm gate. Norman was laughing hysterically on the back seat, whilst the frustrated driver had to reverse two miles back the way he came.
In Southend, we were unloading the truck, when Norman came out of the hotel, dressed in a pair of long baggy shorts and a T Shirt; and proceeded to run along the sea front, laughing and joking with holiday makers as he went. He was 85 years old; and as fit as a fiddle.
When we went into the theatre, the stage manager approached us and told us that we were not allowed in with our cameras. Although we had already recorded the main show, we were recording some additional shots back stage. 5ft Norman marched up to this 6ft stage manager, looked his straight in the eye and said ‘OK if we are not allowed to film backstage…then I suggest you learn to be a comedian pretty quick, because you will need to go on tonight and do my act’ (the stage manager backed down and allowed our cameras in).
But Norman Wisdom wasn’t only a very funny man, he also had a heart. He was loved by everyone that knew him; all over the world, and even had a children’s hospice named in his honour, after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
Retiring in 2005 from showbusiness aged 90 years old, he died in October 2010. Norman Wisdom once quipped…
‘I was born in very sorry circumstances. Both of my parents were very sorry!’