Fota Wildlife Park animal ranger Fiona Walsh is the latest protégé of comedian Bernard O’Shea in his new series 'Bernard’s Working Comics'.
Fiona, along with her colleague Liam McConville, took on the challenge of fine-tuning their funny bones in the hopes of entertaining a socially distanced audience from the stage.
When Bernard O’Shea visited Fota Wildlife Park, Fiona had no idea she would be asked to take part in the series, which follows the comedian as he coaxes and enhances the natural comedy of people working in various industries across the country.
Last week, Bernard worked with a number of members of An Garda Síochána and this week, the show will follow him as he engages with staff members at Fota Wildlife Park.
Originally from Ballincollig, Fiona did an environmental science degree at UCC, majoring in zoology after school.
She gained experience working with animals in a veterinary clinic in America and working with an animal charity in Spain that took in animals that had been in the circus industry or illegally sold as pets.
Chatting about this work, Fiona said it was both sad and rewarding from when you meet a new animal to watching them develop and grow.
At Fota for the past year, Fiona works with the primate monkeys at the Cork Wildlife Park, a job she enjoys.
“The primates are so intelligent and very social, they recognise you and they are very entertaining. They know the routine, but there is always a little teenage monkey causing mischief. It would put a smile on your face.”
Chatting about taking part in the RTÉ series ‘Working Comics’, Fiona said she was a bit shy but felt that she should give the show a go.
Fiona took part in a number of workshops with Bernard as well as phone calls before eventually putting on a 10-minute performance for a socially distanced audience, which she said went better than she thought.
“I didn’t learn off my script, I just rehearsed it, so when I was performing I forgot one or two bits, but I think it went well. There was a real adrenaline rush when I was finished, a buzz. I was pleased with myself.”
Fiona said she came up with her own material, but Bernard helped to steer and enhance the comedy elements of her own ideas.
“Performing was nerve-racking, the audience was spaced out, so it was hard to catch a group of faces, you ended up looking at people individually.”
The zookeeper said she almost backed out of taking part, but Bernard talked her round.
“I had too much time to think about it, it was worried about social media comments and Bernard was just telling me that no one was there to make a mockery of me."
Fiona said working with Bernard was a lot of fun.
“I would have known him from Brigid and Eamon and I used to watch The Panel and he used to be on that a bit. He was quieter than I would have thought. When I was showing him around the primates he was very interested and took photos to show his kids.”
The Ballincollig native said that she owed it to her younger and older self to take part in the challenge.
“It was out of my comfort zone but I know a younger me would have not hesitated about doing it and I think an older me will look back and be glad that I did it.”
Fiona said that when she got off the stage, she wanted to do it again and said she wouldn’t rule out trying out stand up comedy again.
“Never say never,” Fiona said.