The family of the beloved zoo director and TV personality announced this week that the 74-year-old has dementia and will be stepping back from the spotlight

By Kate Hogan
April 09, 2021 01:08 PM
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Jack Hanna
Jack Hanna
| Credit: Steve Fenn /Walt Disney Television via Getty

Fans were saddened to hear on April 7 that Jack Hanna, the longtime director of Ohio's Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and a beloved TV personality, was diagnosed with dementia. His family shared the news in a statement, adding that Hanna, 74, is retreating from the public eye as "his condition has progressed much faster in the last few months than any of us could have anticipated," his daughters wrote.

Thankfully for his followers, Hanna's legacy lives on on YouTube, where hundreds of his talk show appearances are documented in exciting — and often hilarious — form. Here, a few of our favorites since his first visit to Good Morning America in 1983.

The Late Late Show with James Corden

Since David Letterman went off the air in 2015, Corden has hosted Hanna quite often, frequently pairing him with willing (or terrified!) celebrity guests for extra laughs. In 2016, Hanna had basketball player Amar'e Stoudemire and even animal lover Betty White a bit on edge with visits from Australian walking sticks and a very hungry Komodo dragon.

Good Morning America

Want to see Michael Strahan jump? Fast forward to the final moment of this clip, in which Lara Spencer tentatively reached her hand into a 'mystery box' to try and guess what animal she was touching — much to her co-anchor's fear and delight.

The Real

When Hanna paid a visit to The Real, his animal pals seemed to take a particular shine to comedian Loni Love. "I don't think I've ever met anybody this brave," Hanna said.

The Maury Show

During Maury Povich's holiday special in 2004, Hanna brought a whole host of animals out to entertain the kid-filled audience. But they all cracked up when an armadillo started doing its business live on air.

The Late Show with David Letterman

Hanna had a particularly special relationship with the CBS mainstay, though unfortunately, Letterman's official videos have been removed from YouTube and most streaming sites since his show ended in 2015. However, NBC4 Columbus put together a roundup on some of Hanna's early moments on The Late Show in 2010 in honor of the 25th anniversary of his first appearance on the show — check it out above. (Fun fact: Actor and comedian Chris Elliott also appeared on The Late Show a handful of times in character as Hanna.)

In December 2020, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium paid tribute to the director emeritus with a top 10 moments video — featuring in part his inclusion on PEOPLE's Most Beautiful list in the 1990s. Though organizations including PETA often spoke out against Hanna and his television appearances, in May 2018, Hanna received the Tom Mankiewicz Leadership Award for his work in conservation at the Los Angeles Zoo's annual Beastly Ball.

"A passion for wildlife conservation and education has been at the core of who our dad is and everything he has accomplished with the help of so many," Hanna's daughters wrote in their letter. "He has spent his life connecting people and wildlife because he has always believed that having people see and experience animals is key to engaging them in more impactful conservation efforts."

They continued, "Even though Dad is no longer able to travel and work in the same way, we know that his infectious enthusiasm has touched many hearts and will continue to be his legacy."