Robert Irwin and his sister Bindi have been public figures for awhile, but I don’t think I’d ever seen Robert talk for a prolonged period of time before Wednesday night’s segment on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. He demonstrated the virtues of a collection of animals with the exact same impenetrable enthusiasm of his dad and frankly, it was a real pleasure to watch.
Robert Irwin was only a few years old when his father, Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, died. While Robert has likely seen plenty of footage of his father at work, it is kind of amazing how much we turn out like our parents even when they’re not directly in our lives. Growing up as an Animal Planet super fan, Steve Irwin’s irrepressible joy when talking about a deadly snake has been burned in my brain forever. And here it is again, in a 13-year-old boy who gleefully coaxed Jimmy Fallon into holding a tiny snapping turtle named Donatella before revealing her 100-year-old counterpart, Sheldon.
I’m not sure why Jimmy Fallon is so terrified of animals, and I don’t really care. Robert talks him through his fears, real or phoned-in for drama, and carries us back on a nostalgic wave to a time when Steve Irwin hugged alligators for fun. Growing up in the spotlight has its dangers, but Robert seems well-equipped to handle the celebrity. Probably because like everyone else in his family, his true passion is for all creatures, great and small.