A Britain that experienced the psychedelic surrealism of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and the so-called ‘satire boom’, featuring such edgy programmes as 'That Was The Week That Was', no longer had any time for an old guard slapstick figure like Norman Wisdom. However, at the same time, Albania was experiencing a dictatorship that violently suppressed any such satire.
In the age of the Cold War, the country was controlled by Enver Hoxha [aka The Iron Fist of Albania], a neo-Stalinist dictator with a great hatred of the decadent, capitalist West.
Sir Norman's were the only Western films that were allowed to be shown during the dictatorship. Hoxha deemed that Sir Norman's films, in which his alter-ego Pitkin got the better of his bosses, were a Communist parable on class war
Although Norman Wisdom’s comedy was seen as dated and old-fashioned in his home country from the advent of colour television in the early 1960s, he became a legend in Albania. Sir Norman’s popularity increased even more through his charitable support for orphanages in Albania. In 2002, comedian Tony Hawks, and lyricist Sir Tim Rice got together and wrote a song called “Big In Albania” – the 87 year old recorded it with them [calling themselves ‘Norman and the Pitkins’ in honour of his hapless film character] and it was filmed in the country. It got to #18 in the Albanian Charts
When he passed away, in 2010, the government declared a national day of mourning for the comedian. Teuta Starova, the deputy head of the Albanian embassy in London, said: “There’s been a big reaction to his death in Albania, people feel very sad. During the Communist regime, when life was harsh and we were very isolated, he was the only window we had into Western culture. Through his films Albanians learned to appreciate British humour. Lines from his films became part of everyday life. For us, he was as big as Charlie Chaplin.”