Irish stars blazing a trail on British telly
memoirs) his vices and his humiliations. He hasn’t sought to conceal his mistakes or his disappointments in love. (When an ex-boyfriend was approached by a newspaper to do a kiss and tell, it was Norton who negotiated the fee.) Norton doesn’t deny his vulnerabilities, but rather skewers them for comic effect. Overall, it adds up to make him arguably one of the most popular Irishmen living abroad.
“Maybe I’m lucky in that I like my mother,” he says. “We get on. I noticed my friends really engage with my mom when they meet her. She’s going to be 87 this year but she’s still very... she’s interested. And you realise that of all the faculties that we try to hold on to as we get older — like my mother can’t really do stairs right now, although I think she’ll be going to get back on stairs — but she’s kept her curiosity and I think that is key to getting you through. My mother is constantly planning to get the kitchen painted, she’s getting new curtains... I’m 55 and I look at my house and I go, ‘it’ll see me out. That’s fine. It’ll see me out. Keep planning.”
Interestingly, the mother-child relationship as an ultimately redemptive thing is at the heart of the story in A Keeper.
“I don’t have a kid,” he says. “But I have a mother and I have enough friends who are parents. I don’t know whether all parents are like this or whether it’s a neurotic modern thing where you live your life in guilt. That you are not good enough. At every moment you are failing in some way. Whereas I think parents didn’t have that before.
“The prevailing attitude used to be ‘they’ve got shoes and they had some food a minute ago so I think my job is done’. And I think good parenting is probably somewhere in the middle, but most people aren’t there. Most people are either neglectful or overly cautious. I think if I was a parent I would definitely be overly cautious, I would lock a child in a room, they could come out when they were 18. Maybe 23.”
With an exciting new career in development, things are looking pretty good for Norton. He only drinks when he goes out these days — not because he’s reformed, on the contrary, he cheerfully admits that on a night out he “drinks like a fish” but “because somebody said to me, those are empty calories. If you drink a bottle of wine while you’re watching telly — I like the taste of wine, but getting slightly tipsy watching telly doesn’t make watching telly any better — and you’ve consumed a shed load of calories you didn’t need to consume... You get drunk but Sharon Horgan: BAFTA winning Sharon Horgan has become one of the most influential figures in British comedy. She started her telly career as a co-presenter on The Friday Night Project, and went on to win respect as a writer and performer via the darkly comic series Pulling. The same jaundiced, sometimes-bleak tone which attracted Pulling’s cult following has remained her signature, even as her shows, such as Catastrophe and most recently Motherland, won her wider, and eventually global, audiences.
Graham Linehan: A former Hot Press journalist, Linehan hit the big time with Father Ted, the daring, irreverently comic series he created with Arthur Matthews. The pair took it to the UK, where it found a home at Channel 4. It quickly scooped several BAFTAS and secured Linehan’s place in British comedy’s hall of fame. Since then, he’s helped mastermind a string of hits including Black Books, The IT Crowd and, most recently, Motherland co-written with his wife Helen Linehan and Sharon Horgan.
Laura Whitmore: Co Wicklow’s most famous bombshell blonde got her big break into UK TV when she won MTV’S talent search Pick Me MTV. Since then, career highlights include co-presenting I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. This year, she presented the ITV2 series Survival of The Fittest.
Life imitating art .... Graham Norton posing beside a portrait of himself and (left) pictured on a cruise with his ex-partner Trevor Patterson