Graham Norton: ‘I’m lucky – men are allowed to grow old gracefully’
Returning to make Friday nights worth staying in for, king of chat Graham Norton talks diva guests, being the ‘funny kid’ and why he’d never go under the knife…
With a glass of wine in hand, and a raft of A-listers on his sofa, Graham is back with a weekly dose of witty repartee with the biggest stars in the world.
Graham, 55, got his start as a stand-up comedian before landing a chat show on Channel 4 in 1998. Since moving to the BBC in 2005, he has become the nation’s favourite chat-show host and has written two autobiographies and two novels. The first,
Holding, was a bestseller in 2016, and the second,
A Keeper, is out this month. Here Graham – frank and witty as always – reveals more about his astonishing success…
How does it feel to be returning with The Graham Norton Show for a 24th season?
It blows my mind that I’m still doing a chat show, 21 years on from So Graham Norton on Channel 4. But I do genuinely enjoy and look forward to it. Even if you’ve had guests on before, you can never quite predict the chemistry on the night. Sometimes you get it wrong – like you forgot this ageing actress doesn’t like sitting next to beautiful young actresses – but mostly it works.
You’ve had nearly everyone – is there anyone else left to get?
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, and we’ve only had Jennifer Aniston once. Somebody in that group must hate us and the common denominator is Brad! We get a lot of repeat guests now, like Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep – so in a way you plateau, but it’s a very high plateau to reach.
We hear about big stars making absurd demands – fur rugs, blue M&Ms and so on. What riders have come
your way recently?
One guest was allergic to everything. In fact, the list of things she was allergic to was so long we thought, ‘How can you put clothing on and sit on a couch? How did you even get here?’ The nice thing is we only have to deal with these people for a day – imagine having to make her show!
Were you the funniest child at school?
My father, Billy, was a great teller of funny stories and my mother, Rhoda, is good with a snappy comeback. That
may be where I got it from, but I’m not sure I was funny at school. An ex-schoolmate told the papers I was popular, but one of us is misremembering and I think it’s him. When I was a waiter after drama school, I twigged I could get bigger tips if I was funny with customers.
You started as a stand-up. Would you return to that?
I get to talk to the audience before the show, so I get that adrenaline fix. Never say never, but I don’t think I ever loved it... I did it to make money.
You dole out sound advice each week in a paper’s agony uncle column. Have you had therapy?
I haven’t. Maybe I’ve just got mental friends and I’ve remained a little bit saner, because I’ve seen them go off the rails. In my friendship group I’ve always been the sensible one, believe it or not. You’re quite rich – are you much of a shopper? It’s exciting at first when you realise you can afford to go into designer shops, and when you start buying things you can see them thinking, ‘ We’ve got a live one here!’ and they pay attention. But I’ve calmed down a lot, because I’m inherently lazy. I’ve actually got good at the clear-out now.
So where do you stand on cosmetic surgery?
I've thought about it, but I’m probably too scared, because I’ve seen it go wrong and because that ship has sailed. I like to think I’ve grown into this face. I’m lucky because men have permission to age gracefully, and wrinkles aren’t so much of a problem – for us it’s more about not getting fat.
You’ve been doing your chat show for more than two decades. Any plans
Ito s triell ye i! ng the show. At some point, there’ll have to be a discussion about it, when they need to put ramps in to get me on stage, because it will be an added expense! But right now, I have no exit strategy. l
Watch The Graham Norton Show on Friday, 10:35pm on BBC One. Catch-up on iPlayer now.
Graham with A-listers Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan, Nicole Kidman and Nigella Lawson
Graham with mum, Rhoda Sporting a shockingly fashionable shirt early on his early career
As Father Noel in Channel 4 comedy Father Ted At a party in his honour in New York in 2004