Gra­ham Nor­ton

Gra­ham Nor­ton chats about his Ir­ish sto­ry­telling roots, a new se­cond novel and why he re­ally doesn’t mind not be­ing in­vited to the af­ter-show party…

My Weekly - - Contents -

“I Don’t Have Fa­mous Friends!”

Af­ter 20 years as a chat show host, Gra­ham Nor­ton doesn’t get starstruck any­more. He’s be­come used to swap­ping ban­ter with Hol­ly­wood A-lis­ters, Bri­tain’s show­biz greats and the planet’s big­gest pop stars.

But now and then, he ad­mits, sit­ting in his swivel chair and gaz­ing at his star-stud­ded sofa does give him a mo­ment’s pause.

“It’s true that some nights when I’m sat there look­ing at that couch with those guests, I do pinch my­self and think, ‘I can’t be­lieve this is my show!’” says Gra­ham with a chuckle. “It is in­cred­i­ble, and I try never to take it for granted.”

In per­son, Gra­ham is just as witty and waspish as he is on the TV, although a more low-key pres­ence. We’re meet­ing over cof­fee in cen­tral Lon­don to chat about the re­turn of his chat show to BBC1 and the pub­li­ca­tion of his se­cond novel, AKeeper.

Hob-nob­bing with the rich and fa­mous is a great job to have, but Gra­ham in­sists that it’s pretty much con­fined to the chat show stu­dio.

“I don’t have fa­mous friends, and the stars don’t ask me out to din­ner af­ter the show, ei­ther!” he laughs. “In fact, some­times I’ll see in the pa­per that they’ve gone out with each other af­ter my show, but in­vi­ta­tions don’t come my way.”

Hav­ing said that, Gra­ham ad­mits he did go to Kylie Minogue’s 50th birth­day party in May.

“I swear I don’t know her very well and it didn’t seem like a show­biz party,” he says. “It was just re­ally good fun, and Kylie sang!”

While the on­screen Gra­ham is a chat-show le­gend with a twinkly Ir­ish charm and a le­gion of snappy come­backs, off­screen he lives a qui­eter life.

He has a close cir­cle of friends and lives alo ne e in east Lon­don with his belo ov ed pooches, labradoodl le Bai­leyB (14) and res­cue terri er Madge, who’s slightl ly younger. He is eterna al­lyy sin­gle, and says any ppo oten­tial boyfriend would hav ve to t pass the ca­nine test.

“I couldn’t ima­gin e be­ingb with any­body who di dn n’t like dogs – even if I didn’t t ha ave dogs!” he says.

His idea of the perf fec ct evening, he says, is on ne spent watch­ing telly with a glaass g of white wine and his do ogs sleep­ing nearby. “I jus st love the sound of them sno oozzing.”

Gra­ham says dogs ddo on’t just of­fer com­pany, bu ut ther­apy. “It’s good to shasare your life with a dog, be eca ause dogs are ‘mind­ful­ness’ ’ upp the wa­zoo,” he says. “Whe en run­ning around a field goo­ing ‘la, la, la,’ the dog has non ideai that the end will come. Dogs only live in the mo­men nt anda that’s a good les­son.”

He adds with a laugh h th hat they keep his feet firmly y ono the ground. “I can re­cal ll evenings when I’m kissi ing g Jes­sica Chas­tain on the so ofa and an hour later, pickin ng up dog mess from the kitch hen n floor,” he says rue­fully.

Not con­tent to have con­quered the chat show w world, Gra­ham has forge ed a ca­reer as a suc­cess­ful novelist. His 2016 de­but ,a

“It’s good to share your life with a dog. They only live in the mo­ment”

mur­der mys­tery called Hold­ing, was a Sun­day Times best­seller. His se­cond, A Keeper, has just been pub­lished. It’s a story told over two time pe­ri­ods, that of a mother in the 1970s and her daugh­ter now.

“It’s based on a true story my mother told me,” says Gra­ham, re­fer­ring to his mum, Rhoda (87). “In fact, I had to cheer up the end­ing – the true end­ing of the story was pretty mis­er­able.”

His gift for sto­ry­telling clearly comes from his home­land. “It’s an Ir­ish thing,” he says. “I grew up in ru­ral Ire­land and ev­ery­one was telling sto­ries all the time about this neigh­bour or that farmer. The sto­ries were just in the ether and some of them were stranger than fic­tion.”

Not only was he lis­ten­ing to those sto­ries, but he has the gift for re-telling them in the form of a best-seller.

“I was tick­led with how well Hold­ing was re­ceived,” ad­mits Gra­ham. “I had no idea be­fore­hand how it would go. I’ve also been pleas­antly sur­prised at how open the writ­ing com­mu­nity has been.

“You’d think they’d be sniffy – there are only so many books pub­lished each year and writ­ers are prob­a­bly think­ing, ‘We’d re­ally rather peo­ple didn’t buy the books from the bloke off the telly’. I thought there might have been a bit of re­sent­ment, but no, writ­ers are nicer peo­ple than that.”

Writ­ing has given Gra­ham fresh pur­pose and the glimpse of a new ca­reer when he de­cides to step down from his job as our favourite chat show host. Luck­ily, it seems he’s in no rush.

“I re­ally do en­joy the process of writ­ing,” says Gra­ham. “But if it was my whole life, I prob­a­bly wouldn’t like it – it’s very soli­tary and would drive me crazy. But as a part of the life I have, I found it hugely sat­is­fy­ing go­ing into this world and recre­at­ing these months in other peo­ple’s lives. I’m very lucky to be able to com­bine writ­ing and the chat show.”

With Bai­ley and Madge With guests Emily Blunt, John Krasin­ski, Kylie and Tom Hol­land

TheGra­hamNor­ton Show is on Fri­day nights on BBC1. Gra­ham’s novel AKeeper is pub­lished on Oc­to­ber 4 (Hod­der & Stoughton, £20).

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