Graham Norton

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Graham Norton
Graham Norton 2004-12-04.jpg
Norton in 2004
Birth nameGraham William Walker
Born(1963-04-04) 4 April 1963 (age 50)
Clondalkin, Dublin, Ireland
MediumTelevision, Radio, Stand-up
Years active1992–present
GenresObservational comedy, Insult comedy
Notable works and rolesSo Graham Norton
V Graham Norton
The Graham Norton Effect
Graham Norton's Bigger Picture
The Graham Norton Show
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Graham Norton
Graham Norton 2004-12-04.jpg
Norton in 2004
Birth nameGraham William Walker
Born(1963-04-04) 4 April 1963 (age 50)
Clondalkin, Dublin, Ireland
MediumTelevision, Radio, Stand-up
Years active1992–present
GenresObservational comedy, Insult comedy
Notable works and rolesSo Graham Norton
V Graham Norton
The Graham Norton Effect
Graham Norton's Bigger Picture
The Graham Norton Show

Graham William Walker, known by his stage name Graham Norton (born 4 April 1963),[1] is an Irish comic presenter. Based in the United Kingdom, he is the host of comedy chat show The Graham Norton Show. Previously shown on BBC Two, it took the prestigious Friday night slot on BBC One from Jonathan Ross in 2010.[2] He also presents on BBC Radio 2 and is the BBC television commentator of the Eurovision Song Contest, which led Hot Press to describe him as "the 21st century's answer to Terry Wogan".[3] Norton is known for his camp demeanour, innuendo-laden dialogue and flamboyant presentation style, and has won the BAFTA TV Award for Best Entertainment Performance on five occasions.

In 2012, Norton sold his production company to ITV for around £17 million.[2]

Early life and career[edit]

Norton was born in Clondalkin, a suburb of Dublin, but grew up in Bandon, County Cork, Ireland. His father's family were from County Wicklow, while his mother was from Belfast.[4] He was educated at Bandon Grammar School, in West Cork, and then University College, Cork (U.C.C.), where he spent two years studying English and French in the 1980s but did not complete his studies. In June 2013 he received an honorary doctorate degree from University College Cork.[5]

Norton moved to Britain and attended the Central School of Speech and Drama.[6] Upon joining Equity, he chose Norton as his stage name, which is his great-grandmother's maiden name.[4] In 1992 his stand-up comedy drag act in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe as a tea-towel clad Mother Teresa of Calcutta made the press when Scottish Television's religious affairs department mistakenly thought he represented the real Mother Teresa.[7]

His first appearances in broadcasting were in the United Kingdom (rather than his native Ireland), where he had a "spot" as a regular comedian and panellist on the BBC Radio 4 show Loose Ends, when the show ran on Saturday mornings, in the early 1990s. His rise to fame began as one of the early successes of Channel 5, when he won an award for his performance as the stand-in host of a late-night TV talk show usually presented by Jack Docherty.[8][9] This was followed by a comic quiz show on Channel 5 called Bring Me the Head of Light Entertainment, which was not well received as a programme, but did further enhance Norton's individual reputation as a comic and TV host. In 1996, Norton co-hosted the late-night quiz show Carnal Knowledge on ITV with Maria McErlane.

In 1996, Norton played the part of Father Noel Furlong in three episodes ("Hell", "Flight into Terror", "The Mainland") of the Channel 4 series Father Ted, which was set in the West of Ireland. Father Noel Furlong was often seen taking charge of the St. Lukes Youth Group, a small church youth group. Norton gained particular fame in his native Ireland for this role.

Channel 4[edit]

After this early success, Norton moved to Channel 4 to host his own chat shows including So Graham Norton and V Graham Norton. As a performer who is not only openly gay,[10] but also camp and flamboyant, it was here that Norton's act was fully honed as a cheeky, innuendo-laden joker.

In 2003, he was the subject of controversy in the United Kingdom when, on his show on Channel 4, he made a comedic reference to the recent death of Bee Gees singer Maurice Gibb. The Independent Television Commission (the I.T.C.) investigated after complaints about this insensitivity were forwarded to it and eventually Channel 4 had to make two apologies: one in the form of a caption slide before the show, another from Norton in person.

Also in 2003, he was listed in The Observer as one of the 1000 funniest acts in British comedy (Though Norton is Irish, the bulk of his television career has been in the UK).

In the summer of 2004, Norton moved across the Atlantic to start a new venture in American television. The Graham Norton Effect debuted on 24 June 2004 on Comedy Central, and was also broadcast in the UK on BBC Three. In the midst of controversy surrounding Janet Jackson's Super Bowl performance, Norton was wary of moving into the market.[11]


Norton at 2009 BAFTA awards

In 2005, Norton moved to the BBC and began hosting the Saturday evening reality TV series Strictly Dance Fever on BBC One, as well as a new comedy chat show, Graham Norton's Bigger Picture. He also read stories some nights on the BBC children's channel CBeebies as part of Bedtime Hour.

In 2006, Norton hosted the BBC One series How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? in which Andrew Lloyd Webber tried to find a lead actress for his West End version of The Sound of Music. Norton has subsequently presented the 3 follow-up series: Any Dream Will Do in 2007, in which a group of males competed to win the role of Joseph in the West End production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat; I'd Do Anything in 2008, in which Andrew Lloyd Webber seeks to find the part of Nancy and Oliver for Sir Cameron Mackintosh's production of Lionel Bart's Oliver!; and Over the Rainbow in 2010, following a similar format to find a new Dorothy for a Wizard of Oz West end Production.

Norton hosted various other shows for the BBC during this time, including When Will I Be Famous? (2007), The One and Only (2008) and Totally Saturday (2009). Since 2007, Norton has also been a regular host of The British Academy Television Awards. On 7 July 2007, Norton presented at Live Earth and undertook a trip to Ethiopia with the Born Free Foundation to highlight the plight of the Ethiopian wolf – the rarest canid in the world. In the same year, he was the subject of an episode of the BBC1 genealogy documentary Who Do You Think You Are?.

Norton's chat show, The Graham Norton Show, began on 22 February 2007 on BBC Two. Although in a format that he had not been involved in for 4 years, it is very similar to his previous Channel 4 shows. On 6 October 2009, the show moved to BBC One, in a new one-hour format.

In May 2010, he stood in for Chris Evans' breakfast show on BBC Radio 2. Later that month, it was confirmed that he would be replacing Jonathan Ross's Saturday morning slot on the same station.

In December 2011, the panel show Would You Rather...? with Graham Norton premiered on BBC America in the time slot immediately following The Graham Norton Show. Recorded in New York, it is one of BBC America's earliest efforts at producing original programming, and is also the first panel game the channel has shown, either of British or American origin.

In January 2012, he called on listeners to his Radio 2 show to help find his car hours after it was stolen. He called it "The Great Car Hunt" and told listeners to "Keep your eyes out for it. It was filthy by the way."


Norton, along with Claudia Winkleman, hosted the first annual Eurovision Dance Contest, which was held on 1 September 2007 in London, England. The format was based on the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing and the EBU's Eurovision Song Contest. Norton and Winkleman also hosted the 2008 Contest in Glasgow, Scotland.

In October 2008, it was confirmed by the BBC that Norton would replace Terry Wogan as the BBC's presenter for the UK heats of the Eurovision Song Contest, in a show to be called Your Country Needs You.

On 5 December 2008 it was announced that Norton would also take over from Wogan as the presenter of the main Eurovision Song Contest.[12] The 54th Eurovision Song Contest was held in the Olimpiyskiy (Olympic) Stadium, Moscow. on 16 May 2009.

Norton's jokes during his debut received some positive reviews from the British media. The Guardian noted his comments on Iceland's entry, which finished in second place, had "rooted around in a cupboard and found an old bridesmaid dress from 1987" and the Armenian singers, who finished in tenth place, were sporting traditional dress, "which would be true if you come from the village where Liberace is the mayor."[13] The Times noted his highlighting of the arrest of thirty gay rights protesters in Moscow – "heavy-handed policing has really marred what has been a fantastic Eurovision."[13]


In July 2000 Graham was one of three judges of the Miss Lesbian Beauty Contest 2000 held at The Talk of London, Drury Lane. The contest was won by 42-year-old Carol Hutchins who wowed the audience with her sit-down comedy routine from a wheelchair. Graham described Carol as a "very bright, funny lady."[citation needed]

Graham Norton played Mr. Puckov in the 2006 American comedy spoof film Another Gay Movie. In 2007, Norton played Taylor in the romantic comedy film, I Could Never Be Your Woman.

Norton was involved in a high-publicity advertising campaign for the UK National Lottery as an animated unicorn, the stooge to a character based on Lady Luck (played by Fay Ripley). He has also advertised McVitie's biscuits.

In 2007, Norton featured in Girls Aloud and Sugababes' Comic Relief video for the single "Walk This Way."

In January 2009, Norton made his West End stage debut in a revival of La Cage Aux Folles at the Playhouse Theatre.

Since 2009, Norton has been the host of the comedy game-show Most Popular on US cable television channel WE tv.[14]

Norton currently writes an advice column in The Daily Telegraph newspaper. In October 2010, these columns were made into a book entitled Ask Graham, published by John Blake Publishing.

World records[edit]

On Thursday 7 March 2013, Norton broke the Guinness World Record for 'The Most Questions Asked on a TV Chat Show' on Comic Relief's Big Chat which raised £1,022,982.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Norton with his dog Bailey in 2006, supporting Crusaid.

Norton has stated that he felt "out of place" having been raised Protestant in a mostly Catholic Ireland, especially during the height of The Troubles. Norton took part in the TV programme Who Do You Think You Are?, to trace his ancestry. It was discovered that Norton's Walker ancestors were originally planters sent over from England to take over Irish land, who originated from the village of Wentworth, South Yorkshire in England in the 17th Century. Some members of his family had fought for the British monarchy during the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and taken part in the Carnew massacre. Another member of his family was later killed in battle by the United Irishmen. Norton said he was comforted to find out that his family had resided in Ireland for generations.[4] Norton is gay, and was in a relationship with Trevor Patterson from 2010 to 2013.[16]

In 1988, while living in London, Norton was mugged, beaten and stabbed by a group of attackers on the street. He says he lost half his blood and nearly died, and he was hospitalised for two and a half weeks.[6][17]

Norton owns a holiday home in Ahakista, County Cork, which is near to where he grew up, in Bandon. The house has a private beach and overlooks Dunmanus Bay.[citation needed]

Norton has two dogs, a labradoodle called Bailey (as seen to the right) and a second dog called Madge.

TV appearances[edit]

Main presenting credits[edit]

Other television credits[edit]

1996–98Father Ted:
  • Hell
  • Flight into Terror
  • The Mainland
Father Noel FurlongChannel 4
2001Rex the Runt: A Crap Day OutThe Plants voiceBBC
Rex the Runt: PatioOsvalde Halitosis voiceBBC
The Kumars at No. 42HimselfBBC
2002Absolutely Fabulous: GayHimselfBBC
2006The Last Ever, Ever Footballers' WivesBrendan SpunkBBC/ITV
2007Who Do You Think You Are?HimselfBBC
Saving Planet Earth
  • Saving Wolves
Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-ListHimselfBravo
Robbie the Reindeer in Close Encounters of the Herd KindComputer voiceBBC


Sitting in for Steve Wright August 2009 BBC Radio 2

Sitting in for Chris Evans May /July 2010 BBC Radio 2

On 2 October 2010, he began his weekly BBC Radio 2 Saturday show taking over from Jonathan Ross. The show airs from 10.00am-1.00pm and combines a mixture of music, chat and celebrity guests.

2011/12 Radio 2 Saturday mornings


1999StargayGraham SolexCanal+
2006Another Gay MovieMr. PuckovLuna Pictures
2007I Could Never Be Your WomanTaylorThe Weinstein Company

Stand-Up videos[edit]



  1. ^ Norton, Graham. So Me. Hodder & Stoughton. p. 4. ISBN 0-340-83348-3. 
  2. ^ a b "Graham Norton sells production company So TV to ITV". BBC News. Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  3. ^ Bootboy (20 June 2007). "Reasons to be cheerful". Hot Press. Retrieved 20 June 2007. 
  4. ^ a b c "Graham Norton". Who Do You Think You Are?
  5. ^ "That's Dr Norton to you – comic gets honorary degree". Irish Independent. 8 June 2013. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Jones, Liz (3 September 2004). "Graham's growing pains". Evening Standard. Retrieved 28 November 2011. 
  7. ^ Turpin, Adrian (20 August 1992). "Festival Eye". The Independent. p. 24. 
  8. ^ "Graham Norton: Naughty but nice". BBC News (BBC). 15 December 2003. Retrieved 4 December 2011. 
  9. ^ Robinson, James (14 August 2005). "Summer stand-ins steal the limelight". The Observer (Guardian Media Group). Retrieved 4 December 2011. 
  10. ^ Cohen, Benjamin (27 April 2006)."Graham Norton: “I’m too old to be attractive to gay men”. Pink News. Retrieved 14 June 2011.
  11. ^ Norton, Graham. So Me. Hodder & Stoughton. pp. 326–333. ISBN 0-340-83348-3. 
  12. ^ "Eurovision: Norton to replace Wogan". BBC Press Release (BBC). 12 December 2008. Retrieved 16 May 2009. 
  13. ^ a b "Norton's Eurovision debut reviewed". BBC News (BBC). 09:44 GMT, Sunday, 17 May 2009, 10:44 UK.
  14. ^ "Most Popular". WE tv.
  15. ^ 8 Mar 2013, 11:27 GMT (16 August 2012). "Graham Norton breaks world record and raises £1 million with Big Chat - TV News". Digital Spy. Retrieved 11 March 2013. 
  16. ^ "Graham Norton 'splits from boyfriend Trevor Patterson' after two years together as he admits to living alone". Daily Mail. 11 June 2013. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  17. ^ Norton, Graham (2 October 2010). "Graham Norton: agony uncle". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 28 November 2011. 
  18. ^ "Graham Norton Nabs BAFTA TV Award". IFTN (Irish Film and Television Network). Retrieved 26 May 2011. 

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
Terry Wogan
Eurovision Song Contest UK Commentator
Preceded by
Eurovision Dance Contest presenter
(with Claudia Winkleman)
2007, 2008
Succeeded by