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Norton, Graham (1963-)

Presenter, Actor

Main image of Norton, Graham (1963-)

A camp Irish comedian whose particular stock-in-trade of highly explicit sexual innuendo would have been unthinkable (and unbroadcastable) a generation ago, Graham Norton has established himself as a leading figure in popular entertainment. He was born on 4th April 1963 in Dublin, and studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. After an early career doing stand-up comedy, he made his debut TV appearance in episodes of the quick-fire panel show Just A Minute (Carlton, 1994-5), though he first achieved wide recognition in the recurring role of the hysterical Father Noel Furlong in Father Ted (Channel 4, 1996-8).

The first TV chat show he presented was The Jack Docherty Show (Channel 5, 1997), often renamed Not The Jack Docherty Show when a guest host stepped in. Norton did such a sterling job at combining the conventional talk show elements with irreverent wit and innuendo, that he was given his own weekly programme, So Graham Norton (Channel 4, 1998-2002). The formula was comparatively simple. Norton would interview a celebrity, often chosen for their ironic or kitsch reputation (Joan Collins and Elton John, to name but two) while eliciting confessions of the most dubious nature from the studio audience. However, Norton's puckish energy was such that he won three consecutive BAFTAs for the programme from 2000-2.

This was followed by the nightly late-night programme V Graham Norton (Channel 4, 2002-3), which stuck to the same template, though the demands of daily transmission meant that this rapidly ran the risk of seeming stale. While The Graham Norton Effect (Comedy Central, 2004) also barely deviated from the original format, the US setting gave the jokes and routines a freshness and subversive aspect which had previously been lacking. Given American sensitivity about television smut, this was an impressive achievement.

He then signed a contract with the BBC, though his first programmes were disappointing: the chat show The Bigger Picture (BBC, 2005- ), was uncharacteristically mild and devoid of most of his innuendo, and his presentation of Strictly Dance Fever (BBC, 2005) was certainly camp, but very little else. In addition to countless guest spots on such programmes as The Daily Show With Jon Stewart (US, 2003-4) and Friday Night With Jonathan Ross (BBC, 2004), he has increasingly moved towards acting, appearing in such sitcoms as Absolutely Fabulous (BBC, 2002) and the metaphysical romantic comedy I Could Never Be Your Woman (US, 2006).

Alexander Larman

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