So Graham Norton
Irish-born, BAFTA Award winning television personality, comedian and actor Graham Norton first made an impact on British television as a result of his partnership with Channel 4 on “So Graham Norton” (1998-2002) and “V Graham Norton” (2002-2003). Celebrated for his flamboyancy and fast humor, he took home three BAFTA Awards, a British Comedy Award, a Broadcasting Press Guild Award and a Royal Television Society Award for his work in the first and a British Comedy Award for the latter. He broke into U.S. television with “The Graham Norton Effect,” which ran on Comedy Central from June to September 2004. After the failed attempt, Norton, who made his debut as an actor in the U.K. comedy series “Father Ted” (1996-1998), tried his hand at films and received supporting roles in “Another Gay Movie” (2006, as Mr. Puckov) and “Could Never Be Your Woman” (2007, as Taylor).
More recently, he further gained success on BBC's “The Graham Norton Show” (2007-present), from which he netted a 2008 British Comedy nomination. He also collaborated with the network on “Graham Norton's Bigger Picture” (2005), “Strictly Dance Fever” (2005-2006), “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria” (2006), “When Will I Be Famous” (2007), “Any Dream Will Do” (2007), “I'd Do Anything” (2008) and “Eurovision: Your Country Needs You” (2009).
Norton is an openly gay. He had been romantically involved with American writer Scott Michaels of “Dearly Departed Tours” fame for several years. He dated “Mr. Gay UK” Carl Austin in 2002. Talking about gay marriage in the United Kingdom, he said, “In Britain, they are starting to do a thing where they recognize gay partnerships. I think that’s a good idea. But dear god, I don’t want to get married. I came out of a 5-year relationship and I still have a house. If there was gay marriage, I don’t think I would. I don’t know why people get so excited and interested in being married. Gay marriage is one thing, but gay divorce? I’m sort of looking forward to gay divorce. That would be so vicious.”
Norton mentions “ET” as his favorite movie and “Ally McBeal” as his favorite TV show.
Childhood and Family:
Born Graham William Walker on April 4, 1963, in Clondalkin, a suburb of Dublin, Ireland, Graham Norton spent his early years moving around the country until age 14 or 15 when his family eventually settled in Bandon, County Cork. The nomadic life was caused by his father's job as an employee at the industrial plant, Guinness. Describing his home land, he said, “Well, Ireland, it was a place apart. Although it was very close to England and close to Europe, it was a world apart. It was a very old fashioned place I would say. But in lots of ways, I was kind of slightly outside the fabric of society, particularly because it was southern Ireland, because I was growing up as a Protestant in southern Ireland.”
He also recalled what TV shows he enjoyed watching as a child by saying “I loved ‘Lucille Ball’ growing up. I remember liking the ‘Flip Wilson Show’ that was on. I supposed I was just generally drawn to American programs more than British programs. British programs, it looked like Ireland. There were hedgerows and things, where it was exciting in America. There were no hedgerows in between houses. Shared lawns; it was very thrilling to us.”
Graham dropped out of the University College Cork and then relocated to San Francisco. He later moved to London and studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama.
The Graham Norton Show
After a stint at London's Central School of Speech and Drama, Graham Norton began performing monologue shows in a local pub and gained notice for his act in “Mother Teresa of Calcutta's Grand Farewell Tour.” The show also won him a spot at the 1992 Edinburgh Festival in Scotland.
Norton entered the world of broadcasting in the early 1990s when he was hired as a regular on a BBC Radio 4 Saturday morning show called “Loose Ends.” He was then seen on British television in three episodes of the game shows “Just a Minute” (1994-1995) and “Carnal Knowledge” (1996) and picked up an award as the substitute host of the late night talk show “The Jack Docherty Show” (1997). He subsequently was hired to host the comic quiz show “Bring Me the Head of Light Entertainment” (1997). From 1996 to 1998, Norton enjoyed additional attention with his portrayal of Priest Noel Furlong in three episodes of Channel 4's sitcom “Father Ted,” starring Dermot Morgan in the title role.
Norton's first big breakthrough arrived with “So Graham Norton,” his own talk show broadcasted on Channel 4 from July 1998 to March 2002. Famous in part for its wit, the adult oriented show won various awards, including a BAFTA for Best Entertainment (Program or Series), two British Comedies for Best Comedy Entertainment Program and Best Comedy Talk Show, and an International Emmy for Popular Arts. For his work on the show, Norton was handed three consecutive BAFTA Awards from 2000 to 2002, one for Best Entertainment Performance, a 2000 British Comedy for Best Comedy Entertainment Personality, a 2001 Broadcasting Press Guild Award for Best Performer (non-acting) and a 2001 Royal Television Society (RTS) for Best Presenter. He was also named “TV Personality of the Year” (2001) by the Television and Radio Industries Club.
Norton also kept busy with appearances on TV specials like “Comic Relief: The Record Breaker,” “The 100 Greatest TV Moments,” “FY2K: Graham Norton Live” (all 1999), “Ah-So Graham Norton” (2001), and “Si Graham Norton” (2002), both of which he also wrote, “Comic Relief: Naked Red Nose Ground Force in Practice” (2001) and “Graham Goes to Dollywood” (2001). He also appeared on game and talk shows such as “Ruby,” “The Big Breakfast” and “The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn,” and was featured in the BBC TV miniseries “Aristocrats” (1999). He then starred with Helena Cullinan in the French short “Stargay” (1999) and provided his vocals to two episodes of the British TV animated series “Rex the Runt” (2001).
Norton made a successful comeback after “So Graham Norton” with “V Graham Norton.” Also airing on Channel 4, the show featured celebrities and studio games. “V Graham Norton” ran from May 2002 to December 2003 and was nominated for UK's National Television Award in the category of Most Popular Entertainment Program in 2003.
Norton resurfaced in 2004 with “NY Graham Norton,” but did not make a Hollywood debut until he was hired by Comedy Central to host “The Graham Norton Effect.” The show aired from June 24, 2004, to September 16, 2004, and received a GLAAD nomination for Outstanding Talk Show Episode for the “Alan Cumming” episode. He went on to appear in American talk shows like “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and “Last Call with Carson Daly.”
Back to British television after the demise of “The Graham Norton Effect,” Norton hosted “Graham Norton's Bigger Picture,” a late night panel chat show that debuted on BBC One on August 1, 2005. He also hosted the Saturday evening reality TV series “Strictly Dance Fever” (also on BBC One), which ran during 2006.
Norton's collaboration with BBC continued in 2007 with the variety show “When Will I Be Famous” and the reality TV “Any Dream Will Do,” where a group of men competed to win the role of Joseph in the West End production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” 2007 also found Norton hosting “Most Popular,” “Comic Relief 2007: The Big One,” “The British Academy Television Awards,” “Live Earth,” “The Big Finish 2007” and “Eurovision Dance Contest” and resuming his film career with “I Could Never Be Your Woman,” a romantic comedy directed and written by Amy Heckerling and starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Paul Rudd.
2007 marked the launch of Norton's new chat show, “The Graham Norton Show,” on BBC Two. The format of the show is very similar to his previous Channel 4 programs “So Graham Norton” and “V Graham Norton.” Premiering on February 22, the show become a hit and is in its fifth season as of March 2009. In 2008, Norton received a British Comedy nomination in the category of Best Comedy Entertainment Personality for his work on the show. Norton also presented the reality TV series “I'd Do Anything” (BBC, 2008) and hosted BBC's music show, “The One and Only” and “19th Annual GLAAD Media Awards.” He began working on BBC's “Eurovision: Your Country Needs You” in January 2009. Two months later, he hit the West End with a revival of “La Cage Aux Folles” at the Playhouse Theatre.
British Comedy: Best Comedy Entertainment Personality, “V Graham Norton,” 2002
BAFTA TV: Best Entertainment Performance, “So Graham Norton,” 2002
BAFTA TV: Best Entertainment Performance, “So Graham Norton,” 2001
Broadcasting Press Guild: Best Performer (Non-Acting), “So Graham Norton,” 2001
Royal Television Society (RTS): Television Award, Best Presenter, “So Graham Norton,” 2001
Television and Radio Industries Club (TRIC): TV Personality of the Year, 2001
BAFTA TV: Best Entertainment Performance, “So Graham Norton,” 2000
British Comedy: Best Comedy Entertainment Personality, “So Graham Norton,” 2000