Graham Norton

For other people named Graham Norton, see Graham Norton (disambiguation).
Graham Norton

Norton in 2004
Born Graham William Walker
(1963-04-04) 4 April 1963
Clondalkin, Dublin, Ireland
Residence London, United Kingdom[1]
Years active 1992–present
Employer BBC (formerly Channel 4)
Home town Bandon, County Cork, Ireland
Television So Graham Norton
V Graham Norton
The Graham Norton Effect
Graham Norton's Bigger Picture
Father Ted
The Graham Norton Show
Eurovision Song Contest
Would You Rather...? with Graham Norton

Graham William Walker (born 4 April 1963), better known by his stage name Graham Norton,[2] is an Irish television and radio presenter, comedian, and actor. He is a five-time BAFTA TV Award winner for his 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.[3] 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".[4] Norton is known for his innuendo-laden dialogue and flamboyant presentation style. In 2012, he sold his production company, So Television, to ITV for around £17 million.[3]

Early life and career

Norton was born in Clondalkin, a suburb of Dublin, but grew up in Bandon, County Cork, Ireland. His family are Church Of Ireland. His father's family were from County Wicklow, while his mother was from Belfast.[5] 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 from University College Cork; he occasionally mentions this in order to win on-air arguments on his BBC Radio 2 show.[6]

Norton moved to the United Kingdom and attended the Central School of Speech and Drama.[7] He also worked as a waiter during that time.[8] Upon joining Equity, he chose Norton as his stage name (which is his great-grandmother's maiden name) as there was already an actor called Graham Walker.[5] In 1992, his stand-up comedy drag act as a tea-towel clad Mother Teresa of Calcutta in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe made the press when Scottish Television's religious affairs department mistakenly thought he represented the real Mother Teresa.[9]

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 panelist on the BBC Radio 4 show Loose Ends, in the early 1990s, when the show ran on Saturday mornings. 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.[10][11] 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 on the fictional "Craggy Island" off the west coast of Ireland. Father Furlong was often seen taking charge of the St. Luke's Youth Group.

Channel 4

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,[12] 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 (I.T.C.) investigated after complaints about this insensitivity were received 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, Norton 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.[13]



Norton at the 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 three 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 Lloyd Webber seeks to find the parts 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. The format 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.


Norton presents a Saturday morning show on BBC Radio 2, featuring guest interviews and music. It also features a "agony aunt" section with advice from Maria McErlane and Norton, called "Grill Graham". "Tune with a Tale" is where a listener suggests playing a song with a plot, summarising the story it contains, and "I Can't Believe It's Not Better" is a feature where a listener requests a song that was previously a hit, but might be considered particularly bad now.

In January 2012, Norton asked listeners to his Radio 2 show to help find his car, shortly 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."[14]


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 commentator for the UK heats of the Eurovision Song Contest, in a show to be called Eurovision: 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.[15] The 54th Eurovision Song Contest was held in the Olimpiyskiy (Olympic) Stadium, Moscow on 16 May 2009.

Norton's debut jokes received some positive reviews from the British press. 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 10th place, were sporting traditional dress, "which would be true if you come from the village where Liberace is the mayor."[16] The Times noted his highlighting of the arrest of 30 gay rights protesters in Moscow – "heavy-handed policing has really marred what has been a fantastic Eurovision."[16]

In 2015 Norton, along with Petra Mede, hosted the Eurovision's Greatest Hits concert show on 31 March at the Eventim Apollo, in Hammersmith, London to commemorate the Contest's 60th anniversary.


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.[17]

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.

In 2016, Norton published his debut novel Holding, published by Hodder & Stoughton, about a murder in an Irish rural community. [18] Norton won Popular Fiction Book of the Year award for Holding[19] in the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards 2016.

World records

On 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.[20]

Personal life

Norton with his dog Bailey in 2006, supporting Crusaid.

Norton took part in the TV programme Who Do You Think You Are?, to trace his ancestry. Despite the fact that he discovered his ancestors in the direct paternal line originated in Yorkshire and came to Ireland during the Plantation period, Norton said he was comforted to find that his family had resided in Ireland for generations.[5]

In 1988, while living in London, Norton was mugged, beaten and stabbed by a group of attackers on the street. He lost half his blood and nearly died, resulting in him being hospitalised for two and a half weeks. Norton eventually recovered from the attack and now openly jokes about it on-air. However, during filming of the BBC 2013 Christmas advert he, by coincidence, had to film in the spot of the attack (unbeknownst to the directors). He said he felt momentarily uneasy.[7][21]

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.

Norton has two dogs, a labradoodle called Bailey and a second dog called Madge, which he adopted from the UK charity Dogs Trust.

Norton was in a relationship with Trevor Patterson from 2010 to 2013.[22]

In 2014, Norton attacked the decision by Irish broadcaster RTÉ to settle out of court with opponents of gay marriage who claimed they had been defamed in an edition of the Saturday Night Show.[23]

In 2014, Norton publicly backed "Hacked Off" and its campaign toward UK press self-regulation by "safeguarding the press from political interference while also giving vital protection to the vulnerable."[24][25][26]

In October 2014, Norton released his second memoir, The Life and Loves of a He-Devil. It won in the Non-Fiction Book of the Year category at the 2014 Irish Book Awards.[27]

In 2014, he was named in the top 10 on the World Pride Power list.[28]

Norton has a shareholding of 2% in New Zealand winery Invivo Wines, and has released two vintages of Sauvignon Blanc with them – first in 2014, followed up by a 2015 vintage. It is sold in New Zealand, Australia, the UK and Ireland with Norton's proceeds being donated to Dogs Trust.[29][30][31]

In July 2015, the Bishop of Cork, Dr Paul Colton, hosted an evening with Norton involving 90 minutes of interview, questions and answers with an audience of more than 400 people. The event, part of the West Cork Literary Festival, was sold out.[32]


Year Award Work Result Notes
1999 Gaytime Gay Presenter of the Year Won
2000 British Academy Television Awards Best Entertainment Performance So Graham Norton Won
2001 Royal Television Society Best Presenter So Graham Norton Won [33][34]
2001 British Academy Television Awards Best Entertainment Performance So Graham Norton Won
2002 Won
2011 The Graham Norton Show Won
2012 Won
2013 Nominated
2013 Lew Grade Award for Entertainment Programme Won
2014 Best Entertainment Performance Nominated
2015 Nominated
2015 Best Comedy Programme or Series Won [35]
2016 Best Entertainment Performance Nominated

TV appearances

Main presenting credits

Other television credits

1996–98 Father Ted:
  • Hell
  • Flight into Terror
  • The Mainland
Father Noel Furlong Channel 4
2001 Rex the Runt: A Crap Day Out The Plants voice BBC
Rex the Runt: Patio Osvalde Halitosis voice BBC
The Kumars at No. 42 Himself BBC
2002 Absolutely Fabulous: Gay Himself BBC
2006 The Last Ever, Ever Footballers' Wives Brendan Spunk BBC/ITV
2007 Who Do You Think You Are? Himself BBC
Saving Planet Earth
  • Saving Wolves
Himself BBC
Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List Himself Bravo
Robbie the Reindeer in Close Encounters of the Herd Kind Computer voice BBC
2016 "RuPaul's All Stars Drag Race" Himself/Guest Judge



1999 Stargay Graham Solex Canal+
2006 Another Gay Movie Mr. Puckov Luna Pictures
2007 I Could Never Be Your Woman Taylor The Weinstein Company

Stand-up videos



General non-fiction



  1. Gerard Gilbert (19 October 2012). "Graham Norton: 'I had ambition at 40. That seems to have gone'". The Independent.
  2. Norton, Graham. So Me. Hodder & Stoughton. p. 4. ISBN 0-340-83348-3.
  3. 1 2 "Graham Norton sells production company So TV to ITV". BBC News. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  4. Bootboy. "Reasons to be cheerful". Hot Press. Retrieved 20 June 2007.
  5. 1 2 3 "Graham Norton". Who Do You Think You Are?
  6. "That's Dr Norton to you – comic gets honorary degree". Irish Independent. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  7. 1 2 Jones, Liz (3 September 2004). "Graham's growing pains". Evening Standard. Retrieved 28 November 2011.
  8. The F Word Season 4 Episode 12
  9. Turpin, Adrian. "Festival Eye". The Independent. p. 24.
  10. "Graham Norton: Naughty but nice". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 4 December 2011.
  11. Robinson, James. "Summer stand-ins steal the limelight". The Observer. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 4 December 2011.
  12. Cohen, Benjamin (27 April 2006)."Graham Norton: “I’m too old to be attractive to gay men”. Pink News. Retrieved 14 June 2011.
  13. Norton, Graham. So Me. Hodder & Stoughton. pp. 326–333. ISBN 0-340-83348-3.
  14. "Norton's radio hunt for his stolen car". RTÉ. 10 Jan 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
  15. "Eurovision: Norton to replace Wogan". BBC Press Release. BBC. Retrieved 16 May 2009.
  16. 1 2 "Norton's Eurovision debut reviewed". BBC News (BBC). 09:44 GMT, Sunday, 17 May 2009, 10:44 UK.
  17. "Most Popular Bio: Graham Norton – WE tv". 2012-07-20. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  18. "Holding by Graham Norton review – a solid debut". The Guardian. 2 October 2016. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  19. "Graham Norton and Paul O'Connell among prize winners at Irish Book Awards". 2016-11-17. Retrieved 2016-11-20.
  20. "Graham Norton breaks world record and raises £1 million with Big Chat – TV News". Digital Spy. Retrieved 11 March 2013.
  21. Norton, Graham (2 October 2010). "Graham Norton: agony uncle". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 28 November 2011.
  22. "Graham Norton 'splits from boyfriend Trevor Patterson' after two years together as he admits to living alone". Daily Mail. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  23. "Graham Norton 'furious' over RTE homophobia payout". BBC NEWS. 21 February 2014.
  24. "Benedict Cumberbatch, Alfonso Cuaron, Maggie Smith Back U.K. Press Regulation". The Hollywood Reporter. 2014-03-18. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  25. Ian Burrell (2014-03-18). "Campaign group Hacked Off urge newspaper industry to back the Royal Charter on press freedom – Press – Media". The Independent. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  26. Archived 2 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
  27. "The Life and Loves of a He Devil". Irish Book Awards. 14 December 2014. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
  28. "World Pride Power List 2014". The Guardian.
  29. "Norton's wine proving a hit with fans". Stuff.
  30. "Graham Norton's Own Sauvignon Blanc proves runaway success".
  31. "Your Community, Your West Cork, Your Southern Star - Graham to donate his wine profits to Dogs trust in UK". Southern Star.
  32. "Bishop Paul Colton Hosts an Evening with Graham Norton at West Cork Literary Festival". 20 July 2015. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  33. "BBC drama triumphs at RTS programme awards". The Guardian. 21 March 2001.
  34. "Programme Awards Winners 2001". Royal Television Society.
  35. "TV BAFTA winners: Graham Norton and Stephen Rea win coveted awards". Irish Independent. 10 May 2015.
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Media offices
Preceded by
Terry Wogan
Eurovision Song Contest UK Commentator
Preceded by
Eurovision Dance Contest presenter
(with Claudia Winkleman)
2007, 2008
Succeeded by
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