An Evening with Graham Norton

Graham Norton interviewed by Konnie Huq
York Theatre Royal

Graham Norton Credit: York Theatre Royal

Who is the UK’s best ever talk show host? It’s a tricky question.

Michael Parkinson had some great interviews back in the day (David Niven, the philosopher Jacob Bronowski, Emu) but some of them make rather grim viewing in 2022 (his chauvinistic chat with Helen Mirren in 1975 leaps to mind). The recent death of the excellent Welsh broadcaster Mavis Nicholson has prompted audiences to seek out her old interviews online, the best of which (Toni Morrison and Lauren Bacall, for example) are terrifically insightful and illuminating.

However, for pure entertainment value, Graham Norton would be my choice. After making his name with the Channel 4 programme So Graham Norton (1998–2002), where celebrity guests were invited to participate in all sorts of perverse silliness—Joan Collins gamely chatting on the phone to a masturbating glove fetishist, for example—Norton moved to the BBC in 2007 and hasn’t looked back since. After 20-plus years of broadcasting and eight BAFTAs, Norton has—dare I say it—become a national treasure.

To promote his fourth novel, Forever Home, Norton has embarked upon a brief tour of the UK, visiting York for the very first time. If you have already booked a ticket, then you can expect to watch an interview with him in the first half (with a different celebrity host for each venue), followed by a brief audience Q&A in the second.

On this particular evening, however, Konnie Huq (best known for her eleven-year stint on Blue Peter) was running late due to train delays, meaning that the first hour was spent with the audience posing questions to the writer-broadcaster. Norton responded brilliantly to the last-minute change and spoke entertainingly about a wide range of subjects—Eurovision, Father Ted, his funniest guest (Miriam Margolyes), his worst guest (Harvey Weinstein), his controversial beard—before ending the first half with an anecdote involving his labradoodle and an errant condom.

During the second half, Huq probed Norton on his latest book, which sees him returning to rural Ireland—a place he knows well having grown up in County Cork. I must confess that I have not read any of his novels, but it was interesting to learn that they are so different from his public persona. Whereas Norton is famous for his innuendos, eye-catching outfits and celebrity interviews, his novels touch upon the tragedy and darkness of everyday life.

While I preferred the looseness of the first half to the more rigid structure of the second, it was still a great pleasure to see Graham Norton in person.

Reviewer: James Ballands