Interview with Graham Norton - Grooming by Mr Mullan's Apothecary Founder John Mullan

Graham Norton: ‘The BBC don't defend themselves robustly enough’

He’s had his struggles, but is successful beyond his wildest dreams. Now Graham Norton tells Eva Wiseman why he’s definitely sticking around for ‘the third act’

Graham Norton hair and grooming by John Mullan using Mr Mullan's Apothecary


Graham Norton: ‘It’s not my job to ask tough questions – it’s to make sure people have a nice time!’ Graham wears a velvet jacket by Alexander McQueen and turtle neck by J Lindeberg. Grooming by John Mullan using Mr Mullan’s at Stone Hair. Styling by Lindsey McLean. Photograph: Pal Hansen for the Observer

The joy of the Graham Norton Show can be summed up for me by one small interaction that aired in 2013. There’s Dame Judi Denchon the sofa, next to Sir Elton John, of course, against that backdrop like too much sugar, and Graham asks her if she misses her clubbing days.

“Do you know, I’ve never, ever been to a club,” she says, primly. And Graham’s eyebrows climb a mile as he says: “Judi Dench! You lie like a rug, I bumped into you in Heaven.” As the audience cackles and Elton hoots, Dench is shocked to remember: “Oh yes, they took us in through the back door!” Graham can’t help himself, “Well wouldn’t they?”

There’s nothing else like the Graham Norton Show, a programme that’s been running in various forms since 1998, a show where the remit is so clear – everybody must have a laugh – that they literally edit out moments that standard chat shows pull teeth for. Viewers, for instance, never saw Jon Voigt cry. That’s not what they’re for. The Graham Norton Show exists to present, less the fantasy dinner party, more the fantasy brunch: a collection of cheery show-offs giggling about bums. But if you think the programme is all dildos and dog poo, you’re not wrong – merely out of date.