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Last Updated: Monday, 15 December, 2003, 18:30 GMT
Graham Norton: Naughty but nice
Norton with Baftas
The comic won Baftas for So Graham Norton
Graham Norton has been signed by the BBC to help it revamp its Saturday night schedules. BBC News Online charts his career so far.

The Irish comic is one of TV's hottest properties at the moment, with his chat show finding favour on both sides of the Atlantic.

He was born Graham Walker in County Cork, Ireland, but in 1963 he changed his name to Norton - his great-grandmother's maiden name - when he discovered that the acting union Equity already had a Graham Walker on their books.

After working as a barman and waiter in London until his late 20s, he began to make his name in the entertainment world with his one-man show, Charlie's Angels Go To Hell, which ran at the Edinburgh Festival from 1992-97.

Described as a tale of "one Cork boy's sexual awakening on a San Francisco hippie commune", it earned him a nomination for a Perrier award in 1997 and helped him win best newcomer at the British comedy awards in the same year.

Graham Norton
Norton has played up his sexuality
He was given the role of hyperactive priest Father Noel Furlong in the hit Irish comedy Father Ted, and went on to host shows including Pride Divide and The Coming Out Party for Channel 4.

And the comic went on to become a regular guest host on Channel 5's Not The Jack Docherty Show and co-hosted game show Carnal Knowledge on ITV.

Norton's rise continued with Channel 5's Bring Me the Head of Light Entertainment.

But it was his chat show So Graham Norton - which went on air in 1998 - that made him a household name.

The late-night show won Bafta awards for best entertainment performance for two years in a row. He has also won six British Comedy Awards and an International Emmy.

Graham Norton
Some have complained about Norton's close-to-the-bone humour

A six-part New York-based radio chat show, Graham Norton's Big Apple Crumble, was aired on BBC Radio 4 from spring 2002.

And BBC America - the BBC's cable outlet for British shows - launched So Graham Norton in the US in 2001, giving the star his first taste of Stateside notoriety.

Two years ago he was reportedly valued at up to 6m by BBC TV, who offered him a deal that would have seen him move firmly into the mainstream.

His chat show also went five nights a week in 2002 and was renamed V Graham Norton.

Constraints

But he rejected the BBC's advances initially, preferring to remain with Channel 4, where he had more freedom to do his own thing.

Norton has admitted his sexuality has played a large part in his appeal and success.

He describes himself on the Channel 4 website as a "shiny Irish poof".

His exceedingly camp style gives him the licence to be exceedingly rude without being offensive, and his quick wit, put-downs and one-liners have made him a cult icon.

The combination of his fizzy, unrelenting, upbeat personality with top-notch guests who do things they would never do on any other chat show has contributed to So Graham Norton's success.

Royal gift

Cabinet Office Minister Mo Mowlam took part in the first dog "wedding" on the show, giving away the "bride", a bearded collie called Lalya.

And in a special Comic Relief edition of the show, the Duchess of York presented Norton with a lock of his idol Dolly Parton's hair on a velvet cushion.

Other past guests have included Grace Jones, Joan Rivers, Catherine Deneuve, Leslie Nielsen and Joan Collins.

Film star Dustin Hoffman was a recent return guest on the show - but the episode landed Norton in trouble because of offensive language used in a comedy skit.

'Scum'

In January 2003 Norton also found himself in hot water for a joke about Bee Gee Maurice Gibb, broadcast just days after the singer died in a US hospital.

There were complaints from viewers, and an angry reaction from Maurice's brother Robin, who labelled the comedian "scum" and vowed he would "rip his head off" if he ever met him.

During his meteoric rise Norton has also been criticised for being too camp and taking the gay stereotype to an extreme.

Some gay men have said he is reinforcing the idea that a gay TV star has to be over-the-top and in the mould of like Kenneth Williams or Frankie Howerd.

This has not stopped his career forging ahead. He is trading his nightly show for a weekly hour-long programme filmed in New York, called NY Graham Norton, beginning in January.

And a waxwork of Norton at Madame Tussauds in London has been one of the most popular exhibits there - even if some of its lines have to come with a parental guidance warning.




SEE ALSO:
Norton signs exclusive BBC deal
15 Dec 03  |  Entertainment
New York show for Graham Norton
05 Dec 03  |  Entertainment
Norton sets his sights on US TV
24 Sep 03  |  Entertainment
Bee Gee brands comic 'scum'
10 Feb 03  |  Entertainment
Red nose Norton and the Duchess
16 Mar 01  |  Entertainment
Mowlam in TV 'canine wedding'
11 Feb 00  |  Politics


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