Graham Norton Biography
Birth Name: Graham Norton
Birth Place: Clondakin, Dublin, IE
Birth Place: Clondakin, Dublin, IE
A major force on British television since the early 1990s, comedian and producer Graham Norton served up brassy, naughty and irreverent humor as the host of numerous popular talk shows, including "So Graham Norton" (Channel 4 1998-2002), "V Graham Norton" (Channel 4 2002-2003) and "The Graham Norton Show" (BBC Two 2007- ). Originally hailing from Ireland, Norton burst onto the UK TV scene in 1992 as a guest performer and occasional actor on various projects. His impish personality and seemingly inexhaustible energy led to a steady slew of talk shows, which allowed him to exercise his love for innuendo-laden comments and pop culture, which was alternately tweaked and paid tribute by the comedian. He also became a much-loved host for a vast array of variety series, including "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" (BBC One 2006), and the venerable Eurovision Song Contest. Norton also shrewdly served as producer for most of his TV efforts, which helped to make his production company, So Television, a hugely successful entity by the time of its sale to ITV in 2012 for more than £15 million. Though widespread success in America largely eluded Graham Norton, his status as one of Europe's most popular TV personalities remained untouched.
Born Graham William Walker on April 4, 1963 in Clondalkin, a suburb of Dublin, Ireland, Graham Norton was raised in Bandon, a town in County Cork, where, by his own account, he enjoyed a happy childhood. He studied English and French at University College, Cork in the 1980s but dropped out after two years to travel the world. Norton landed in San Francisco, where he shared a communal house with other free spirits. While there, he also explored his sexual identity, taking both male and female companions, but eventually declared himself gay, due in part to the fact that most of the people in his life already assumed that he was openly gay. Norton returned to the United Kingdom in the late 1980s and studied at the University of London's Central School of Speech and Drama, where he struggled with playing heterosexual roles. A brutal mugging that left him hospitalized for two weeks in 1988 forced Norton to make a decision to take the reins on his performing career. He wrote comic material for himself that skewered pop culture and other figures, including Mother Teresa, whom he played by wearing a tea towel over his head. The popularity of his one-man shows led to an appearance at the 1992 edition of the influential Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Norton was soon making appearances on UK radio and television, and landed his big break in 1997 when he won the award for best newcomer at the British Comedy Awards for his work as a stand-in host for the talk program "The Jack Docherty Show" (Channel 5 1997-99). He was soon serving as the host of various quiz shows while also enjoying a recurring role as the relentlessly upbeat Father Noel on the popular comedy series "Father Ted" (Channel 4 1995-98).
In 1998, Norton was given his own Channel 4 talk series, "So Graham Norton," which immediately established his screen persona as a clever but naughty devotee of sexual humor and pop culture. Rather than promoting new stars and projects, the show's stable of guests were drawn from his own personal interests: vintage television shows and movies, as well as gay icons like Cher, Grace Jones and Liza Minnelli. The series, which ran for five seasons, proved enormously popular with a wide variety of audiences, and led to a second program, "V Graham Norton," which followed a similar format as its predecessor while adding a recurring bit involving a roving television camera that broadcast from points throughout the United Kingdom. Both shows helped to make Norton one of the most popular personalities on British television, though he also courted controversy on occasion, most notably in 2003 when his comment about the death of singer Maurice Gibb prompted Norton to give an on-air apology.
In 2004, Norton moved to the BBC, where he began hosting a new talk panel comedy series, "Graham Norton's Bigger Picture" (BBC One 2005-06), as well as the competition show "Dance Fever" (BBC One 2005-06). He also made an attempt to break into the American market, but both efforts - "NY Graham Norton" (Channel 4 2004) and "The Graham Norton Effect" (Comedy Central 2004-05) were met with tepid results. He found greater success in his native country, where he was in demand as a cheeky host for a variety of reality and competition series, including "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" and three similar follow-up series, which followed musical impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber as he sought a lead actress for new productions of "The Sound of Music" and other major productions. In 2007, Norton returned to the talk show format for "The Graham Norton Show" which expanded the antics seen on his previous efforts to an hour-long slot.
The following year, he replaced legendary U.K. media personality Terry Wogan as host of the long-running Eurovision Song Contest, which launched the likes of ABBA, Sandie Shaw and France Gall over the course of its six-decade run. While working on these high-profile projects, Norton also served as host of the panel game show "Would You Rather...? With Graham Norton" (2011), a joint effort between Norton's So Television and BBC America. The following year, he sold So Television, which had produced all of Norton's talk show efforts, as well as programs for Russell Brand and the long-running children's sketch comedy series "Sorry, I've Got No Head" (BBC One/CBBC), to ITV for £17 million. He continued his extraordinary streak the following year when he was inducted into the Guinness World Record for "Most Questions Asked on a TV Chat Show" for "Comic Relief's Big Chat with Graham Norton" (BBC 2013).