Graham Norton: ‘As long as you feel good, who cares if you look wrong?’

Graham Norton gives off an unmistakable air of quiet satisfaction as TV Times sits down with him ahead of the start of another series of his hit chat show…

After nearly two decades as a chat show host, first on C4 and then on the BBC, Graham has learned a heck of a lot about telly.

High time then that TV Times asked him for the most important things that TV has taught him over the years. As you’d expect, his answers are not exactly textbook…

TV doesn’t matter!
“It’s disposable; it passes through people’s living rooms. Certainly a show like mine doesn’t linger. I notice that one day, for example, I’ll be quite famous walking around London, but come September, after three months off the box, I’m a lot less famous. It’s quite nice when I do stop for a while, because it makes me realise I could possibly have a regular life eventually.”

Clothes make the man…
“When you’re dressed up in a suit, you’re telling an audience: ‘I care about you.’ If you wander on in jeans and a T-shirt, you’re saying: ‘I don’t care’. It’s like washing – it’s polite! So if you look like you’ve had a wash and put on a suit, then people think: ‘He’s made the effort’, whereas if you come on the show and haven’t bothered to dress up, you’d better be good and funny!”

Colour is good
“I’m not afraid of colour and everyone says: ‘Isn’t colour marvellous?’ Yet I went to a fashion show and everyone was wearing black and I looked like the Dulux paint catalogue in comparison. And I was only wearing blue! I felt sorry for them. They work in fashion and clearly don’t like clothes or colour or they’re scared of looking wrong. And as long as you feel good, who cares if you look wrong? The same applies to TV. Obviously, I don’t wear the wacky suits I once did, but you’ll notice I still like a bit of colour.”

Take your own sheets to Vegas
“CSI would suggest that Las Vegas is a dirty place where lots of stray hairs and fibres – and worse! – lurk. Just think of all the murders they’ve solved by spotting them. I used to be addicted to CSI. I think I’ve seen every episode and whenever I’m flipping through the channels and come across it I settle down to watch until I realise it’s an episode I’ve seen already.”

The UK doesn’t do well at anything
“This is borne out of big sporting events and Eurovision. It’s true you have to go into these contests with some hope, but experience has shown us it won’t end well, even though people are always a bit surprised. It would be absolutely amazing if we did well at Eurovision and what a lovely job to present that. I’ve had a top five with Jade Ewen and 11th place with Blue, but other than that it’s been dire. I still love the job, though.”

Never ask questions you don’t know the answer to
“On my show we’ve noticed that fishing expeditions tend never to work. By that I mean turning to a guest and saying unexpectedly: ‘What do you think about that?’ Those questions tend not to go anywhere, because most people don’t think anything about anything. The show is much better if you know what the answer’s going to be – thanks to research and pre-interviews we do with guests – so you can plan accordingly. In other words, I prompt them to give me the answer or tell the story I’m expecting.”

Don’t be rigid with formats…
“We’ve always tried to make sure the show evolves and changes before something grows stale. For example, we dropped doing out-of-studio camera bits a few years ago because we got tired of them, and at the end of the last series we dropped the jokes from the beginning of the show. It was our least favourite part of the show and it was the beginning. It’s not good when the bit you hate most is at the start. So because we weren’t proud of it and didn’t think it was a great calling card, we let it go for now. We are aware you need something new now, so we might try out a new thing. Watch this space…”

The Graham Norton show returns on Friday September 25 at 10.35pm on BBC1.

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