We get it, dear reader. Just when you thought your daily queue couldn’t balloon any further with topical, witty late-night clips, in comes Your Friend Vulture to tell you that you’re actually missing out on the funniest host of them all. For all the anglophiles out there, withhold your sighs. Not everyone knows who we’re talking about! That honor goes to none other than Graham Norton, whose weekly series The Graham Norton Show is a master class in celebrity pairings, offbeat humor, big red chair hijinks — more on that later — and just all-around fabulous times. In a late-night space running rampant with Jimmys and celebrities breathlessly inserting watch X, see me in Y! into their mandated small talk, allow us to convince you to give Norton’s delightful hijinks a chance. You won’t regret it. But if you do, don’t come complaining to us.
Okay, so I’ve never heard of Graham Norton until now. What’s his deal?
Along with Jonathan Ross, Norton is one of the most prominent chat-show hosts in the U.K., where he’s been hosting his titular program on the BBC since 2007. He also does a bunch of television presenting and commentating on the side. Are you aware the annual camp-fest known as Eurovision? Of course you are! He’s been the main commentator for Eurovision for nearly a decade, so you’ve maybe heard his voice from there even if you’ve never seen his face.
Can you compare him and his show to any American late-night hosts?
Not really. But if you’re hard-pressed for an answer, perhaps the best way to describe The Graham Norton Show is a hybrid of James Corden’s format — Norton has multiple, genre-defying guests sit on a sofa at once, as opposed to individual interviews — and Andy Cohen’s dedication to meticulous interview research and alcohol consumption. (For starters, Norton would dare never succumb to asking a guest “Tell me about this blockbuster you’re in.”) And the cheeky demeanor, definitely the cheeky demeanor.
What’s the show’s format?
Like what us Yanks are accustomed to in America, Norton — who, we should note, has been rockin’ a very foxy beard as of late — begins his shows with short, timely monologues about what’s going on in the world, with a particular focus on Britain. (Shocker! It’s filmed in London and syndicated!) He then invites a few celeb guests to sit on his plush sofa, with perhaps an additional, more prominent guest joining them all later in the episode. The celebrity pairings are always fun, although they can lean a bit toward U.K.-centric faces if you’re not well-versed in that culture. (A perfect example of this would be a recent episode featuring Channing Tatum, Jennifer Saunders, Beattie Edmondson, Rob Brydon, Usain Bolt, and Florence and the Machine.) They chat, they giggle, they sip various alcohols. And then at the end, the big red chair comes out.
The staple of the show is Norton inviting random audience members to sit in a chair, backstage, to tell him and the celebrities an amusingly cringe-y anecdote from their lives via a video feed. If everyone thinks the story is funny, they get, in true Great British Bake Off style, the glory of knowing they told a good story and zero monetary reward. But if nobody’s feeling it — or even worse, if they get bored when it’s being told — the person gets ejected from the chair and flipped backwards. The following compilation video sums the segment up perfectly.
I’ll give you three clips to convince me of his greatness.
The main thing to remember about Norton is that he abides by the “let’s not talk about what you’re promoting” school of chat shows, which results in way more spontaneous, enjoyable moments such as … Liam Neeson recalling the Big Dick Energy of his ex-girlfriend, Helen Mirren, when he first met her!
Or Sir Patrick Stewart entertaining Hugh Jackman with a riveting tale of circumcision!
Or, lest we forget, Benedict Cumberbatch attempting and failing to say the word “penguin”!
Alright, you convinced me. Where can I watch it in America?
BBC America, baby.