The immensely popular talk show host Graham Norton talks about Dolly Parton’s mystical energy
He is the man who fearlessly tackles celebrities against a cheerfully camp, flamboyant backdrop. From his early success in radio in the 1990s to his present day triumphs as a talk show host, Graham Norton has been keeping audiences supremely amused with his particular brand of irreverent humour.
Ask him what he enjoys about his job and pat comes the reply over email: “I do like meeting people. If I didn’t, it would be a very poor life choice to become a chat show host! I love the energy you get from the crowd. We are lucky to have a very big studio audience of 600 people. It is still exciting to walk into that wall of applause, and the excitement that a big star generates is still a great thrill.”
And what does he most dislike about the job? “I don’t like meeting people!” he says quite contrarily. “Occasionally, it is hard listening to some guests because you know that what they are telling you is just not true. You think, ‘What?’ It is like very thin guests telling you that they eat burgers all the time. No one gets thin eating burgers. You want to slap them or at least to roll your eyes – although, I hasten to add. I’ve never done that on set!”
Norton is as big a celebrity as some of his guests but he says it does not come in the way of interviews.
“I’m well-known in that I work on television, but guests never see me as famous. Occasionally, a young British pop star will say, ‘I can’t believe I’m on your show. I’ve grown up with you.’ But for the vast majority, I’m just the schmuck whose job it is to interview them. It doesn’t cross the guest’s mind that we might be on an equal footing.”
And to ‘the most memorable guest question,’ Norton says: “Everyone will have a different answer to this question, but getting Dolly Parton on the show was a big, big deal for me. I love her. There’s something almost mystical about her. I call it mystical because she has a charismatic energy that’s just infectious. If she ever wanted to found a weird cult religion, she’d do terribly well! We would all live in Dollywood, sewing blankets and worshiping her. She has that power.”
The Graham Norton Show premieres on November 3 on BBC Entertainment at 7 p.m.