How outrageous can you get on TV? Well, whether it’s replaying a Sarah Palin porno with actor Thandie Newton or asking comedian Russell Brand to dial a male fantasy hotline posing as Aladdin, it seems BBC host Graham Norton has given almost everything a shot. And got away with it, if you don't count the lone public apology for poking fun at Albania. "We want to be funny, that’s our main goal. Yes, most of the content is sexual, but that’s because sex is funny," Norton says with a grin. "If you're out with your friends, those are the stories you’d want to tell."
Though it might seem like BBC Entertainment, the channel that airs the Graham Norton Show every Saturday, has no censor board, the comic host insists there are rules. "But they're flexible," he reveals, adding, "We negotiate with the censors, especially about language. For instance, we say 'if we take out two sh*%s, can we have one f*^%. It's also about the guests. If we have a little old lady on the show and she swears, it somehow seems less offensive than if a pop star does."
Ask him if there are any jokes that are off limits to him personally, and he bats back, "We try and avoid making fun of people who are vulnerable. We used to make jokes about Amy Winehouse as long as she was just getting drunk and doing drugs, but then it seemed like she was going to die, so we stopped."
And despite his devil-may-care quips, Norton admits he does sometimes regret his jokes. "I feel bad if they’re people I know. Sometimes, I’ll see someone walking towards me in a hallway and I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God, I just made a joke about how fat you are.’"
Bringing in a Hollywood actor or an international celebrity and placing him/her between two oddball Brit comics makes the format of the show inherently funny. So what’s his secret for getting celebrities to dish the dirty on the show? "Well, I think they feel safer because they're not alone on my couch. Rihanna was here and telling us this funny episode about someone recognising her while she was getting a bikini wax. I don’t think she would have told that story if it weren't for Collin Farrell sitting there saying, ‘Please tell us.’
Despite his guests being some of the most famous people on the show, Norton admits that he’s been surprised on many occasions. "Serious actors will surprise you because you always see them in these intense roles. Dustin Hoffman, for example, is a clown. And you’d think that Lady Gaga would be a nightmare because of how famous she is, but she was so professional. She said thank you to everybody including the production staff during the rehearsals, and the next day she sent flowers. Nobody has ever done that."
The comedian is also looking forward to having some Bollywood celebrities on his show soon "because it would be rude not to, now that it’s airing in India," and is looking for suggestions. We suggest Shah Rukh Khan and he responds enthusiastically, "Oh yes, he’s handsome." Any parting shots to local viewers who don't know what to expect from the show? Norton signs off, "Ah yes, good luck, India".
Norton’s dress code
Being openly gay and having one of the most flamboyant wardrobes to be found on TV, Norton offers his top three
fashion tips for men.
1.Never wear three things that match, whether it’s colour, pattern or texture, unless you want to look like you’re in a cult.
2.Hats are for the brave... or the foolish
3.Never wear a heel that’s over an inch tall or you’ll look like Tom Cruise.