One of the most successful entertainment presenters in British broadcasting Graham Norton has shared his experience of moving from Cork to London in a recent BBC Radio 4 extended interview.
The presenter, who grew up in Bandon, has a popular BBC Radio 2 show, is the face of the BBC's Eurovision song contest coverage and draws the biggest names to his sofa on The Graham Norton Show.
Raised in county Cork, Mr Norton knew “very early on” that he wanted to be an actor but said that he didn’t know how to go about being an actor in Ireland at that time.
“There wasn’t a drama school in Ireland. Clearly there were Irish actors, you know, there was the Gate, there was the Abbey, there was RTÉ, there were Irish people acting I just didn’t know how they did that, I didn’t know how they made the leap into doing it and so the only way I could think of doing it was coming to London and going to drama school here but that seemed like such an enormous thing to do,” he said.
He said that he didn’t leave Ireland, but “ran away” and initially went to America where he accidentally ended up living with a hippie commune in San Francisco who he said “changed his life”.
He said that although it sounds “so simple”, it was revolutionary to think that he could actually do the thing he wanted to do most.
Mr Norton set off for London and attended drama school with the plan to be an actor, but after a start in stand up and TV comedy, including the sitcom Father Ted, it was quickly the chat show that became his natural home.
Mr Norton appeared in three episodes of Father Ted as Father Noel Furlong which he said in retrospect was the “coolest job” he has ever had but that it didn’t lead to anything career wise.
“To be honest I think it’s in retrospect the coolest job I’ve ever had, it's a fabulous feather to have on my cap but it didn’t lead to anything. It came from nowhere and went nowhere. It was just this great thing.”
He said that he is “very happy” to have done Father Ted, a sitcom that still “stands up so well”.
“I think everyone does it when you’re flicking through channels and there's a Father Ted on, you stay and it still makes you laugh.
“I think in this country [the UK] people thought it was a surreal, hilarious comedy, in Ireland it was like a documentary,” he said jokingly.
Mr Norton said that his BBC chat show which airs on Friday nights, is “kind of reinvigorated” since Covid-19 restrictions as the team have had to “start again” with every bit of the show rethought with restrictions in mind.
The show’s celebrity guests can no longer bunch up on the same sofa and are instead sat on separate chairs, socially distant from one another in the studio.
There is also now a small audience who are also socially distant in the studio which Mr Norton said is “lovely” to have.
The show airs on BBC One on Fridays at 10.35pm.