Graham Norton on why he wants to go out at the top
Chat show king Graham Norton has revealed he plans to quit television within the next eight years, so that he is still young enough to enjoy his retirement.
Norton, 52, is one of the most watched people on television in Britain. His BBC chat show is broadcast at the primetime slot of Friday evenings and attracts the biggest stars from Hollywood, music and comedy. However, after spending nearly two decades enjoying banter and stories with the world’s top stars, Norton is now beginning to plan his exit from the public spotlight.
The question of when to retire is one that many people begin to consider as they move into the latter halves of their careers.
Norton’s revelation came during a discussion with his BBC Radio 2 co-presenter Maria McErlane.
He explained: “I’m not jumping tomorrow but it is in my head. You want to get out when you can still enjoy your life. Neighbours of mine worked and worked and went on this trip of a lifetime round the world. They had to be airlifted three times because they were too old to do this trip. They got stuck on every hike they did. So I don’t want to be them. You want to get out of work when you have still got time to enjoy your life.
“I do love my job. I might really miss it and then I will feel like an absolute fool. You can’t come back. You could only come back to do I’m a Celebrity or Celebrity Big Brother or really awful things.”
Norton also revealed that he is wary of allowing himself and his show to become stale, and thinks that it is important to know when to quit: “You want to get out when people are still watching your show.
“You don’t want it to be when people say: ‘That is still on, that is still a thing?’
“This is the 18th year of me doing a chat show. We’ve been working up to this moment of being on BBC1 on that prime Friday night slot, so we’ve always been inching forward over those 18 years.
“The thing no one wants is the inching backwards, where you’re kind of going: ‘Yes the cast of Towie can come on.’ That’s about retiring when you’re on top.” (Towie is short for The Only Way Is Essex, a reality drama programme popular in the UK).
The revelation will be upsetting to many of Norton’s fans, although at least his exit will not be immediate.
The Cork-born host also spoke about his love life, and how he has not given up hope of finding someone to spend the rest of his life with. The openly gay star admitted that he is incredible fussy and petty and that can get in the way of potential relationships.
“You have your own rules as you get older. I would prefer to live alone for the rest of my life rather than live with towels that were folded incorrectly.
“Petty is important. That’s why marriages break up. Marriages don’t break up because of big things.
“The older you get, the less right you have to be fussy and yet the older you get the fussier you become, so oddly when your standards should be dropping you find them getting higher. When you’re young if you meet a partner and they’re cheating on someone to be with you but then they go with you, you think: ‘That’s great.’ “But of course as older people we know they then cheat on you.
“So I’m careful. Why do you want to be heartbroken again because if you keep being heartbroken you’re a moron.”
McErlane then moved the conversation on to Norton’s new beard, which attracted lots of attention when he presented the Baftas last month.
However, he explained that it was certainly not a fashion statement, it was more the result of laziness: “Normally when I am on a break there is some reason to shave but this year I had three weeks off and I kept it. Beards are cool now but it’s so annoying. There are these shops now full of beardy w*****s and you sit in hot towels looking at other people thinking, ‘Please don’t think I am one of you’.”
When Norton does retire it will certainly be the end of an era. Throughout his career he has welcomed the hottest stars on to his couch and always created a relaxed atmosphere that brings about great stories and interviews. Samuel Jackson, Dwayne Johnson, George Clooney, Naomi Campbell, Lady Gaga, Meryl Streep are just a handful of the top stars that have been interviewed by Norton. There are countless more A-listers.
He revealed that one of his most challenging shows was when he had an intoxicated Mark Wahlberg on his couch: “It was very hard for the others to tell stories because he kept interrupting. Michael Fassbender was telling a story and I was sat there thinking: ‘Actually we’re doing OK here. He’s getting through his story uninterrupted.’ And I look over and Mark Wahlberg’s asleep! That’s quite relaxed, isn’t it?”
One other feature of Norton’s show that will be sorely missed by the public is the ‘Big Red Chair’, in which members of the audience are invited to sit to tell an interesting story. Norton and his guests act as the panel of judges and decide if the story was good enough to allow the person to walk, or be flipped.
The chair been the source of numerous entertaining and shocking incidents over the years. One poor man was dumped on national telly, as he asked a girl in the audience for a date, only for her to prompt Kylie Minogue to flip him. The chair has also been host to many more fruity stories from audience members wishing to get their moment in the spotlight.
Here is a short YouTube video of some of the best moments from series 16 of Norton’s show.