Ray was a ventriloquist and had the sort of humour that fitted in well with the show.
Another one playing JAM in the sky... :(
A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute
GRAHAM Norton is touching a tree with one hand and holding his mobile up with the other, all the while trying to ignore the sound of his two dogs barking.
“Bailey’s being very annoying,” he says, before turning to the Labradoodle and snapping: “Come back here! Come on!”
The 47-year-old has escaped his office and his hectic schedule for a short walk, and is touching wood because he’s just claimed that in his 12-year career as a talk show host “no-one’s burst into tears, no-one’s walked off”.
You can’t blame Norton for being superstitious, given that his worth is inextricably linked to a fairly fragile entertainment formula: namely encouraging big name stars to come on his chat show and let their hair down.
Memorable moments from V Graham Norton and its predecessor, So Graham Norton, have included encouraging Mo Mowlam to pretend to ‘marry’ two dogs and getting Cybill Shephard to reveal intimate details about her relationship with Elvis.
But despite his reputation for making great television at the expense of his guests, the stars still come flocking, and recent interviewees on The Graham Norton Show have included comedy hero John Cleese and Hollywood A-lister Jennifer Lopez.
“We always aim to have good people on, that’s our plan. Some weeks are easier than other weeks.
“It really helps the energy of the show if the audience are really excited about seeing somebody.
“It does help to have that star power to kick start the evening,” he says, the dogs now having quietened down.
The Graham Norton Show, which is in its seventh series, is not as smutty as Norton’s previous fayre and he’s pleased to have moved on from using the double entendres that he’s known for.
“You know what? I really don’t miss it. If I missed it I would still do it, and that was the point, we took it as far as we could and now the show’s still fairly irreverent and it’s still fairly out there but it’s not that rude,” he declares.
The Irishman’s also happy with the format, which sees the celebrity guests out on the sofa with him throughout the show, rather than coming out one by one – “It really is like being at a party where a group have gathered and are having a chat” – and says he feels at home at the BBC, where his three-year ‘golden handcuffs’ contract is rumoured to be worth seven million pounds.
Whether this represents value for money for the license fee payer is a matter of opinion but the broadcaster certainly has him working hard in a variety of different areas.
His chat show aside, he also hosts BBC One’s hunt for a new Dorothy in Over The Rainbow and has just been appointed as successor to Jonathan Ross’ Radio Two Saturday morning show.
He’s also set to host the BBC’s coverage of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest later this month in Oslo, having taken over from Sir Terry Wogan last year.
But as 2008’s ‘Sachsgate’ scandal continues to haunt entertainers and with some Albanians apparently taking issue with jokes in Norton’s 2009 Eurovision commentary, is he going to have to watch what he says this year?
Norton is defiant.
“I don’t think anyone was upset about what I said last year, I think that was just lazy journalists looking for people to upset so they ring someone in that country and say, ‘If someone said this, would you be upset?’ and then they say, ‘Yes’, even though they never heard it,” he claims.
But the comedian, who once had to make an on-screen apology after making a joke about Maurice Gibb soon after his death, admits he’s careful not to offend people.
“You’re constantly thinking, ‘What will work in front of an audience?”’ he says.
He continues: “Eurovision is fun, it’s not really about anything, it’s just about a spectacle and I think people approach it with a nice frame of mind.
“I don’t think anyone takes it that seriously, you can’t, it’s a singing competition, but equally you’ve got to take it seriously enough.”