The Life and Loves of a He Devil By Graham Norton (2015). A Review by John Cook

he-devil

How can you not enjoy a man who is capable of telling in print the story of his having to extract a very stretchy, well used and filled condom from his dog’s rear end while walking him (a labradoodle, Bailey) in the park the day after a quite well spent evening with one of many men indeed to share his doona while the dog waited for any ‘crumbs’? His other dog Madge was named for the entertainer Madonna. Clearly this is a man who lives something of an archetypal lifestyle for the carefree younger gay man.

Graham Norton must surely be quite well known these days through his weekly chat show  that showcases celebrities that have something new to peddle, a current singer/performer and the (to me) hilarious red chair segment where audience members nominate to tell an embarrassing personal story and be judged. However, my earliest memory of him dates back to the brilliant nineties TV comedy ‘Father Ted’ in which he played a frenetic young priest called Father Noel Furlong. Most of the rest of his work is only something about which I may have heard though I have seen him in the soft porn ‘Another Gay Movie’ and guesting on AbFab. Consequently, much of the information presented in the ‘Work’ section was quite meaningless to me though audiences in the UK and US might have the advantage.

I confess to enjoying his personality as presented on his show and his ‘skill’ in bringing out the entertainment potential of his interviewees. Apart from his obvious Irishness, I therefore knew little. Apparently, this is his second stab at autobiography after ‘So Me’ and it has to be admitted that he presents as an interesting person with a wide range of interests (his holiday home is back in Ireland yet he hosts Eurovision) with whom it would be very enjoyable to share a glass of his beloved NZ Sauvignon Blanc and some conversation. I have also seen him in an episode of the UK WDYTYA.

He is a fine example of someone who came from a warm and accepting family background but who had the itch to be off and doing things in the wider world which led him to an incomplete BA, then drama school and the usual gay odd jobbing (including being a waiter and time spent in a San Francisco share house) before he was ‘recognised’ as Mother Teresa at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He eventually worked his way through radio to larger and more prominent shows on Channel 4 and the BBC and an attempt to broach the US market initially doomed by 9/11. There is little doubt that his lively personality and quick wit as a raconteur have been the basis for his current popularity. To this day he owns a house in New York where he can stay or let out while savouring all that city has to offer – though he swears his times there are less wild.

He makes no bones about his sexuality (he has even had the usual gay bashing) and the book devotes space to a listing of his long term partners (and references to others less noteworthy) making it clear why he has chosen them and how he may have contributed to his relationahip failures. At this stage of his life, he appears to be very happy with his two dogs as the greatest constant in his daily life.

The book is structured into 8 sections – Dogs (clearly important) – Ireland (understandable) – New York (fond memories) – Divas (hilarious) – Booze (interesting look at how he has made it work for him) – Men (no  surprises) – Work (needed) and Things I love to Hate (loud sneezing, grapefruit, beach holidays, vox pops, camera phones and the internet).

If you are not aware of Graham through TV, this is still an interesting read. If you are familiar with his work, you will clearly hear his voice in text and tone speaking to you.

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