by Daniel R. Coleridge
Irish funnylad Graham Norton has hosted a talk-show hit, So Graham Norton, in the UK for six years. Tonight on Comedy Central, he debuts an American version called The Graham Norton Effect at 10 pm/ET. The weekly, hourlong celebrity chatfest promises to be 13 episodes of racy, cheeky fun — more if it’s a success. Here, Norton tells TV Guide Online he’s “a little nervous,” but definitely ready to show us all a good time.
TV Guide Online: So you just taped the first Effect episode on Monday.
Graham Norton: Although we’ve been doing the show for six years back home, it’s daunting to start over. Obviously, you cannot judge something from the reaction of 250 people in the studio, but they had a really good time.
TVGO: Maybe they were just happy for free gifts under their chairs.
Norton: Right! They got T-shirts, and we had Sandra Bernhard and Marlon Wayans on. They’re both very funny. We also met a man who gets turned on by teeth-brushing.
TVGO: You mean he’s aroused by dental hygiene?
Norton: Yes, that’s the idea. He likes pictures of women brushing their teeth. We also featured incredibly lifelike dolls for lonely men that cost about $6000. Marlon Wayans got into it. It was kind of creepy. He did a lot of ass-smacking. I’m not sure how much of that will make the final edit of the show.
TVGO: You’re quite blond. How much “help” does your coif have?
Norton: Hair dye is like drugs. Every time you go back, you want more. I’m intravenously taking the bleach now.
TVGO: You definitely go rootsy, though. Aiming for a Sex and the City look?
Norton: I’ve never gone all the way blond. I have what we call in Britain a “shoe shine.” That’s where they pour bleach on tin foil and rub it on your head. They never do your roots, so it always looks like it’s growing out. It’s cruder than Sarah Jessica Parker’s roots.
TVGO: We heard you didn’t want Effect billed as a “gay show.”
Norton: Ultimately, I’m in it, so it is a very gay show! And Comedy Central seemed like a happy home for it. If America goes “Whatever,” we can go home. We have jobs back home in the UK. The worst that happens is we’ve spent the summer in New York.
TVGO: Speaking of gay TV shows, which one is your fave?
Norton: I think [NBC’s soap opera] Passions is the gayest thing on TV. It’s got witches, an orangutan dressed as a nurse and men who are required to take off their clothes to be treated for blindness! It’s really quite gay. It’s a very campy, funny show. They know who’s watching.
TVGO: Which one is your least fave?
Norton: I don’t mind Queer Eye. Mind you, I don’t know why it requires five gay men. One of them could do it all! Any gay man knows how to cook a bit, clean a bit and how to shave.
TVGO: Except maybe Jai Rodriguez, who’s useless, especially when he tutors straight guys on interpersonal skills.
Norton: Poor little Jai. We’re glad he’s there — he’s cute. But if I was a straight person, he would annoy me. He treats them like they’re so stupid. They’re only heterosexual; they’re not mentally retarded. He says things like “When your mother meets your girlfriend, make sure you introduce them and they talk to each other.” Well, yeah, of course! It’s not like there’s anything wrong with these men’s brains just because they’re heterosexual. They haven’t just been beamed in from another planet.
TVGO: Back to Effect. Who’s your dream guest?
Norton: My big ladies Madonna, Bette Midler, Meryl Streep and Glenn Close will always be on my list.
TVGO: Who’s the worst guest you ever had on your UK show?
Norton: Monica Lewinsky was quite difficult just because you couldn’t talk about “the incident.” We thought she’d be fun, but then she came up with this ridiculous list of things you could not mention. Given that nothing else has happened to her, that was a very tough interview. She just wanted to sell her handbags. Who cares? The only funny thing about the handbags was there was no Monica label inside. Just a big label that says “Dry Clean Only.” Oh, if only she’d learned about that earlier…
TVGO: Oh my. More dish, please! Got a celebrity boyfriend?
Norton: Sadly, no. Sorry.
TVGO: Are you pregnant?
Norton: [Laughs] No. I’m always trying, but no news so far.