Sunday 26 October 2014

Ian O'Doherty: Graham Norton – sure he was never really Irish anyway

Published 28/01/2014 | 02:30

Mon dieu: Graham Norton never asked Thierry Henry about that handball
Madonna and her son David. Photo by Getty

If Ireland was a person, she'd be a groupie – a groupie who's had one too many drinks and wants the star to know she is their Number One Fan.

Garth Brooks is the most recent example – plenty of Irish people love Garth Brooks which, in a democracy, is their right. But even more Irish people love Garth Brooks mainly because Garth Brooks tells us that he loves us back.

But at the heart of every groupie lies an Annie Wilkes, the leg-hobbling nutter from Misery. In short, we expect certain concessions from our stars, and we demand to be their number one priority – and woe betide anyone who forgets that just because we love them they better love us back. And if we feel we're not uppermost in their minds at all times, then we tend to get rather prickly – to the point of quite fantastic daftness.

The latest example of this bizarre, blinkered parochialism comes in the rather unusual form of Graham Norton, who sits comfortably at the top of the TV chat show tree. As anyone who watches the show knows, he's a sublimely gifted performer who manages to navigate his way through the choppy waters of contractually enforced questions while bringing a much-needed sense of disdain for the pompous.

When Thierry Henry appeared on the show on Friday night, there was one question I wanted Norton to ask – what were his thoughts on the Anelka 'quenelle' scandal?

After all, they had been teammates, they come from a similar background and this undoubtedly eloquent, hugely respected footballing figure would surely have something valuable to add to the debate. Of course, it was always unlikely that Norton would go down that road – it's probable that the producers and the player decided that it simply wasn't worth the trouble. That was a shame, but in the increasingly rigid parameters for an interview these days, unsurprising.

So how ironic, and how quintessentially Irish, that Norton should indeed find himself in hot water for dodging a potentially awkward question about a hugely controversial hand gesture. But in this case, it wasn't about the quenelle, instead people are furious Norton didn't tackle Henry about that handball against us five years ago.

Now, nobody needs to relive the trauma caused by that particular sleight of hand – nor should we forget that we were the grateful beneficiaries of a few dodgy decisions in that campaign – but some people just can't let it go. And so a furious rabble of punters immediately went online to denounce Norton for not asking a question that none of his audience cared about.

The accusations came quick and fast towards the Corkman, with one typical post fulminating that: "Norton lost the chance to become legendary... Get your English passport and begone", while another complained that: "Graham Norton isn't really an Irishman anymore, regardless. I heard him on Matt Cooper a while back and when he was referring to British people at one stage, he said 'we'".

One newspaper was quick to hop on the bandwagon and stoke the fires of mischief – that's what a good tabloid does – but it was striking just how quickly some Irish people were prepared to strip a fellow countryman of his identity simply because he didn't ask an irrelevant question about a long-forgotten Irish controversy.

If Henry had appeared on The Late Late, then it would have been the first question on Ryan Tubridy's sheet. But to somehow accuse this presenter of not being Irish is truly taking a walk on the daft side.

In fact, some of the reaction has been so demented that I wouldn't be surprised if a campaign starts telling Irish people to refuse to pay their BBC licence fee.

Stay tuned next week when Dara Ó Briain appears on Have I Got News For You and infuriates Irish viewers by not talking about the scandal of Irish Water.

SEND YOUR SYMPATHIES TO THE FOLLOWING . . .

When Welsh thief Kevin Green was caught stealing diesel from a depot with his son-in-law, they were both restrained by the owner, Andrew Woodhouse.

Green suffered broken legs and a broken arm in the incident and is furious that the man he tried to steal from has been cleared of assault. In fact, poor Mr Green insists that: "I am the victim here. I have suffered far more than he did. I have nightmares and I haven't been able to leave the house since."

Obviously this is a terrible ordeal suffered by a man who only wanted to rob a little diesel and, as we all know, yadda, yadda, yadda.

But I bet local business owners are sleeping easier in their beds now that poor Kevin is house bound.

YES, OF COURSE, WE'RE ALL FURIOUS. UM . . .

So Madonna zimmered her way on to the Grammys red carpet and insisted she was still relevant and dangerous by wearing that ridiculous gum shield thingy she likes. In fact, she boasted: "Yeah, I'm grillin'. It pisses everybody off when I wear my grill, so that's why I wear it."

I know we live in sensitive times, but I doubt anyone is pissed off if she chooses to look completely ridiculous.

Bemused, yes. Perhaps a little embarrassed by her increasingly desperate attempts to stay relevant.

But pissed off?

It's been a while since anyone cared enough for that, Madge.

Irish Independent

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