Graham Norton says Gay Byrne's presenting style was 'so ahead of its time'

Graham Norton says Gay Byrne's presenting style was 'so ahead of its time'
Graham Norton, Pat Kenny, Maureen O'Hara, Gay Byrne

Chat show host Graham Norton has paid tribute to the "extraordinary career and life" of Gay Byrne following the broadcaster's death yesterday.

Mr Norton, who hosts comedy chat show The Graham Norton Show on BBC1, said Mr Byrne was ahead of his time when first hosting the Late Late Show.

"Isn't it extraordinary that even then when we'd nothing to compare him to we seemed to understand how good he was. His quality shone through even though as an audience we were clueless because he was the only thing there was," he told RTÉ radio’s Ryan Tubridy Show this morning.

"And yet, somehow we all knew that he was very good. It is only now when I'm home when I look at things on RTÉ archive and see those clips from back then, the audience looked like they were from a different planet, these women with hats and gloves and farmers with shirts too big for them and stuff in the audience and he's so modern.

He could be doing it now. His presenting style was so ahead of its time.

"He was the Johnny Carson, but he was all sorts of other people as well. He was uniquely just as comfortable doing one of them as the other. It was also him, you never felt he was putting on his telephone voice to talk to a politician or being more Dublin to talk to a comic, he was always just him."

Mr Norton said it was a dream come true for him to be interviewed by Mr Byrne on the Late Late Show.

"There aren't many moments in your life when you feel 'this is it, I've made it', but to be on the Late Late... It meant so much to my Dad, he wasn't well at the time, but he made it up to Dublin to be in the audience and it was very special.

Graham Norton says Gay Byrne's presenting style was 'so ahead of its time'

"It was towards the end of Gaybo's tenure. It was me and Terry Wogan and Gay, both of them were so nice to me. I had been doing my show for maybe two years but they both talked to me as if we all did the same job. There was no talking down to me. They weren't patronising.

"Afterwards we went into the Green Room and Gay was still the host. Making sure everyone had a drink. It felt like the place to be. I remember thinking to myself 'I must stay like this, I mustn't get jaded. I mustn't get tired. I must stay interested in the way that this man is'.

"I didn't learn I didn't listen. I never go to the Green Room. They [Terry and Gay] never got jaded. It was their medium and they loved it."

He said Ireland was lucky that Gay Byrne chose to work in broadcasting, which, he said, he had a natural instinct for.

"How lucky are we that Gay found it, he could have been doing something else. I'm sure he could have done lots of things. He had this weird instinct and understood the medium completely. Those people are so rare.

There was no question of him being a presenter, he was Gay.

"I don't know if Gay ever understood how important the show was. I imagine he did, he let the light in on so many subjects and he allowed people to exist, people who had not existed before and you went 'oh look, they're alive' they're in the world, they have an opinion, they have thoughts’. As a young person growing up it was incredibly influential.

"The way he would manage interviews and steer people, from difficult subjects back to lighter things."

Additional reporting by Digital Desk

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