Suited and booted Dr Graham finally gets his scroll-in-a-roll

It was all SO Graham Norton yesterday — the other three recipients of honorary degrees at University College Cork barely got in a look-in as the Bandon man finally got the scroll-in-a-roll his mother had long yearned for.

Suited and booted Dr Graham finally gets his scroll-in-a-roll

Tanned, suited, and booted, West Cork’s most famous export professed to feeling like he was on set in a college movie — even if the rest of us felt like part of the audience at The Graham Norton Show.

As he strolled through the Quad, the irrepressible broadcaster was asked if his latest award would prompt a name change.

“I might do the radio show as the Dr Norton show. It would be too expensive to change the TV show,” he said, with a trademark smirk.

Mum Rhoda Walker and sister Pamela were in attendance to see Graham receive the award in UCC’s Aula Maxima.

“Finally, my mother’s money well spent,” Graham said, a reference to his decision to quit UCC in 1982, two years into his Arts degree. “I just didn’t enjoy academia and, you know, you need to enjoy studying a bit if you’re going to stay here.”

BBC broadcaster Fergal Keane, who grew up in Cork, didn’t study at UCC either, but said the award meant “a huge amount” to him.

“It’s about being recognised in your own place. Anybody that tells you that doesn’t matter to them is lying. It really does matter,” he said.

A group of school children from Ovens National School were over the moon that their UCC tour coincided with Graham’s conferring. It was the highlight, they said, and one asked him to pass on her love to Justin Bieber, if he meets him.

Graham’s message for Leaving Certificate students was the same as the one his mother had written on his good luck card: “Graham, you can only do your best. But do it.”

He said he was surprised and thrilled with the honorary doctorate and that the UCC of today was nothing like he remembered. “It’s a picture-perfect day, so it kind of messes with your head. This isn’t how I remember it,” he said. His fondest memory, he said, was starting college and “meeting kind of like-minded people”.

“And it’s that taste of independence, staying up late, y’know, it’s drinking terrible old cheap wine, it’s all of those things. It’s the first bit of growing up you do. Its the first little tiny bit into adulthood.”

Asked which guest on his chat show he had been most in awe of, he said Tom Cruise and Madonna. “You don’t really believe they’re there. It could be an elaborate joke until I go ‘Madonna!’ and out stumbles Madonna.”

Asked why he hadn’t questioned Cruise about Scientology when the actor appeared on his show, Graham said he could have, but chose not to. “He had no demands at all, but in the end all that would happen is he would either spout kind of odd things that the audience laughed at, or he’d be in a bad mood or he’d shut down. So there’s nothing to be gained by asking Tom Cruise about Scientology. He’s not going to suddenly kind of go: ‘You know what Graham, I’ve been a fool all those years.’ ”

Graham said a career highlight was the audience buzz around the performance put on by American actor Will Smith when he recently appeared on his show, while his biggest accomplishment to date was his “UCC doctorate”.

He had no objection to a walkway in Bandon being named after him he said “because, you know, when nobody knows who I am, then they can just change the name quietly, without anyone noticing”.

It was a better idea than a statue, he said because “you’re stuck with a statue that’s just going to be covered in graffiti and stuff... and what do you do with it once everyone’s going ‘Who the hell is that? Why did we ever put that up?’ So yes, I think the walkway is a much more sensible idea.”

He had “no ambition left” he said, other than to stay doing the job he loves on radio and television.

Ó Briain’s Happy Endings turn sour

There was no happy ending for comedian Dara Ó Briain’s Irish-based entertainment firm in the last two years, with new figures showing the firm incurred hefty losses.

The Co Wicklow-born entertainer attracts millions of viewers fronting the BBC’s The Apprentice – You’re Fired show.

However, the fortunes of his Irish production firm, Happy Endings Productions Ltd, have waned and accounts show that the firm recorded a loss of €120,480 in 2011 and further unspecified losses in 2012.

Gordon Deegan

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