The Eurovision host chats to Now about why he thinks the UK can win the competition – and what he’ll be up to at the after-party…
As 200 million viewers from around the world tune in to this Saturday’s Eurovision Song Contest live from Ukraine, commentator Graham Norton will be on hand to give his own imitable take on this year’s contestants, including the UK’s entry Lucie Jones and her song Never Give Up On You, and the current frontrunner, Italy’s Francesco Gabbani and his, erm, dancing gorilla act. Before Graham, 54, jets off, he takes time to chat to Now about what he loves about Eurovision, whether Brexit will influence the UK’s chances and if he ever has a tipple during the proceedings… It’s what we’ve all been wondering, after all.
We love Eurovision! Which do you think has been the best Eurovision of all time?
It’s got to be the year Dana won for Ireland in 1970 with All Kinds Of Everything. Ireland never wins anything! Suddenly there was this good thing and Ireland had won something on an international stage. Now when you look back, you realise she was so young. Whenever anybody wins Eurovision, they look so happy. It’s amazing.
And the most memorable Eurovision year for you?
I think the most memorable year for me since I’ve been commentating on Eurovision was when Austria’s Conchita Wurst won in 2014. She was such a popular fan favourite in the room. When she won, it was just so amazing. I loved everything about it.
How about the worst Eurovision moment?
I don’t think there is one. It doesn’t matter what happens. Even if the hosts do something wrong, it is all part of the show. That’s why we love it.
Will the UK ever win again?
I do absolutely confidently believe we will win Eurovision at some point. I don’t know when and I’m not going to put a time frame on it, but I am absolutely convinced that one year the stakes will be high and we will win again.
What do you think of this year’s song by Lucie Jones?
I think it is a good, strong ballad. I do think we should support Lucie. It’s such an honour to represent your country at Eurovision.
Do you think we’ll get nil points? We haven’t done so well in the last few years…
Lucie’s got such a wonderful voice that really stands out. It’s a big song and it’s an interesting one, too.
Do you think Brexit will mean we only have two
or three more chances before we’re kicked out
of the competition?
We’ve not had much luck the last few years, so I honestly don’t think it will make much difference. Let’s see what happens on the night and be positive.
Why do we keep on losing though? Do people ever stop you in the street
to ask you what we’re
You’re the only ones who have asked me this question! To be totally honest, if I was confident about picking a winner out, then I would stick my oar in. But I do think it’s down to lots of factors there.
How would you change the competition in terms of picking UK acts to start with?
Oh gosh, there are so many things that can happen on the night – the mood, the performances, the audience and how they react. You can never predict who is going to be the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest, and that’s what I love about it.
What else do you love about the Eurovision Song Contest?
I love all the songs. I love how they stage everything, too. When you look back at the earlier ones, you realise how huge it has become, with all the projection and lighting. It’s a spectacle.
What do you think of the voting system? Is it frustrating or do you find it amusing?
They actually changed the voting system last year so you don’t find out until the end who the winner is. In previous years, they’ve announced the winner two-thirds of the way through, the audience go crazy and then they go back to the result reporting! That was mad. I really liked the new system of voting last year.
Is Eurovision fixed?
No. It’s very easy to think it is political but it’s not. The big difference is the other countries get behind their song way in advance. They all put up big stars and they really promote the song in the weeks leading up to Eurovision.
Spill the beans! Do you have a tipple when you’re on air?
The late Sir Terry Wogan’s main advice to me when I took over from him was ‘don’t open your bottle until song nine’. It was very practical advice, very sensible and very him. And so that’s what I do, I open it up at song nine. I haven’t decided whether I will drink or not this year.
Have you ever got quite drunk and your mouth has run away with you?
No. It’s a really tight schedule and just like my chat show, you have a sip but you have to remember you are at work! It’s not like you’re having a mad drinking session. You’re focused on the job in hand.
Do you get to meet the acts?
I try to fly out to Eurovision as soon as I’ve finished recording my chat show on a Thursday, so I’ll be getting there on Friday at the end of this week. I do tend to manage to see some of the dress rehearsal acts.
What is the Eurovision after-party like? Is
[Laughs] I have been before and it is fun. I do go and have a dance. It’s one of those things where it’s the law of a diminishing return.
What else are you up to?
I’ve got my chat show, which runs until June. And then I’m on holiday over the summer and that’s a real chance to unwind.
And finally, you won a National Television Award for your outstanding contribution to television. You looked visibly moved by it…
It is emotional. People watching at home might be thinking ‘dear God’! But I cannot lie – it is a very nice thing to have. I’m very fortunate to have worked with a lot of the same people over the years. It means a lot to us all.
The Eurovision Song Contest will be live on BBC1 on Saturday 13 May from 8pm onwards