Thursday, June 24, 2004

'Norton Effect' a 'silly little show'

By Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn
The Associated Press

"I need something LOUD," says British comic Graham Norton as he swishes through the designer collections at Bergdorf Goodman on a recent shopping spree.

He proceeds to pull a lipstick-red Jil Sander jacket from its hanger, then snatches a sunburst yellow shirt and muted blue trousers by Theory and a Dolce & Gabbana denim shirt.

An unabashed queer eye for haute couture, Norton has been named GQ's "worst-dressed man" for two consecutive years.

Norton's off-kilter charm is the appeal of the host of Comedy Central's The Graham Norton Effect, which debuts 10 p.m. today.

It's the same wry, saucy wit that has bolstered the comic's popular British chat show, So Graham Norton, where mischievous humor, naughty Web sites and erotic sex toys are as much a part of the shtick as his deafeningly loud suits.

"I don't feel personally judged by GQ," says Norton. "They've only seen me in my bright shiny suits."

Billed as a "peep show-side show-talk show," the weekly Graham Norton Effect will mimic his 6-year-old U.K. show, a witty hodgepodge of The Larry Sanders Show, Late Night With David Letterman, Whose Line Is It Anyway? and Dame Edna's Hollywood.

Although it will be taped at Manhattan's Chelsea Studios, with an initial run of 13 weeks, Norton says his new show "really will be the same show."

That means no monologue and no desk, and more Let's Make a Deal-style games with the audience and unusual comedic antics with the guests.

"I'm not doing just a talk show," he says. "I'm doing my silly little show."

This silly little show began as "quite a cult hit" in Britain, says co-executive producer Graham Stuart. "It was expected that we would have a young audience, and a lot of gay people.

"But, surprisingly, very quickly everybody came to the show," including a wide variety of celebrity guests such as Naomi Campbell and Sophia Loren.

Norton has surfed porn sites with Joan Collins and Carrie Fisher, and engaged in priceless comedic scenarios with Dustin Hoffman, Cher and John Malkovich.

"Madonna's my big get," says Norton, "but in the end, the Madonna I want is the Madonna from six years ago. Now she's a working mother of two, everything's about kabala. I'm not sensing fun with a capital F."

Norton's shows are definitely not for the prudish.

Back at Bergdorf's, Norton spots a pair of white Keanan Duffy cotton jeans with silver piping, pearls and rhinestones on the pockets.

"Oooh, I like that," he coos. "It's my attraction to shiny things. It catches my shiny eye."

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