BBC disbelief after Julie Andrews ‘cheeky, Mary pop-out’ gag by Graham Norton

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Norton, 57, has been a presenter at the BBC for 20 years. The Northern Irish star started out presenting risque programmes on Channel 4 before moving to more tame ones on the BBC. Norton snubbed the corporation in a recent podcast where he claimed he would never have gotten away with some of his earlier antics.

During Norton’s rise up the showbiz ladder, he performed a number of jokes that he claimed to not “feel comfortable” with in retrospect. 

The majority were about sex and only after joining the BBC he realised he “wasn’t that guy”.

The star revealed he only began to “feel much more comfortable” about himself when he reached his fifties – seven years ago. 

Last year, he told the How I Found My Voice podcast about some of the jokes he would perform before that now make him “cringe”.

Norton, who started on BBC in 2001 when he hosted Comic Relief, had a long history on TV and fronted several daring programmes.

They included So Graham Norton and V Graham Norton where he was required to make a number of jokes with innuendos and sexual references. 

Since joining the BBC, some claim he is the “21st Century’s answer to Terry Wogan”. 

Before that time, Norton felt he was “very much at the cutting edge” of television and was “reshaping the chat show”.

He claimed there was a “different kind of brief” when he starred on Channel 4 in the Nineties.

Norton performed “all the over-the-top stuff”, which needed to be “risque and outrageous to please that audience”.

By contrast, he admitted that was not his job on the BBC – which in recent years has been branded “out of touch” with the public. 

Norton said: “On BBC One, that’s not your job, your job is to provide a show that’s… appropriate for that BBC One audience.”

He claimed presenters could be “a bit more out there” on BBC Two but still the reins were tight.

Once Norton landed his Friday night slot on BBC One on The Graham Norton Show, he knew he had to “entertain that type of audience”.

He explained: “You are not there to frighten them or to shock them, you want to please them.”

This was far from Norton’s approach on Channel 4, when the broadcaster’s aim was “to be alternative” and “on the fringe”.

He said the programmes were not “mainstream” because of the type of jokes they were able to make. 

Norton said: “You know our show on Channel 4 was very out there.

“It was very rude and very risque, yet the people I met who watched the show weren’t any of those things.”

Norton claimed the viewers were his “parents” and his “parent’s friends” before adding: “I don’t know how that happened.”

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In one clip, which was played in the podcast, he was heard making remarks about Julie Andrews – whose 1965 film The Sound Of Music airs this weekend.

Norton said: “There is something really disturbing about seeing Julie Andrews’ nipples so clearly.”

His co-star noted they were at “eye-level” before Norton continued: “Oh my god! I can see Julie Andrews’ nipples.”

He then quipped that she was “like a sort of Mary pop-out” in reference to her 1964 film Mary Poppins.

After the clip aired, Norton admitted he was “sort of shocked by them” and couldn’t “quite believe” it.

He confessed: “We said and did the things we did all the time… and everyone kind of went with it.

“Everyone went ‘Ok, that’s on television now’ and for some reason, they weren’t particularly offended or shocked by it.”

Norton claimed it was very different on the BBC and compared it to a conversation with grandparents versus one with friends. 

He said: “You are still yourself, you are still you, but you are just aware that I need to be the person my grandparents want me to be.

“Instead of the person who is down the pub with his mates – and I think we all make those adjustments in life.”

Graham Norton appeared on the How I Found My Voice podcast last year. It is available here. 

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