Jonathan Ross: ‘I regret never getting Aretha Franklin on the show’

The king of chat reveals his biggest regrets — and what he thinks of The Graham Norton Show

Jonathan Ross

Do you have your own elaborate home viewing suite?

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We’ve got a big TV downstairs, but I tend to watch upstairs with my wife Jane. We lie on the bed and watch it with the cats. Which isn’t great sleep hygiene, I believe.

What’s on?

Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares and Ramsay’s Hotel Hell seem to be permanently on, and I’m a sucker for an orangutan. There’s not enough orangutan TV, it should have its own channel.

Do you and Jane agree on which shows to watch?

Yeah, we both enjoyed Love Island and we’ve been watching Celebrity Big Brother. We love Black Mirror and almost anything Charlie Brooker’s done; and Russell T Davies is an amazing writer. Jane’s competitive and plays an online video game called Hearthstone, so sometimes she’s only half got an eye on the television, and I can watch The Bourne Identity again and again. And she’s involved with Game of Thrones at the moment, a very high-profile, very big thing [as a showrunner on the prequel].

Which must leave you days free to mess about in the shed?

Not a shed. I have an office in Camden. I’m doing a very complicated Thunderbird 2 model kit – the green one that looks a bit like a squashed pickle. The office is full of comic books and comic book art and there’s a picture of me and Jane before we were married. We’re both wearing the same suit, it’s very, very 80s and a really lovely picture.

Do you make a point of watching the opposition, Graham Norton?

I don’t see Graham as opposition. He’s a rival in that we sometimes try to attract from the same guest pool, but there are enough people to go around. We had a period where Graham seemed to get most of the movie-star guests, so we booked a guy called Henry Fraser who had an accident and taught himself to paint with his mouth. It was a fascinating story. We’re probably the only show that does that in the entertainment sphere.

Are stars less frank these days?

There are times when we talk about sensitive issues, but you’ve got to respect the guests, so it’s only if they want to. Lily Allen is a guest on this week’s show and she’s obviously had a very interesting and quite complicated life so we’ll be talking about that, but only because she’s indicated she’s prepared to do so.

You’ve been doing chat shows since 1989. Who do you regret not getting as a guest? 

There were only a couple, and sadly they’re now dead. I always wanted to get Aretha Franklin on and also a man called Jack Kirby. He was the primary creator of most of what we call the Marvel Universe now. I pitched a South Bank Show and I wish I’d done it because he’s such a huge figure. But I didn’t have the leverage to make documentaries. It was one of the customary, cyclical downturns in my career.

How do you cope with those?

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You learn to embrace and weather them.


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