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Graham Norton’s Big Red Chair: tales from the piece of soft furnishing that “changed lives”

The Big Red Chair is the ultimate advocate of over-sharing, and a one-off special in its honour tonight is well worth a watch, says Ellie Harrison

Published: Friday, 6th January 2017 at 9:00 am

Graham Norton’s Big Red Chair is hailed by the man himself as “one of TV’s most famous pieces of soft furnishing”. Quite the claim. But he may have a point. The chair has been graced by more than 500 derrières, with people from all walks of life sharing their most personal stories in front of a sofa of celebrities and a TV audience of millions (as they wait to see if the dreaded lever will be pulled and they'll be catapulted backwards into oblivion). So it only seems natural to celebrate this by giving the chair its own one-off special, airing tonight on BBC1.


And I urge you to watch it, I really do. The format is a bit like You’ve Been Framed, but instead it is actually funny and doesn’t make you want to stop living. Surprisingly, it only veers slightly into the territory of overkill with a few un-ironic reflective interviews with the story-tellers, where they share how the experience of being in the Big Red Chair – wait for it – changed their lives. That's enough to make you want to pull that lever.

Over the duration of the episode, we meet a motley – but admittedly heart-warming – crew. There’s Tony, a man who is clearly related to Danny Dyer and who the caption unnecessarily explains is, indeed, from London. He’s a teacher and he’s got a story about falling over in the canteen in front of all his students.


Tony describes the meal he was carrying in the canteen on that fateful day: "Nice little bit a lamb, roast potatoes, greens, gravy... laavly"

Then we’ve got a man whose name appears to be Howie Poon. He tells a pretty awkward tale about accompanying his randy Chinese mother to her gynaecologist appointment in order to help translate details about her sex life. It turns out Mrs Poon is 70 years old and gets lucky five or six times a week. Well in, Mrs Poon.

Other highlights include a Yorkshireman who claims to have been in Saving Private Ryan with Tom Hanks, one poor geezer who literally gets dumped on the show, and someone who is flipped over by Mark Wahlberg, at which point the actor drawls: “You’re going for a ride, baby”. Most pleasing.

The stories themselves are great. And the Big Red Chair really celebrates the culture of over-sharing. Almost all the confessions are related to bodily fluids or sex – it’s not shy about being low-brow. And we also get to see Graham Norton saturated in varying shades of fake tan over the almost-decade that the talk show’s been running.


Graham reacts to Howie Poon's story

After the stories come the interviews. Tony, with delight, describes how his pupils saw him talking to the stars on TV and shout to him in the school corridor, “Kevin Hart, he’s your mate! Ice Cube, he’s your mate!” as well as constantly shouting: “Sir’s gone over!” It’s safe to say Big Tone will never have control of his students again.

We actually get to meet the notorious Mrs Poon and Howie’s dad, Mr Poon, who it turns out is a massive lad and wants to share the clip detailing their rampant sex life with all his mates.

Unfortunately, someone allows the guy from Saving Private Ryan to say that seeing Tom Hanks again is like “meeting an old friend, really”. Is it, though? A girl appears to well up when she recalls her moment in the chair and one man actually goes so far as to say: “When I got to walk, I just felt like I’d accomplished something.” Wow.

And last but most certainly not least, the guy who was dumped reveals that he is now the number one hit on YouTube for the search term “guy gets rejected”. Life changing stuff, that.


Graham Norton's Big Red Chair is on BBC1 tonight at 10:35pm


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