Q

Graham Norton shares how being stabbed made him 'more comfortable with risk'

Actor, comedian and author Graham Norton joined Q’s Tom Power to discuss his latest novel, Home Stretch, and how a near-death experience changed his outlook on life.

The television star says a near-death experience in 1989 changed his outlook on life

Actor, comedian and author Graham Norton. (Sophia Spring)

Graham Norton jokes that these days, he's become "the poster boy for stabbing" after opening up about a near-death experience he had in 1989. On a more serious note, the eponymous host of The Graham Norton Show recognizes the violent attack had a life-changing effect on him.

"I was in my mid-20s," he recalled in an interview with Tom Power on CBC Radio's Q. "I was at drama school. I was walking home late at night. I got stabbed and I did nearly die — I lost over half my blood. And it was only in retrospect I understood how serious it was."

While Norton said the ordeal was awful and traumatic, it also provided him with a new perspective that's helped him throughout his life and career.

"It did give me a sort of bravery heading off into life from drama school — getting out of drama school," he said. "It made me kind of oddly more comfortable with risk."

To this day, the actor, comedian and author approaches his decisions with one guiding question in mind: what's the worst that could happen? He said it's easy to take risks that might result in terrible reviews, humiliation or him being fired because those consequences pale in comparison to being stabbed and dying.

"I don't think I consciously kind of survived a stabbing and went, 'Right, that's it. I'm going to take risks!'" he said. "But looking back, I see that it did influence me. It put things in perspective for me."

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, Norton said, he experienced a fleeting "godlike" clarity and focus.

"I remember this feeling — and I've talked to other people, and they also had this feeling — this feeling like that if the world leaders came to you, you could solve everything," he explained. "It goes very quickly, and I don't remember what I was thinking, but I remember the feeling of the thought."

Graham Norton's new novel, Home Stretch. (HarperCollins Canada)

Norton shared his ordeal in his 2004 autobiography, So Me, but his latest book release — a novel called Home Stretch — has brought the story back to light. The novel is about a deadly car crash that changes the lives of a whole community in rural '80s Ireland.

"For some reason, [the stabbing story] seems to be coming up a lot," Norton told Power with a laugh. "Maybe because there is a kind of a violent incident in this book."

While he said Home Stretch is his "most overtly personal book" (the main character is gay, like Norton, and leaves Ireland to find a life elsewhere, just as the author did), he chose not to write a first-person narrative because he wanted to remove himself from the story.

"In Britain, you know, I got my book deal because I was Graham Norton off the telly — and that's great," he said. "The bad thing is that you get in the way between the reader and the book. You're present. So I think if I was writing in the first person, people would think it was somehow me."

Norton's latest novel, Home Stretch, is out now.


Written by Vivian Rashotte. Produced by Bed Edwards.

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