Piers Morgan interviews Sir Ian Botham


Graham Norton has been opining about the difference between our relative chat show styles.

‘It’s not my job to ask tough questions,’ he told the Guardian, ‘it’s to make sure people have a good time. Ryan Gosling, for instance, really laughing… you actually see him, a man on a couch, laughing like a drain. I prefer that to trying to poke someone with a stick. There’s a place for those kind of interviews, but not on my show. Piers Morgan’s Life Stories we’re not.’


Sir Ian Botham started his charity walks in 1985 after meeting four little boys in a Taunton hospital suffering from leukaemia. They all died soon afterwards

Personally, I prefer a bit of rigorous interrogatory poke to blowing sycophantic, PR-controlled ‘Ryan, how long have you been this wonderful?’ smoke up giggling guests’ rear orifices.

There’s a place for those kind of interviews, but not on my show. The Graham Norton Show we’re not.


For the past ten years, I’ve taken my wife to Paris for her birthday on this day and we’ve lunched extravagantly at the same delightful restaurant in the Latin quarter.

Every single year, the owner has resolutely refused to acknowledge he’s ever seen us before.

‘I’m sure he does remember us,’ I moaned quietly to Celia, as my snails arrived, ‘he’s just too French to admit it.’

The man, standing behind the bar where I thought he couldn’t hear me, snorted with derisive laughter.

‘Monsieur, I never remember you, but I always remember your wife.’


Sir Ian Botham’s finally retired from his charity walks after yomping over 20,000 miles from South Africa and Australia to the Himalayas and Sri Lanka, and raising £30 million, largely for leukaemia research.

Tonight, I interviewed him at a special celebration dinner in London and we had a lot of fun going back over all the highs and lows of his extraordinary 32-year walking adventure. Then, right at the end, a very poignant video was played featuring some of the people whose lives have been saved in the process.

I turned to Sir Ian and, to my astonishment, I saw tears running down his cheeks.

This is a man who I’ve never known cry in public – a fact later confirmed by his family.

‘Sorry,’ he exclaimed, now weeping profusely as the audience roared their support, ‘I didn’t mean to get so emotional but it’s suddenly dawned on me just what we’ve achieved with these walks.’

Beefy started them in 1985 after meeting four little boys in a Taunton hospital suffering from leukaemia. They all died soon afterwards.

‘I didn’t even know what leukaemia was,’ he admitted. ‘But those young lads broke my heart and I resolved to do something about it.’

The survival rate for leukaemia back then was just 20 per cent.

Today, thanks in large part to his 17 walks, backed every step of the way with a support team led by wife Kath and daughter Sarah, the rate is now 95 per cent.

That’s a lot of lives saved.

Sir Ian Botham was my hero anyway for his swashbuckling cricketing exploits.

Tonight, as I embraced this tear-stained giant of a man on stage, I realised cricketing genius was the least of his achievements.


Lord Sugar appeared on Good Morning Britain to determine who won our £5,000 bet as to who could lose the most weight in two months.

I was quite pleased I’d shed 8 lb, until he got on the scales and came in 19 lb under.

Asked how he’d done it, Sugar said: ‘Every time my wife served up a plate of food, I imagined it was your face and stabbed it rather than ate it.’

I strongly suspect it was more down to an emergency gastric band, but to be fair to Sugar he announced he too would pay £5,000 to Great Ormond Street.

The old Grinch recently had a stent put in his heart to get it working properly again. It’s clearly working.


Monday’s GMB was the highest rated in our 937-show history. As Sun Tzu said: ‘When people fall into danger, they are then able to strive for victory.’


Talking of hearts, I have two season-of-goodwill stories to warm the cockles of even the most cynical aorta.

First, two of those sickening moped muggers steamed my drama student son Stanley at a west London petrol station, threatening him with batons, smashing his car windows and stealing his bag.

In it were a few valuables such as headphones. But far more importantly for him, it also contained two years of irreplaceable detailed study notebooks.

The thieves kept the valuables and tossed the bag into the Thames a mile away. We know this because a lady saw them do it, waited until they had gone, picked up the bag – it was low tide at the time – found Stan’s number inside the notebook, and called him to say she’d found it.

An hour later, the water would have come in and the notes would have gone for ever. To that lady, a massive thanks.

My second story is even more extraordinary.

When my Serial Killer crime documentary aired on ITV last month, Gillian Nuttall, founder of Melanoma UK, emailed me to say: ‘Piers, at the risk of sounding like a lunatic, I’m just watching your programme and there’s a blemish visible on your chest. Have you had it checked?’

This week, a top dermatologist took one look and immediately cut it out. Much further delay, he informed me, and it might well have turned cancerous. ‘Give that lady a gold star!’ he said.

Thanks, Gillian.

Oh the irony of a serial killer inadvertently helping to save my life.

Merry Christmas!


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