ITV’s Paul O’Grady’s career from acid-tongued Lily Savage and heart-attack to giving pups a home for Christmas


He is a British institution that has left TV viewers howling with laughter for over three decades and has found his way onto the VIP list of national treasures.

Paul O’Grady has the sharpest humour around alongside the biggest heart, that has seen him fighting animal’s corners for years and bringing out sides of celebrity’s personalities in interviews rarely seen on television.

And there seems to be no signs of slowing down (even a heart attack in April 2002 couldn’t stop him!) with a new show on ITV launched last month.

READ MORE: ITV Paul O’Grady’s life from working as a bartender at famous gay club to starring in own drag show

Paul O'Grady is back with a new Saturday night show on ITV
Paul O’Grady is back with a new Saturday night show on ITV

He is the epitome of hard work, spending years learning and executing his craft on the stand-up circuit in the pubs of London and the North West of England.

In 1984 he began working as a barman at a Vauxhall gay pub, the Elephant and Castle, and used his drag alter ego Lily Savage to present shows.

He then became a firm fixture at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (RVT) gay pub but TV would soon come calling for Paul O’Grady and his huge talents.

In the early 1990s, Paul began appearing on a host of television programmes including late-night Channel 4 comedy show Viva Cabaret! and he even presented an episode of the BBC’s Top of the Pops.

Entertainer Paul O'Grady dressed as his drag queen alter ago Lily Savage
Entertainer Paul O’Grady dressed as his drag queen alter ago Lily Savage

As more people became aware of his abilities the phone calls continued to come in, a breakthrough presenting role on Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast brought him to the attention of even more viewers during a stint between 1995 and 1996.

The BBC were desperate to find a fit for Paul’s Lily Savage and with the relaunch of Blankety Blank in 1997, they found the perfect vehicle for his razor tongue.

The show was a huge success with millions tuning in each week, it was so good in fact that ITV pinched the show from the BBC offering Paul an eye-watering salary.

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Blankety Blank came to an end in 2002 but signalled Paul O’Grady’s pivot to the commercial channels of ITV and Channel 4.

After several guest presenter appearances on Des and Mel in 2003 TV execs cottoned on to Paul’s incredible ability to build rapport with celebrities and the British public.

In 2004 The Paul O’Grady Show launched on ITV before moving onto Channel 4 where the programme ran over two periods, split by a return to ITV, until 2015.

Paul’s army of loyal fans only grew while The Paul O’Grady Show aired and his enduring love of animals shone through the show.

Over the last few years, the Liverpudlian comedian has only continued to dominate feel-good television with a plethora of programmes using his name in the title.

Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs, Paul O’Grady’s Little Heroes and Paul O’Grady’s Great British Escape have all been hits and now he has a starring role on Saturday night TV with Paul O’Grady’s Saturday Night Line Up.

And with Paul O’Grady bagging a primetime spot on TV his dominance of presenting the nation’s programmes shows no signs of coming to an end soon.





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