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Jonathan Ross (television presenter)

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Jonathan Ross (television presenter)

This article is about the British television and radio presenter. For other people called Jonathan Ross, see Jonathan Ross (disambiguation).

Jonathan Ross
Live 8 on 2 July 2005.
Born Jonathan Stephen Ross
(1960-11-17) 17 November 1960 (age 53)
Camden, London, England[1]
Nationality British
Alma mater Southampton College of Art,
University College London
Occupation Broadcaster, film critic, talk show host, comedian, comic-book writer
Years active 1987–present
Spouse(s) Jane Goldman (m. 1988)
Children 2 daughters, 1 son
Parents Martha Ross

Jonathan Stephen Ross, OBE (born 17 November 1960) is an English television and radio presenter, best known for presenting the BBC One chat show Friday Night with Jonathan Ross during the 2000s. Ross also hosted his own radio show on BBC Radio 2, and acted as a film critic and presenter of the Film programme. After leaving the BBC, Ross then began hosting a new chat show on ITV, The Jonathan Ross Show. Other regular roles have included being a regular panellist on the comedy sports quiz They Think It's All Over and being a regular presenter of the British Comedy Awards.

Ross began his television career as a programme researcher, before débuting as a television presenter for The Last Resort with Jonathan Ross on Channel 4 in 1987. Over the next decade he had several radio and television roles, many through his own production company, Channel X. In 1995 he sold his stake in Channel X, and embarked on a career with the BBC. In 1999, Ross took over presenting the Film programme from Barry Norman, and also began presenting his own radio show, while two years later he began hosting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. For the chat show, Ross won three BAFTA awards for Best Entertainment Performance, in 2004, 2006 and 2007. By 2006 Ross was believed to be the BBC's highest paid star. In 2005, Ross was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to broadcasting.[2] Ross has been involved in controversies throughout his broadcasting career.[3][4] As a result, in 2008 he wrote a semi-autobiographical work titled Why Do I Say These Things?, detailing some of his life experiences.

Ross has been married to the author, journalist and broadcaster Jane Goldman since 1988; they have three children. Ross and Goldman have together established the television production company Hotsauce TV. Ross is known as an avid fan and collector of comic books and memorabilia, and has written his own comic books, Turf and America's Got Powers. Ross is known for his distinctive voice, flamboyant style of dress,[2] light-hearted banter and his characteristic difficulty in pronouncing the sound 'r'.


Early life

Ross was born in Camden, London, England on 17 November 1960, the son of a lorry driver father and an film extra mother, Martha Ross, who put all of her children forward for roles in television advertisements.[5][6] He grew up in Leytonstone[1] and is the brother of journalist, television editor, and media personality Paul Ross; TV producer/actor Miles Ross; TV producer Simon Ross, and music industry professional T-BO.


He was educated at Norlington School for Boys, a comprehensive school, at the same time as his elder brother Paul, and at Leyton County High School for Boys, a comprehensive school. He also attended Southampton College of Art, now known as Southampton Solent University.[7] He then studied Modern European History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES) a college of the federal University of London.[8]

Personal life

Ross married author/journalist/broadcaster Jane Goldman, ten years his junior, in 1988, when Goldman was 18. They have since had three children: Betty Kitten (named after Bettie Page), Harvey Kirby (named after Harvey Keitel and Jack Kirby, a comic book creator whom Ross especially admires), and Honey Kinney. The family lives in Hampstead Garden Suburb.

Ross and others have used his rhotacism for comic effect and he is sometimes known as "Wossy,"[9] including on his Twitter feed (@wossy). His right index finger is crooked, he revealed on Top Gear that as a child he accidentally sliced off the tip of the finger and had to have it reattached.

Ross is known for owning exotic pets.

Ross is a big pop music fan and maintains a particular interest in British punk rock and David Bowie (describing himself as "about as big a fan of David Bowie as you will find on the planet").[10] The first band he saw in concert was punk rockers X-Ray Spex at Islington's Hope and Anchor pub in North London.[11] He was a regular at London's Blitz club during the early 1980s (famous for the Blitz Kids). He is also a big fan of Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry, Queen (he was in the audience for Queen at Wembley), Spandau Ballet, Sparks, Morrissey, George Michael and Paul Weller, all of whom he has met in his career and all (except Queen) he has interviewed. In December 1989, however, Ross (and Cilla Black) did present all four members of Queen with the "Top Band of the Eighties" prize in a broadcast for ITV which would turn out to be Freddie Mercury's penultimate public appearance before his death from AIDS in 1991.

Ross is a fan of science-fiction, including Star Trek and Doctor Who (he revealed in an interview with Christopher Eccleston that his favourite Doctor was Jon Pertwee). Ross is also a huge fan of comic books and he has even co-owned a comic shop in London with Paul Gambaccini and released Turf, his first comic book, in 2010, with American artist Tommy Lee Edwards.[12] He was also the visual inspiration for the main character in the comic book Saviour. Ross is also greatly interested in Japan, presenting a BBC-TV series on many different aspects of Japanese culture, Japanorama, for three series between 2002–07.

He is a friend of comedian Ricky Gervais and bought him a kitten after Gervais's previous cat, Colin, had died. The cat's name is Ollie and was presented to him on an episode of Ross's talk show Friday Night With Jonathan Ross.[13] Ross also presented Penn & Teller: Fool Us. He was one of the special celebrity guests in the final episode of Gervais's second season of Extras, in which Gervais's character, Andy Millman, and Ross were shown to be the best of friends after a fictional appearance on Friday Night With Jonathan Ross.[14]

He is also a close friend of author Neil Gaiman, and he and his wife appear in Gaiman's short story "The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch", collected in Fragile Things.

In 2005, Ross was made an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours for services to broadcasting.[15] He celebrated the news by playing "God Save the Queen" by the Sex Pistols on his Radio 2 show.[16]

When interviewing Colin Farrell on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross on 19 February 2010, Ross claimed not to have consumed alcohol for ten years. However, on his The Jonathan Ross Show which aired in ITV1 on 23 February 2013, Ross drank five shots of tequila with Justin Timberlake.[17] Ross later proclaimed on his Twitter feed "I just got drunk on my show with Justin Timberlake. His twqula [sic] is strong." [18]

Ross has attended a fund raiser for the James Randi Educational Foundation called The Amazing Meeting in London in 2009 and 2010. Interviewed by Rebecca Watson, Ross described himself as a big fan of James Randi and the other speakers – who were mainly prominent sceptics – and said that he and his wife had come to have a sceptical view of the world.[19] Ross has been supportive of Simon Singh's efforts to defend an accusation of libel by the British Chiropractic Association and Ross has posed for the Geek Calendar 2011, a fund raiser for the libel reform in the UK.[20]

At a book signing event in Central London in September 2010, Ross stated that as a youngster he went to school in Leyton (Leyton Senior High School) and supports Leyton Orient F.C.

On 6 June 2011, it was announced that Ross's beloved pug Mr Pickle had been killed in an accident on board a train while Ross was filming a new travelogue show for ITV.[21]


Child actor

Following the acting lead of his mother, who appeared as an extra on television shows such as East Enders, Ross appeared in television ads as a child actor. His first, for the breakfast cereal Kellogg's Rice Krispies, gave him his television debut in 1970, when he was 10 years old.[22][23] He also appeared in an ad for the laundry detergent Persil.[24]

Early career

Ross began his adult career as a researcher on the Channel 4 show Loose Talk. After leaving this, he worked on various other shows before beginning another research job on Soul Train, which became Solid Soul. It is believed his first appearance on television was as an extra in the 1981 It Ain't Half Hot, Mum episode, The Last Roll Call.[25]

Channel X: 1987–95

Whilst on Solid Soul, he met fellow researcher Alan Marke, and the two devised what would prove to be a breakthrough hit for Ross in 1987, The Last Resort with Jonathan Ross.

The pair based their concept on the successful American show Late Night with David Letterman, and formed a new production company called Channel X, to produce a pilot. Ross was not originally slated as the show's host, but with little time to find one Jonathan Ross stepped in and made his debut on the show in January 1987.[26]

While the series was initially a co-production with Colin Calendar, ownership transferred to Marke and Ross, meaning that the latter retained a great deal of control as well as being presenter.[27] The show proved popular for both Ross and for Channel 4, making him one of the major personalities on the channel.

A year later, his documentary series The Incredibly Strange Film Show introduced many to the works of cult filmmakers like Sam Raimi and Jackie Chan.

In 1989, he co-presented the biennial BBC charity telethon Comic Relief, the same year he launched One Hour with Jonathan Ross a short lived chat show on Channel 4, most notable for the game show segment "Knock down ginger" which introduced comedians such as Vic Reeves, Bob Mortimer, Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson to television.

In 1991, he presented the annual British Comedy Awards on ITV. He has presented the event each year since, but in 2008 announced he would be stepping down from the role following his suspension from the BBC.[28] In 1992 he presented an interview with Madonna about her Erotica album and Sex Book promotion.

In 1993, he was the narrator for FIA Formula One 1993 Season Review video.

Ross has appeared in numerous television entertainment programmes on several channels throughout the 1990s and 2000s. He was a regular panellist on the sports quiz They Think It's All Over, and hosted the panel game It's Only TV...But I Like It. Other projects include the BBC joke-quiz Gagtag, the Channel 4 variety show Saturday Zoo, new-acts showcase The Big Big Talent Show, and the ITV programme Fantastic Facts.

In 1995 he left Channel X, despite its profitable nature. He was quoted in a 1998 article as stating:

It was to do with a deliberate change in my life, moving away from TV as the core of my existence to focus on my family more. So I had to give up everything to do with Channel X, and I literally got only £1 for my share, which was unbelievable.[29]

Television 1995–2006

In 1995 he presented Mondo Rosso, a programme about old cult films. He took over presenting of the Film programme, the BBC's long-running cinema review series, in 1999 after Barry Norman left the show. Ross himself has made a number of cameo appearances in films, playing himself in the Spice Girls' film Spice World (1997) and voicing the character of Doris in the UK version of Shrek 2 (2004). In 2001 he also played himself in Only Fools and Horses, presenting Goldrush, a fictional television quiz on which the main character, Del, was a contestant. In 2001 he voiced characters in two episodes of the animated comedy series Rex the Runt. In the 30 October episode of Film 2006, Ross also claimed that he had appeared as an extra in the 1981 film Rise and Fall of Idi Amin, as an Israeli soldier raiding Entebbe Airport. He also appeared on the first pilot show for Shooting Stars, acting as a team captain.

BBC Radio: 1987, 1999–2010

Ross' first radio work was on BBC Radio 1 in 1987, when he sat in for Janice Long for two weeks. Ross began presenting a Saturday morning show on BBC Radio 2 in 1999. He has also presented radio shows for Virgin Radio (having previously worked on Richard Branson's earlier venture, Radio Radio), as well as the now-defunct commercial radio network service The Superstation, where his producer was Chris Evans.

From 23 May 2009, Ross' BBC Radio 2 show was pre-recorded 24 hours before broadcast.[30]

Ross' show on Radio 2 last aired on 17 July 2010 when his contract at the BBC ended.

Friday Night with Jonathan Ross: 2001–10

On 2 November 2001, Ross began presenting his chat show Friday Night with Jonathan Ross.

In 2005, Ross anchored the BBC television coverage of the Live 8 concerts. Later that year he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen's Birthday Honours for services to broadcasting. He celebrated the news by playing "God Save the Queen" by The Sex Pistols (which was banned by the BBC when released in 1977) on his BBC Radio 2 Saturday morning show. On 21 June 2006 Ross was made a Fellow of University College London, where he studied.

In early 2006, Ross announced that after eight years he was quitting his regular panellist seat on the sport/comedy quiz show They Think It's All Over, stating:

I’ve had a great time on They Think It's All Over, imparting my vast sporting knowledge to the nation, but I need time now to focus on my other commitments and so regrettably I won't be back for the 20th series. It's a fantastic show and from now on I'll be able to actually watch it.

After Ross's departure, only two more episodes of the show were made before it was cancelled.

In January 2006 he presented Jonathan Ross' Asian Invasion, broadcast on BBC Four. The three-part documentary followed Ross as he explored the film industry in Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea, interviewing directors and showcasing clips. His interest in Asian culture and his self-confessed love for anime and video games led him to making three series of BBC Three show Japanorama, as well as producing another series for the same channel called Adam and Joe Go Tokyo, starring Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish. He produced the latter programme through his own production company Hot Sauce.

In June 2006, a bidding war was sparked between BBC and other broadcasters for Ross's services. Although other broadcasters were unsuccessful in poaching Ross, it is believed that their bids were higher than the BBC during negotiations. ITV, who bid for Ross, poached chat host Michael Parkinson around the same time. Ross became the highest paid television personality in Britain, when a new BBC contract secured his services until 2010, for a reported £18 million (£6 million per year).[31] That same month, he was named by Radio Times as the most powerful person in British radio.[32]

On 25 June 2006, he performed at the Children's Party at the Palace for the Queen's 80th birthday. In August 2006, Ross was enlisted to ask the first question[33] since the transition from beta for the Yahoo Answers in UK and Ireland. On 16 March 2007, Ross hosted Comic Relief 2007 alongside Fearne Cotton and Lenny Henry. On 7 July 2007 Ross presented at the Live Earth concert.

Starting on 10 September 2007 he presented the BBC Four series Comics Britannia, about the history of the British comic. This forms the core of a Comics Britannia season, which includes another documentary, In Search of Steve Ditko, by Ross.[34]

In May 2008, Ross won the Sony Gold Award "Music Radio Personality of the Year".[35]

On 3 August 2008, on BBC1, he hosted Jonathan Ross Salutes Dad's Army.

In 2010, Ross took part in Channel 4's Comedy Gala, a benefit show held in aid of Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital, filmed live at the O2 Arena in London on 30 March.

On 7 April 2010, Ross's first comic book was published. Turf was written by Jonathan himself and drawn by artist Tommy Lee Edwards.[36] In 2011, Ross wrote an introduction for The Steve Ditko Omnibus Vol. 1,[37] a collection of work by the American comics artist featured in Ross's 2007 documentary.

Leaving the BBC (2010)

On 7 January 2010, Ross confirmed that he would leave the BBC in July 2010, having decided not to renegotiate his contract. This would see him leave all his regular BBC roles, namely his Friday night chat show, Radio 2 show and a film review programme, although he would be continuing with some specials, such as Comic Relief and the BAFTA Awards.[38][39][40][41]

Explaining the decision, Ross said:

Although I have had a wonderful time working for the BBC, and am very proud of the shows I have made while there, over the last two weeks I have decided not to re-negotiate when my current contract comes to an end. While there, I have worked with some of the nicest and most talented people in the industry and had the opportunity to interview some of the biggest stars in the world, and am grateful to the BBC for such a marvellous experience. I would like to make it perfectly clear that no negotiations ever took place and that my decision is not financially motivated[38]

The decision came a day after it was announced that Graham Norton had signed a two-year deal with the BBC, and the BBC's media correspondent Torin Douglas speculated Norton would be a ready-made replacement for Ross's chat show role, while Mark Kermode of BBC Radio 5 Live was a potential successor in the film review role, but that "replacing Ross on radio will be harder". [38] Ross last appeared on the film programme in Episode 10 of Film 2010 with Jonathan Ross aired on 17 March 2010. After Kermode publicly ruled himself out on 26 March, Claudia Winkleman was announced 30 March 2010 as his replacement as host of the Film programme, who was to host Film 2010 from September 2010.

Ross's final Friday Night chat show episode aired on 16 July 2010, with David Beckham, Jackie Chan, Mickey Rourke, and Roxy Music as guests. Ross ended the show with an affectionate tribute to his guests and to the audience, while mentioning that he had promised his friend Morrissey that he would remain composed and "wouldn't cry." His final Radio 2 show was broadcast the following day. Patrick Kielty initially took over Ross' Radio 2 slot from 24 July 2010 after which Graham Norton took over permanently.

2010-present (ITV and Cinemoi)

On 14 December 2010, Jonathan Ross announced his creative partnership with CineMoi, the UK's first and only independent French film channel. His deal with the company gives him a multi-faceted role as presenter, producer, creative director and shareholder in the company. A lifelong cinephile Ross has a unique perspective on French film and hopes to encourage 'first-timers' to explore a world of film that differs slightly from that of the regular Hollywood fare.

On 19 December 2010, Ross presented a three-hour Channel 4 list show, 100 Greatest Toys, with the broadcaster describing Ross as a "huge toy enthusiast with a private collection that would rival any museum's."[42][43]

In 2011, he presented Penn & Teller: Fool Us on ITV, a collaboration with magicians Penn & Teller.

Ross's new chat show The Jonathan Ross Show began on 3 September 2011 on ITV1,[44] drawing an audience of 4.3m viewers, compared to the 4.6m for his finale on the BBC show.[45] The first series ran for thirteen weeks. Speaking about the new show, Ross said: "I am thrilled and excited that after a short break I will be rolling up my sleeves and creating a brand new show for ITV1."[46]

Ross is currently planning to film a television piece with Lucha Britania.[47]

He has recently been hired by Xbox to help promote the brand.[48]


BBC contract

In April 2006, Ross, along with other BBC personalities, had details of his fees leaked to the tabloid press.[49] It was claimed at the time, by a then-unidentified BBC mole, that Ross earned £530,000 (equivalent to £10,000 per show) per year for hosting his Radio 2 show.[50] While refusing to comment specifically on the leak in line with BBC policy on the matter, Ross did hint during his radio show that the figure was exaggerated; in addition to this, any pay highlighted as being "his" would actually be split between himself and his producer/co-presenter on the show, Andy Davies.

David Cameron interview

In June 2006, when Conservative Party leader David Cameron appeared on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, Ross began a line of questioning relating to Conservative ex-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, culminating in the question "Did you or did you not have a wank thinking of Margaret Thatcher?". Ross was defended by the BBC publicly, but repeat showings of the interview have been banned.[51]

Heather Mills comment

In 2006, Ross was criticised when he made a joke against Heather Mills, soon after she and Paul McCartney announced they were to divorce. He branded Mills, who has only one leg, a "fucking liar" and that he "wouldn't be surprised if we found out she's actually got two legs".[52]

"1,000 journalists" comment

On 5 December 2007, Ross joked at the British Comedy Awards that his salary meant that he was "apparently worth 1,000 BBC journalists". His quip came shortly after the BBC had announced plans for more than 2,000 jobs cuts, and was condemned as "obscene" by the general secretary of the National Union of Journalists.[53] Ross has denied this saying that he was commenting on a piece that was written in a newspaper about his salary being that of 1,000 journalists:

"You know where that came from? The newspapers. After the fee was announced, they said, 'The BBC says he's worth 1,000 journalists', so on the Comedy Awards I made a joke that began, 'Apparently I'm worth 1,000 journalists according to the newspapers.' Every time it's quoted, is the word 'apparently' ever used? Which does change the meaning somewhat."[54]

The Russell Brand Show and Andrew Sachs

Following a guest appearance by Ross on The Russell Brand Show broadcast on 18 October 2008, Ross was suspended for 12 weeks without pay by the BBC on 29 October, after a series of lewd answer phone messages were left for then 78-year-old actor Andrew Sachs regarding Sachs' granddaughter Georgina Baillie, by Russell Brand and Ross, which were broadcast on the pre-recorded show.[55] After little initial interest, a media story about the calls generated a high number of complaints. Brand resigned from the BBC, while Ross was suspended without pay. BBC director general Mark Thompson stated that Ross should take the disciplinary action as a "final warning".[56][57] The BBC was later fined £150,000 by Britain's broadcast regulator for airing the calls.[58]

On 21 November 2008, the BBC Trust said that the phone calls were a "deplorable intrusion with no editorial justification".[59] The trust gave its backing to Ross's 12-week suspension but recommended that no further action be taken against him. He returned to work in January, and the first episode of a new series of Friday Night With Jonathan Ross with guests Tom Cruise, Stephen Fry and Lee Evans, and music from Franz Ferdinand, was broadcast on 23 January 2009.

Gwyneth Paltrow interview

The BBC Trust ruled that Ross’s interview with Gwyneth Paltrow, broadcast on 2 May 2008, breached editorial guidelines. They ruled that bad language in an episode of Ross's pre-recorded BBC1 chat show, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, in which the presenter told Hollywood actress Gwyneth Paltrow he "would fuck her" was "gratuitous and unnecessarily offensive". The trust said it disagreed with the judgement made by BBC management that the episode should be broadcast uncensored, adding that the comment was made in an "overly sexual way" and that it had upheld a number of complaints made about the edition of Friday Night with Jonathan Ross.[60] The trust reminded BBC staff that "the casual gratuitous use of the most offensive language is not acceptable on the BBC in accordance with the BBC's existing guidelines and practices", adding that "this particularly applies in entertainment programmes".[61]

Homophobia accusation

On 13 May 2009, Ross was accused of homophobia after a comment he made on his radio show,[62] in which he said,

If your son asks for a Hannah Montana MP3 player, then you might want to already think about putting him down for adoption in later life, when they settle down with their partner.[63]

An incorrect version of this quote was also circulated, in which Ross was accused of saying:

If your son asks for a Hannah Montana MP3 player, you might want to already think about putting him down for adoption before he brings his … erm … partner home.[64]

Ofcom received 61 complaints following the comment. On 7 July 2009, Ofcom ruled that Ross did not breach the broadcasting code. They wrote in their opinion that "the comment was clearly presented as a joke intended to make light of the reactions that some parents may have if their child chooses a toy that is very widely recognised to be designed and marketed for the opposite sex" and that the nature of the joke and tone and manner in which it was presented "made clear that it was not intended to be hostile or pejorative towards the gay community in general."[63] Stonewall criticised the ruling; saying "the fact that a comment is light-hearted does not absolve it from perpetuating the stereotypes that lead to homophobic bullying."[65]

Television advertisements

Year Title Role
1970 Kellogg's Rice Krispies Himself
1970's Persil Himself
1990 Harp Lager Himself
1992 IBM 486 Computer Himself, voice only
1996 The Sun/Woolworths Himself
1997 Pizza Hut Himself
1997 Austin Powers cinema release Himself, voice only
1998 The Full Monty home video Himself, voice only
1998 Sure for Men Himself
1999 ONdigital Himself
2000 Fish4 Himself, voice only
2000 Milk Marketing Board Himself, voice only
2000 TV Times Himself, voice only
2001 Nestle Polo Smoothies Himself, voice only
2008 WHSmith Half Price Books Offer Himself, voice only
2010 Super Mario Bros 25th Anniversary Himself
2012 Sky+ Himself

Video games

Year Video game Role Notes
2007 Halo 3 UNSC Marine
2010 Fable III Barry Hatch
2013 Catcha Catcha Aliens! Main Character iOS game. Made by Ross's own company.


Year Show Episode Character
2012 Phineas and Ferb Tri-State Area: Boot of Secrets (Season 3) The Ducky MoMo guy (cameo)

Honours and awards

  • 2012, Special Recognition award at the National Television Awards.


Further reading

  • Jonathan Ross: The Biography, Neil Simpson, John Blake Publishing Ltd (31 July 2007), ISBN 1-84454-432-X
  • Why Do I Say These Things?, Jonathan Ross, Bantam Press (16 October 2008), ISBN 0-593-06082-2

External links

  • Internet Movie Database
  • Interactive video talk by Jonathan Ross on Ealing studios for the British Film Institute
Preceded by
David Yates
NFTS Honorary Fellowship
Succeeded by
Ashley Pharoah

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