“National treasure” and “comedy icon” is how fans have described the late incomparable Paul O’Grady, who sadly passed away at the age of 67 on 28 March. Tributes have poured in for the comedian from fellow comedic juggernauts and LGBTQ+ legends, who are remembering – and commending – how he blazed a much-needed trail for queer and drag representation in the 1990’s with his uproarious alter-ego, Lily Savage.
After hosting television shows under the guise of the foul-mouthed Savage – who had a “fondness for booze and drugs” – such as The Big Breakfast, Blankety Blank and Lily Live, he became a household name and the recipient of various prestigious awards as the host of the beloved Paul O’Grady Show and For The Love of Dogs (among several others).
To commemorate Paul O’Grady’s groundbreaking and iconic career, we’re taking a look back at some of his funniest moments, from Savage’s legendary unaired takedown of the BBC to his drunken antics with Richard and Judy.
Joyce, a regular guest on The Paul O’Grady Show and a close friend to the comedian, was behind one of the show’s most iconic moments back in 2009. To the beat of 50 Cent’s In Da Club, Joyce – decked out in hip-hop glam – delivered her “homo” Paul some iced-tea. “Homies, Joyce,” he corrected her. “Homo, that’s a different thing altogether.” Paul subsequently lost control, embarking on one of his many classic laughing fits as he tried to wish select fans a happy birthday and welcomed a Lady Gaga impersonator on stage. “I remember watching this live and spent a good 5 minutes on the floor, just crying with laughter,” said one fan, while another wrote: “Once Paul starts he can’t stop! Love him!”
“I friggin’ deserve this”
Paul O’Grady conquered over Ant & Dec and Jonathan Ross to win Best Comedy Entertainment Personality at the 2005 British Comedy Awards. The comedian hilariously used the platform to condemn the event for supplying the evening’s “skitzos” with “sod all to eat” and the producers for taking away Lily Savage’s 1997 trophy for Best Entertainment Programme. “Pair of shits, so here’s me revenge!” he said, before memorably telling the crowd that he thought “those two little bastards” – Ant & Dec – would’ve taken home the award. “I deserve this, I work hard I’m telling you, five nights a week!” You don’t get award ceremonies like this anymore, huh?
“This’ll fuck ‘em up at home, won’t it?”
The BBC “point blank refused to show” this “topical” seven-minute clip of Lily Savage delivering a side-splitting and foul-mouthed rant on the set of her self-titled variety show. Lily criticises the very “tight” and “thrifty” channel for their wardrobe restraints, refuses to repeat lines from the teleprompter and (exclusively) reveals her (very real) affair with Richard and Judy presenter Richard Madeley. “Me nose is running, this bloody hayfever – don’t lie Lily, you’ve had coke. No, I haven’t,” is one of the wildest moments in, undeniably, Lily’s most unhinged stand-up set on film.
“I had to have me pelvic floor laminated”
In one of her final television appearances, Lily Savage left the late Eastenders icon Barbara Windsor and I’m A Celeb winner Joe Pasquale in hysterics when she revealed that she graciously gave birth to 18 children for lesbian couples across the country, with her “pelvic floor” needing to be “laminated” as a result. Other highlights include Savage criticising Paul O’Grady (how meta), her analysis – we’ll say – of the French and her Rohypnol-assisted holiday celebrations. This video is a perfect display of Lily Savage’s sharp wit and quintessential Liverpudlian sense-of-humour.
“£2.99? Oh I’m not paying a fiver”
Why I loved Paul O’Grady and why I loved Lily Savage.
Lily getting rotten drunk whilst doing a wine tasting live on This Morning in 1994-ish pic.twitter.com/jKoKV51gjv
— Paul Stanworth (@paulstanworth) March 29, 2023
This video is the perfect example of what happens when heteronormativity-meets-queerness. As Lily Savage progressively got drunker during a wine-tasting session, criticising a “disgusten” beverage before chucking another into the river, Richard and Judy – as well as the winexpert – didn’t have the foggiest clue as to what to do except for cackle. “TV gold” is how one fan described it. Another said: “Laughter is the best medicine and Paul O’Grady was an alchemist.”
You can read tributes to Paul O’Grady here.