Comic Relief

Comic Relief
Comic Relief logo

Comic Relief is an operating British charity, founded in 1985 by the comedy scriptwriter Richard Curtis and comedian Lenny Henry in response to famine in Ethiopia.[1] The highlight of Comic Relief's appeal is Red Nose Day, a biennial telethon held in March, alternating with sister project Sport Relief. Comic Relief is one of the two high profile telethon events held in the United Kingdom, the other being Children in Need, held annually in November.

Comic Relief was launched live on Noel Edmonds' Late, Late Breakfast Show on BBC1, on Christmas Day 1985 from a refugee camp in Sudan. The idea for Comic Relief came from the noted charity worker Jane Tewson, who established it as the operating name of Charity Projects, a registered charity in England[2] and Scotland.[3]

The charity states that its aim is to "bring about positive and lasting change in the lives of poor and disadvantaged people, which we believe requires investing in work that addresses people's immediate needs as well as tackling the root causes of poverty and injustice.".[4]

One of the fundamental principles behind working at Comic Relief is the "Golden Pound Principle" where every single donated pound (£) is spent on charitable projects. All operating costs, such as staff salaries, are covered by corporate sponsors, or interest earned on money waiting to be distributed.

Currently, its main supporters are the BBC, BT and Sainsbury's supermarket chain. The BBC is responsible for the live television extravaganza on Red Nose Day; BT provides the telephony, and Sainsbury's sells merchandise on behalf of the charity. Since the charity was launched in 1985, Comic Relief has raised over £750 million.[5]

Critics of Comic Relief and other BBC charity events say that the BBC is diverting funds from well established charities and smaller charities, there is no accountability for who decides on where the money is held or spent, and the main beneficiary is the BBC - goodwill and free programming - the bankers who hold the funds - and especially the celebrities promoting themselves on prime-time TV for free. The July 2010 accounts for charity registration 326568 show grant payments of £59 million pounds, net assets of £135 million pounds, with an investment portfolio held in a range of managed pooled funds and fixed term deposits. The average fulltime staff was 214, with 14 staff paid over £60,000 with remuneration for the year, excluding pensions, for Kevin Cahill, Chief Executive of £120,410.

In 2002, Comic Relief and BBC Sport teamed up to create Sport Relief, a new initiative, aiming to unite the sporting community and culminate in a night of sport, entertainment and fund-raising on BBC One. Sport Relief is a biennial charity event, and the campaign deliberately alternates years with Red Nose Day, Comic Relief's flagship event. Red Nose Day occurs in odd-numbered years, and Sport Relief in even-numbered years.

In 2009, Comic Relief launched a website calling for a financial transaction tax, the "Robin Hood" tax.


Red Nose Day history

Red Nose Day is the main way in which Comic Relief raises money. The first Red Nose Day (RND) was held on the 5 February 1988 and since then they have been on the second or third Friday in March. RND 2011 was on 18 March.

Red Nose Day is often treated as a semi-holiday[citation needed]; for example, many schools have non-uniform days. The day culminates in a live telethon event on BBC One, starting in the evening and going through into the early hours of the morning, but other money-raising events take place. As the name suggests, the day involves the wearing of plastic/foam red noses which are available, in exchange for a donation, from Sainsbury's and Oxfam shops.

On television

The television programming begins in the afternoon, with CBBC having various related reports, money-raising events and celebrity gunging. This is all in-between the regular programmes, but after the six o'clock news, the normal BBC One schedule is suspended at 7pm in favour of a live show, with a break at 10pm for the regular news programme. Whilst the BBC News at Ten is aired on BBC One, Comic Relief continues on BBC Two, and then resumes on BBC One at 10:35pm, with each hour overseen by a different celebrity team. These celebrities do the work for free, as do the crew, with studio space and production facilities donated by the BBC.

Regular themes throughout the shows include parodies of recent popular shows, films and events, and specially-filmed versions of comedy shows. Smith and Jones, and a parody sketch starring Rowan Atkinson are both regularly featured – the first being Blackadder: The Cavalier Years (1988).

1997 event

The 1997 "Red Nose Day" event, held on 14 March, raised over £27m for charitable causes.[6] The Spice Girls song "Who Do You Think You Are" became the official Comic Relief single of this event and sold 672,577 copies.[7]

1999 event

The 1999 "Red Nose Day" was held on 12 March and raised over £35m.[8] A parody of the Doctor Who series, Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death, starring Rowan Atkinson as the Doctor, was featured during the show, as was Wetty Hainthropp Investigates, a Victoria Wood parody of Hetty Wainthropp Investigates.

On Radio 1, Simon Mayo set the record of 37 hours of consecutive broadcasting (which was later broken in March 2011 by Chris Moyles on the same station for 52 hours, "BBC Radio 1's Longest Show Ever with Chris Moyles and Comedy Dave for Comic Relief", the world record for the longest show in radio history).

The 1999 comic relief song being (when the going gets tought) by boyzone

2001 event

The 2001 "Red Nose Day" was held on 16 March. The total raised was £61,000,140.[citation needed] As well as donations on the night of the TV show, money is raised from countrywide sponsored events and from merchandising, particularly of the red noses themselves. 5.8 million red noses were sold,[citation needed] approximately one tenth of the UK population. The final of Celebrity Big Brother 2001 aired as well.

2003 event

The 2003 "Red Nose Day" was held on 14 March. The fund raising activities included Lenny Henry providing the voice of the speaking clock between 10 March and 23 March with the cost of the call going to Comic Relief. On the night of the live show itself, £35m was raised, an on-the-night record.[citation needed] A total of £61,477,539 was raised that year, setting a new record.[citation needed]

Jack Dee stood outside at the top of a pole for the duration of the show, parodying the acts of David Blaine. Celebrity Driving School led up to the event, with the test results announced during the telethon: they all failed.

The hosts of "Red Nose Day" 2003 were:

Shows included

As usual a variety of specially-filmed versions of television shows were made. Popular BBC talent show Fame Academy returned as Comic Relief does Fame Academy. Other shows included:

Harry Potter and the Secret Chamberpot of Azerbaijan, a parody of Harry Potter, starring Dawn French as Harry Potter, Jennifer Saunders as Ron Weasley and Miranda Richardson as Hermione Granger.

2005 event

The 2005 Red Nose Day was held on 11 March, and was hosted by a collection of television stars:

The 2005 event was also noteworthy for supporting the Make Poverty History campaign – many of the videos recorded for the MPH campaign (including videos by Bono and Nelson Mandela) were shown throughout the evening. Over £63m was raised as of November 2005.[citation needed]

Shows included

As usual a variety of specially-filmed versions of television shows were made. Popular BBC talent show Comic Relief does Fame Academy was attended by celebrities singing cover versions of songs. Viewers voted for their favourite, with the proceeds going to the cause and the celebrity. Other shows included:

2005's telethon, more than any other, severely overran[citation needed] and many pre-filmed segments were cut short, including Harry Hill's TV Burp, Smith and Jones, and Lenny Henry as Condoleezza Rice. The uncut versions have never been screened.

McFly released the official single, a double A-side of "All About You/You've Got a Friend" which reached Number 1 in the UK singles chart, and also Number 1 in the Irish singles chart. The cover is predominantly red and features the members of McFly dressed in red, wearing red noses, in honour of Red Nose Day.

Donation progress

Times approximate and amounts rounded to the nearest million where not stated exactly:[citation needed]

  • 7:30 pm – £2 million
  • 8:30 pm – £7 million
  • 9:30 pm – £18 million
  • 10 pm – £22 million
  • 11:30 pm – £31 million
  • 12:45 am – £35 million
  • 02:00 am – £38 million

Raised by March 2006: £65 m.[citation needed]

2007 event

2007's Red Nose Day was held on 16 March. Its tagline is "The Big One" which is also representative of the novelty nose. Walkers, Kleenex and Andrex also promoted the charity, as well as Sainsbury's.

Some of the sketches shown were: The Vicar of Dibley.[9] Also intended to be shown was A Question of Comedy, a comedy quiz utilising the format (and set) of A Question of Sport, and hosted by Jack Dee, with team captains Frank Skinner, Dara Ó Briain,[10] and Mr. Bean and guests including Jade Goody. However, in light of the Celebrity Big Brother racism controversy involving Goody, the pre-recorded segment was scrapped by BBC producers.[11][12]

In the lead up to Red Nose Day many different fund raising events occurred:

  • Beginning Friday 9 March 2007, the BBC Radio 1 breakfast team staged a tour around the UK entitled The Chris Moyles Rallyoke. The tour involved seven Karaoke nights held in a well known UK location featuring members of the public and well known celebrities and music artists. Most Radio 1 shows report on their progress, and hold competitions to win tickets to be at the final on Red Nose Day, and also to win the contents of a truck donated by various celebrities. As well as raising money at each event, the profit of the phone-in competitions go to Comic Relief making a total of £600,000[13]
  • Fund raising merchandise sold during the 2007 campaign included the Big One (Red Nose) itself, 'Walkears', an Andrex Puppy with a red nose, a special Little Britain Live DVD and the official single, which was a cover of Aerosmith's 'Walk This Way' sung by Girls Aloud and Sugababes.
  • The last episode of the Vicar of Dibley was aired as part of the show, starring the usual cast. It featured Sting taking part with a celebrity and non-entity television show, swapping wives with the vicar's husband Harry.
  • There were several sketches from Catherine Tate: in which David Tennant (who she would work with again a year later in Doctor Who, which is referenced to & joked about within the sketch) became a school teacher; Daniel Craig fell in love with Tate; mouthy teenager Lauren was given work experience at 10 Downing Street, leading to Tony Blair using her catchphrase "Am I bovvered?"; and foul-mouthed "Nan" appeared with Noel Edmonds on Deal or No Deal.
Donation progress

Times approximate:[citation needed]

  • 7.25 pm – £2,256,037
  • 8.19 pm – £7,430,542 (£2,000,136 raised by TK Maxx selling Red Nose Day t-shirts in store)
  • 9.09 pm – £15,139,826 (£1,001,219 raised by Walkers WalkEars)
  • 9.48 pm – £22,148,068 (£7,008,242 raised by Sainsbury's)
  • 9.54 pm – £26,820,554
  • 11.30 pm – £27,420,554 (£600,000 raised by BBC Radio 1)
  • 11.31 pm – £27,771,803 (£351,249 raised by Müller)
  • 11.52 pm – £34,269,843
  • 12.39 am – £34,346,177 (£76,334 from Andrex)
  • 03.03 am – £40,236,142
  • By 16 November 2007, a record-breaking £67,250,099.[citation needed]

2009 event

The 2009 event took place on Friday 13 March 2009. Fundraisers had three different nose designs to choose from: "this one", "that one" and "the other one" – all with different facial expressions. The Saturdays provided the official single, a cover of 'Just Can't Get Enough'.

A variety of events and promotions took place in the run up to the big day. Comic Relief's Chief Executive announced that the UK's landmarks were going red before the big day. Claudia Winkleman and Steve Jones presented a new Comic Relief show called Let's Dance for Comic Relief. A special limited edition Mr. Men book, Mr. Funny's Red Nose Day,[14] went on sale with £2 from the sale of each book going to Comic Relief. Between 3 February and 23 March 2009, Kimberley Walsh, Cheryl Cole, Gary Barlow, Chris Moyles, and Fearne Cotton raised money by lending their voices to the BT Speaking Clock. Dialling 123 was one of the ways BT hopes to raise more than £300,000, as the company donated 10p for each call received from a BT landline.[15] The Red Nose Climb saw nine celebrities successfully scale the peak of Kilimanjaro at 19,330 feet (5,890 m) to reach the summit of Africa's highest mountain to raise money for Comic Relief.[16] On 27 February 2009, Gary Barlow, Ronan Keating, Chris Moyles, Ben Shephard, Cheryl Cole, Kimberley Walsh, Denise Van Outen, Fearne Cotton, and Alesha Dixon set off to Tanzania to tackle Mount Kilimanjaro with project manager and guide Jeremy Gane of Charity Challenge. The Climb has already raised in excess of £3.3 million with over £1.8 million coming from the audience of Radio 1 (a record for the station). All nine celebrities reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro on Saturday 7 March 2009. Cheryl Cole, Fearne Cotton, Denise Van Outen and Ben Shephard reached the summit first at sunrise.

The following took place during the live broadcast on the night:

This was the first Comic Relief show to feature no input from Rowan Atkinson and no comedic material from Lenny Henry.

Donation progress

Times approximate:[citation needed]

  • 7:50 pm – £3,017,772
  • 8:29 pm – £13,667,550 (£3,500,889 Raised in T.K. Maxx stores through Red Nose Day T-shirt sales, and fundraising from T.K. Maxx staff)
  • 9:34 pm – £29,748,187 (£9m raised by Sainsbury's, the largest single donation in Comic Relief history)
  • 9:57 pm – £32,802,411 (£5m of this will be used to pay for one million mosquito nets)
  • 11:25 pm – £41,799,343 (£750,000 raised through Wine Relief, and £6m from an anonymous donor. This is also the first of the highest ever totals announced live on the night in the history of Red Nose Day)
  • 12:52 am – £54,690,437
  • 2:08 am – £57,809,938 (total raised announced during telethon event beats the 2007 record by £17.5 million, and may well go on to beat its overall record total.)

By 2 April 2009 – £65,699,850[citation needed]

Also, by 2 July 2009 – £80 million had been raised, and the final total for the 2009 event stood at £82.3m.[17]


2011 event

The 2011 event took place on Friday 18 March 2011. A staggering amount was raised on the night, reaching a record-breaking £74.3 million, the highest ever 'on the night' total.

The evening was hosted by Lenny Henry, Fearne Cotton, James Corden, Davina McCall, Michael McIntyre, Graham Norton, Jack Whitehall, Kevin Bridges, Claudia Winkleman and Jonathan Ross. Whitehall and Bridges hosted the late night show with some of their favourite comedy clips in their Comic Relief Late Night Lock In. Pieces included Harry Hill (an Autumnwatch-based update of the Goodies episode "Scatty Safari"), James Corden as Smithy, a crossover between Miranda and Pineapple Dance Studios, the cast of Outnumbered, The Inbetweeners Rude Road Trip, Geraldine McQueen duetting with Susan Boyle, Goldie Lookin' Chain's Newport State Of Mind, a celebrity chef-themed episode of The Choir, the premiere of the Comic Relief video for Take That's single Happy Now, Armstrong and Miller, a preview presentation of Chris Lilley's Angry Boys, a special edition of Alan Partridge's Mid-Morning Matters, and Uptown Downstairs Abbey - a parody from Jennifer Saunders and Adrian Edmondson (produced in the style of French and Saunders) including appearances by Victoria Wood, Harry Enfield, Joanna Lumley, Patrick Barlow, Dale Winton, Olivia Colman, Tim Vine, Simon Callow and the voices of Michael Gambon and Harry Hill. As well as comedy shows, special canonical mini-episodes of EastEnders and Doctor Who were also aired. Musical guests included Adele, Annie Lennox, Elbow, JLS, Take That, The Wanted, and The Axis of Awesome. The event included many other famous figures including Ross Kemp, Gordon Brown, Sebastian Coe, David Cameron, Rio Ferdinand, Paul McCartney and many more.

In addition to the continued absence of Rowan Atkinson, two more prominent supporters of the charity were absent for the 2011 - this was the first ever Comic Relief event to feature no input from Dawn French, and the first for over ten years to feature no input from Matt Lucas. Similarly, several other frequent contributors from previous years appeared only in appeal films or as part of the 24 Hour Panel People event. Lenny Henry however finally returned after an absence to perform comedic material.

TV & Radio programmes that led up to the main event include:

Snack food manufacturer, Walkers created four new crisps flavours for Comic Relief 2011. Each flavour is named after a British comedian; Frank Skinner's Roast Dinner, Jimmy Con Carrne, Steak and Al Pie and Stephen Fry Up.[19] The Wanted released the official comic relief 2011 single "Gold Forever" on 13 March. Other Comic Relief singles include George Michael's cover of the 1987 song "True Faith" by New Order and the Take That song "Happy Now" featuring Take That and Fake That consisting of David Walliams, James Corden, John Bishop, Alan Carr and Catherine Tate.[20] More than a hundred celebrities are to be involved in "Twit Relief", an event on Twitter.[21] Lord Prescott is going to read the Shipping Forecast on BBC Radio 4 to raise money for Comic Relief on Saturday 19 March 2011 at approximately 00:48. British Airways set a new Guinness World Record for 'highest stand up comedy gig in the world' in support of Red Nose Day 2011, with Dara Ó Briain, Jack Whitehall and Jon Richardson. The airline raised £800,747 for Comic Relief through their charity partnership 'Flying Start'.


TV ratings

Year Broadcast
total viewing
weekly rank
total viewing
programme weekly rank
1999 12 March 6,830,000 20th 3,130,000 13th
2001 16 March 8,510,000 8th N/A N/A
2003 14 March 11,740,000 4th 6,010,000 1st
2005 11 March 10,940,000 4th 4,720,000 1st
2007 16 March 9,730,000 2nd 6,400,000 1st
2009 13 March 9,840,000 1st 7,090,000 1st
2011 18 March 10,260,000 1st 7,530,000 1st
Source: BARB


Various items of merchandise have been sold to promote and raise money for Comic Relief. In 1991, The Totally Stonking, Surprisingly Educational And Utterly Mindboggling Comic Relief Comic was published by Fleetway. Conceived, plotted and edited by Neil Gaiman, Richard Curtis, Grant Morrison and Peter K. Hogan, it featured contributions from a vast array of British comics talent, including Jamie Delano, Garth Ennis, Dave Gibbons, Mark Millar, Simon Bisley, Mark Buckingham, Steve Dillon, D'Israeli, Jamie Hewlett and Bryan Talbot. (Alan Moore, arguably Britain's most famous comics writer, was not credited as working on the book having sworn never to work for Fleetway again, but was said[22] to have worked with partner Melinda Gebbie on her pages.) The comic was unique in that it featured appearances by characters from across the spectrum of comics publishers, including Marvel and DC superheroes, Beano, Dandy, Eagle and Viz characters, Doctor Who, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, in addition to a cavalcade of British comedy figures (both real and fictional). These were all linked by the twin framing narratives of the Comic Relief night itself, and the tale of "Britain's meanest man" Sir Edmund Blackadder being persuaded to donate money to the event. The comic "sold out in minutes", raising over £40,000[citation needed] for the charity, and is now a highly prized collectors' item. Comic Relief have also sold Fairtrade Cotton Socks from a number of vendors. This is mainly for their Sport Relief charity.

In 1993 a computer platform game was released, called Sleepwalker. The game featured voice overs from Lenny Henry and Harry Enfield, and several other references to Comic Relief and tomatoes; the theme for the 1993 campaign.

In 2001 J. K. Rowling wrote two books for Comic Relief based on her famous Harry Potter series, entitled "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" and "Quidditch Through the Ages".

In 2007, Walkers complemented the usual merchandise by adding their own take on the red nose, promoting red ears instead. The large ears, dubbed 'Walk-ears', are based on a very old joke involving the actual ears of ex-footballer Gary Lineker, who has fronted their ad campaign since the early 1990s. Walkers previously promoted the charity in 2005, making four limited edition unusual crisp flavours.

The 2007 game for Red Nose Day, “Let it Flow”, could be played online. This game was developed by Matmi, worldwide viral marketeers, and set in the African wilderness. Mischievous hyenas had messed up the water irrigation system which fed the crops. Using your brain, you had to help re-arrange the pipes to let the water flow to the crops to keep them alive. Once the pipes were arranged, you needed to operate the elephant’s trunk to pump the water through the water pipes.

For the 2007 campaign Andrex, known for their ad campaign fronted by a Labrador puppy, gave away toy puppies with red noses.

As a Supporting Partner Jackpotjoy has launched two Red Nose Day Games for Red Nose Day 2011.

The Red Nose

The most prominent symbol of Comic Relief is a plastic/foam "red nose", which is given in various supermarkets and charity shops such as Oxfam in exchange for a donation to the charity and to make others laugh. People are encouraged to wear the noses on Red Nose Day to help raise awareness of the charity. The design of the nose has been changed each year, beginning with a fairly plain one, which later grew arms, turned into a tomato and even changed colour. In 2007, the red nose was made of foam; this was to facilitate the "growing" of the nose (by rolling it in the user's hands) to keep in line with that year's tagline, The Big One. See the table below. Larger noses are also available, and are designed to be attached to the fronts of cars, buildings, and, in 2009, a 6 metre diameter inflatable nose was attached to the DFDS Seaways cruiseferry King of Scandinavia. However, the nose's material used for buildings was classed as a fire hazard. and was banned from the Comic Relief Does Fame Academy shows.

Chronology of noses

As of 2011, there have been 17 different Red noses over 13 Comic Relief shows. (Three noses were used for 2009 & 2011).

Year Name Description
1988 The Red Nose Plain red plastic.
1989 My Nose Had a face, made with rose scented plastic.
1991 Hands Nose Had hands and a face, made of plastic.
1993 Tomato Nose Had a tomato stalk and a face, made of plastic.
1995 The Heat Sensitive Nose Changed either yellow or pink in the heat with 'MY NOSE' on it.
1997 Shaggy Nose Clear plastic shell covered in red fur.
1999 The Big Red Hooter Faceless with gold glitter, and when squeezed it 'hooted'.
2001 Whoopee Nose Red head with inflated cheeks, when squeezed the tongue inflated.
2003 Hairy Nose Had gooey eyes that squeezed out and a tuft of red hairs. It came with gel for the hair. When worn upside down, the hair can resemble a moustache.
2005 Big Hair & Beyond (Chad) Had a smiley face and colourful elastic hair. It came with red and yellow face paint and stickers for the nose.
2007 The Big One Faceless, made of foam which made it more comfortable; came with stickers to decorate the nose with, and Chocpix.
2009 This One
That One
The Other One
Three noses were available. Nose 1 (This One) had a big smile with mouth open. Nose 2 (That One) had glasses on and a smile with the teeth closed. Nose 3 (The Other One) had a shocked look.

All three came with six stickers depicting each of the noses, the RND 09 logo and tag-line "Do something funny for money"; a sticker to introduce your nose by name, which said, "Hello, my nose is:" shortly followed by a blank to write in a name; and a small booklet of nose-related jokes.

2011 Monster Noses There were three different 'monster noses' for RND 2011. Their names were Honkus, who had a furry face with a large mouth with sharp teeth and small eyes near the top of the head. Chucklechomp, who had small round spectacles and a large mouth, and Captain Conk who was roughly based on a pirate with a black skull and crossbones bandana and an eyepatch. Each nose came with a circular leaflet which contained monster related jokes and pictures of the three monster noses. 2011 was also the year an Augmented Reality version of the nose was created as part of the Red Nose Day website. Via a webcam the users head was converted into a giant red nose which could then be recorded as a short movie and posted to Facebook and/or YouTube.

Chronology of car noses

A selection of Red Nose Day "car noses" have been produced over the years, to show support for the charity while out on the road. They have traditionally been a curved nose which attaches to the car's radiator grille. In 2009, this was replaced with a magnetic design owing to safety concerns.[23] The original grill-attachable design returned for 2011, for the first time since 1999.[24]

Year Name Description
1989 The Red Nose A curved, dome-like plastic red nose which attached to the car's radiator grille at the front.
1991 The Hands Nose A red plastic nose with hands, which attached to the car's radiator grille at the front.
1993 The Tomato Nose A red plastic nose with a green tomato stalk, which attached to the car's radiator grille at the front with cable ties.
1997 The Aerial Nose A small red plastic nose which attached to the car's aerial. This nose was sold in Texaco fuel stations.
1999 The Hands Nose Another red plastic nose with hands and '1999' in golden adhesive numbers, which attached to the car's radiator grille at the front with cable ties.
2001 The Big Sticky Car Nose A small plastic nose with wings, synonymous to The Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament on Rolls-Royce cars, for attaching to the car's bonnet with a suction cup on the base. The Big Sticky Nose featured a face designed by Aardman animators, the creators of Wallace and Gromit.
2003 The Hairy Air Freshener Nose A small plastic nose with a smiley face and red tuft of hair, attached to the driver's rear-view mirror.
2005 The Air Freshener Nose A small plastic nose with a smiley face and colourful koosh-like elastic hair, for attaching to the driver's rear-view mirror.
2007 Big Smelly Nose Balls Two furry air freshener noses with black spectacles, which dangled from the driver's rear-view mirror, synonymous with furry dice from the 1950s.
2009 The Magnetic Nose A thin and flat magnetic nose, with a grinning face, which attached magnetically to the car's bonnet.
2011 The Monster Nose A return to the curved plastic nose, featuring a monster face, which attached to the car's radiator grille at the front with cable ties.

Comic Relief charity singles

In April 1986 the first Comic Relief charity single was released. It featured Cliff Richard and the cast of The Young Ones in a rendition of "Living Doll".

Some of the money raised from the sale of each single is donated to Comic Relief. Normally a song is released just before the official Red Nose Day. There have been exceptions, such as "(I want to be) Elected" which was released to coincide with the 1992 UK general election. Before 1995's song, they were all more-or-less comedy records, mostly involving an actual band or singer, and a comedy group. From 1995 on, they have been generally more serious, although the videos still feature comical moments.

2003 saw a return to the format of old. From 2005 onwards, two comic relief songs have been released each red nose day, a song by a mainstream artist, and a comedy song.

Title Artist(s) Highest chart
position reached
April 1986 "Living Doll" Cliff Richard and the cast of The Young Ones No. 1
December 1987 "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" Mel & Kim (Mel Smith and Kim Wilde) No. 3
February 1989 "Help!" Bananarama & La na nee nee noo noo (French and Saunders with Kathy Burke) No. 3
March 1991 "The Stonk" Hale and Pace (backing band includes David Gilmour and Brian May) No. 1
March 1991 "Helping Hand" Numerous children's TV puppet personalities, including characters from 'The House of Gristle', 'Fraggle Rock', 'Rainbow', 'Roland Rat', 'Thunderbirds', 'Round the Bend', 'Bill & Ben', 'The Gophers', 'Spitting Image', 'Jim Hensons Tale of the Bunny Picnic' and more! No.
April 1992 "(I Want to Be) Elected" Smear Campaign (Bruce Dickinson, Rowan Atkinson, Angus Deayton) No. 9
February 1993 "Stick It Out" Right Said Fred No. 4
May 1994 "Absolutely Fabulous" Absolutely Fabulous (Pet Shop Boys, Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley) No. 6
March 1995 "Love Can Build a Bridge" Cher, Chrissie Hynde, Neneh Cherry and Eric Clapton No. 1
3 March 1997 "Mama" / "Who Do You Think You Are" Spice Girls No. 1
1 March 1999 "When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going" Boyzone No. 1
March 2001 "Uptown Girl" Westlife No. 1
March 2003 "Spirit in the Sky" Gareth Gates and the Kumars No. 1
7 March 2005 "All About You"/"You've Got a Friend" McFly No. 1
14 March 2005 "Is This the Way to Amarillo" 1 Tony Christie & Peter Kay No. 1
12 March 2007 "Walk This Way" Sugababes vs. Girls Aloud No. 1
19 March 2007 "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" 2 The Proclaimers & Brian Potter & Andy Pipkin 2 No. 1
2 March 2009 "Just Can't Get Enough" The Saturdays No. 2
8 March 2009 "Barry Islands in the Stream" Ruth Jones and Rob Brydon, featuring Tom Jones and Robin Gibb 3[25] No. 1
13 March 2011 "Gold Forever" The Wanted No. 3
13 March 2011 "I Know Him So Well" Susan Boyle & Geraldine McQueen No.11 ( Week end 27th)
  • ^1 "Is This the Way to Amarillo", though released expressly with the intent of proceeds going to Comic Relief, was not an official Comic Relief single. The song was originally performed by Peter Kay (lipsynching to Tony Christie's voice) during the evening, and was later released as a single. It was the number one single for seven weeks, and in its first week it outsold the rest of the Top 20 combined.
  • ^2 In 2007, a version of The Proclaimers song "500 Miles", released on 19 March, featured Peter Kay and Matt Lucas as their wheelchair-user characters Brian Potter and Andy Pipkin. Before its official release, the song reached Number 3 based on downloads alone. The single reached Number one on 25 March, knocking official Comic Relief single "Walk This Way" off the top spot.
  • ^3 In 2009, the comedy release took prominence over the single release by a mainstream recording artist. Gavin and Stacey's Ruth Jones and Rob Brydon covered "Islands in the Stream" for the event, with this being released on the week of Comic Relief. The Saturdays released their record a week earlier.

In addition, the first Red Nose Day Schools' song ('Make Someone Happy') was published in 2007. A CD of the song, together with backing tracks and fundraising ideas was sent free of charge to all primary schools in the UK in February by the education music publisher 'Out of the Ark Music'. Schools will be free to use the song in assemblies, singathons, or other fundraising activities. A second Red Nose Day Song has been released for every school in the UK to use free of charge. It can be downloaded from the Red Nose Day 09 website, or watched on YouTube, and a copy is being sent to every primary school in the UK. It has again been published by "Out of the Ark" music, and contains a more upbeat melody than the 2007 song. It was recorded at Hook Studios, Hook, Surrey, by the Out of the Ark Choir, which is completely made up of children. The children in the video wear Stella McCartney's special edition Comic Relief T-Shirts, and has been filmed in black and white so only the red stands out.


There has been some concern about the lack of gender equality in the causes supported by Comic Relief, with much funding going to politicised women's charities or charities focusing on females. Writing in The Spectator Ross Clark raised the question, "why do all these women’s charities ... feel the need to disguise their fundraising in the pratfest that is Comic Relief rather than appealing directly to the public?" He added, "are they worried that if the British public realised where their money was going they would be less inclined to be so generous?"[26]

There is also concern over adverts for unpaid interns to work alongside highly paid BBC and Comic Relief staff.[27]

The British Stammering Association criticised comedian Lenny Henry for his opening sketch for the 2011 Comic Relief, during which he spoofed the film The King's Speech and grew impatient with Colin Firth's portrayal of King George VI as he stammered over his speech. The Sun reported that the British Stammering Association had branded the sketch as "a gross and disgusting gleefulness at pointing out someone else's misfortune".[28][29]

Similar events outside the United Kingdom

United States

Inspired by the British charity, a United States Comic Relief charity was founded in 1986 by Bob Zmuda.

Comic Relief is an irregularly held event, televised on Home Box Office (HBO), which has raised and distributed nearly US$50 million toward providing health care services to homeless people throughout the United States. Comedians Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg are hosts of the event.

The 1989 HBO Comic Relief show debuted the song "Mr. President", written by Joe Sterling, Ray Reach and Mike Loveless. The song was sung by Al Jarreau and Natalie Cole.

On 18 November 2006, the event was revived as a fundraiser for those affected by Hurricane Katrina, and was simulcast on TBS.[30]

Richard Curtis also created the Idol Gives Back special for American Idol, which follows the same basic premise as Comic Relief, with specially filmed shorts, performances and footage of the stars of the show visiting impoverished countries.


In 1988, the Red Nose Day concept was adopted by the SIDS and Kids organisation to help raise funds for research into sudden infant death syndrome. Since then, Red Nose Day in Australia is held annually on the last Friday of June.[31]

An Australian version of Comic Relief, Comic Relief Australia, has also been set up.[32] It plans to divide the money raised between Australian causes (at least 40%) and overseas charities largely in Asia Pacific (at least 40%).[citation needed]

Following a campaign encouraging people to buy articles such as red wristbands, the first telethon-style event was held on 6 November 2005 on the Seven Network. It followed the established format, with comedy interspersed with examples of the sorts of charities to benefit. According to its website, this raised over AUS $800,000. Another telethon was broadcast on 27 November 2006 on Seven Network. The 2006 Comic Relief Show was held under the title '50 Years of Laughs' celebrating 50 years of Television in Australia. It was hosted by Colin Lane, and featured presenters such as Amanda Keller, Mikey Robbins, Ugly Dave Grey and Derryn Hinch interviewing Kylie Mole.


The German TV station Pro 7 initiated a similar event in 2003. By selling red noses, money is collected for the charity foundations PowerChild, Deutsche Kinder- und Jugendstiftung (lit., German Child and Youth Foundation), and Comic Relief. The event is called 'Red Nose Day', and took place annually in March or April from 2003 to 2006. However ratings and the collected donations fell way short of expectations in 2006, resulting in no main show being produced in 2007 and 2008. In 2003, Nena (who is famous for her hit song 99 Red Balloons) released an updated version of her song Wunder Gescheh'n (miracles happen) for the charity. In 2010, the Red Nose Day returned on Pro7. It took place on 25 November.


A similar charity campaign, entitled "Red Nose, Kind Heart", was launched in Russia on 1 April 2007. The main goal of the drive, held between 1 April and 19 May 2007 by the Liniya Zhizni (Life Line) foundation, is raising money to help children afflicted with serious diseases (such as heart diseases).


In 2002, the Finnish national broadcaster YLE started an annual charity event, which initially went under the title "Ylen hyvä". In 2007, the event adopted the name "Nenäpäivä" (Nose day), and the use of red noses to more closely follow the example of the British event.

See also

References and notes

  1. ^ Our History | Comic Relief
  2. ^ Comic Relief, Registered Charity no. 326568 at the Charity Commission
  3. ^ Comic Relief, Registered Charity no. SC039730 at the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator
  4. ^ Vision & Principles for UK grant-making, [1], retrieved 12 March 2011
  5. ^ About Us | Comic Relief
  6. ^ "Entertainment | Red Nose Day squeaks into life". BBC News. 12 March 1999. Retrieved 14 March 2009. 
  7. ^ "Red Nose Day 1997 – Small change, big difference". Comic relief. Retrieved 14 March 2009. 
  8. ^ "Red Nose Day 1999 – The Record Breaker". Comic relief. Retrieved 14 March 2009. 
  9. ^ "Vicar of Dibley to be resurrected". BBC News. 3 January 2007. Retrieved 2 February 2007. 
  10. ^ "A Question of Comedy". 1 January 2007. Retrieved 2 February 2007. 
  11. ^ Price, Richard (27 January 2007). "Can anyone save Jade?". London: Retrieved 4 February 2007. 
  12. ^ "Jade Goody axed from Comic Relief". BBC News. 22 February 2007. Retrieved 24 February 2007. 
  13. ^ "The Chris Moyles Rallyoke". BBC. Retrieved 16 March 2007. 
  14. ^ "Mr. Funny book for Comic Relief". 
  15. ^ "Celebrities set to climb Kilimanjaro as Comic Relief is summit special". The Sun. 2 February 2009. Retrieved 12 March 2009. 
  16. ^ "The BT Red Nose Climb | Red Nose Day 09". Retrieved 12 March 2009. [dead link]
  17. ^ BBC News website, 19 March 2011.
  18. ^ "Doctor Who – News". BBC. 6 March 2009. Retrieved 12 March 2009. 
  19. ^ Stephen Fry "Frank Skinner's Roast Dinner, Jimmy Con Carrne, Steak and Al Pie and Stephen Fry Up are the new Comic Relief flavours #walkersclash", Twitter, 24 January 2011, accessed 1 February 2011.
  20. ^ Take That Meet Fake That | Red Nose Day 2011
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Comics FAQ". Neil Gaiman. Retrieved 2 May 2010. 
  23. ^ Health & safety killjoys ban 'dangerous' Comic Relief car accessory - Exclusive -
  24. ^ A Come Back For The Car Nose | Red Nose Day 2011
  25. ^ "Tom Jones and Rob Brydon Record Comic Relief Single". 29 January 2008. Retrieved 29 January 2009. 
  26. ^ "Read the small print before you donate". The Spectator. UK. 21 March 2007. Retrieved 2 May 2010. 
  27. ^ "Should Comic Relief pay their interns?". Graduate Fog. UK. 15 December 2010. Retrieved 1 October 2011. 
  28. ^ Ryan Love (2011). "Lenny Henry criticised for 'Speech' spoof". Digital Spy. Retrieved March 21, 2011. 
  29. ^ "Lenny Henry's stammer joke is blasted". The Sun. 21 March 2011. Retrieved March 22, 2011. 
  30. ^ "'Comic Relief' Returns to HBO". 6 September 2006.,0,1080956.story?coll=zap-news-headlines. Retrieved 2 February 2007. 
  31. ^ "Australian Red Nose Day Homepage". Retrieved 2 February 2007. 
  32. ^ [2]

External links

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