Comic Relief

From Academic Kids

For a description of the origin of the term comic relief see comic relief.

Comic Relief is a charity organisation which was founded in the United Kingdom in 1985 in response to famine in Ethiopia. It now raises money for Africa and disadvantaged people in the UK. It 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 innovative philanthropist Jane Tewson, then head of a British NGO, Charity Projects. Initially funds were raised from live events, the most notable being a comedy revue at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London which was subsequently broadcast on television on 25 April, 1986.


Red Nose Day

Red Nose Day is the main way in which Comic Relief raises money. It is held in the spring every other year and is often treated as a semi-holiday, with, for example, schools having non-uniform days. The day culminates in a live television event on BBC1 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 red noses, which are available, in exchange for a donation, from many shops. There are also larger noses designed to be attached to the fronts of cars or even buildings. The design of the nose has been changed each year, beginning with a fairly plain one, which later grew arms and legs, turned into a tomato and even changed colour. See the table below.

The first "Red Nose Day" was on 5 February, 1988, which raised 15 million. The TV show was hosted by Lenny Henry, Griff Rhys Jones and Jonathan Ross. More than 210 million has so far been distributed to projects by Comic Relief. Administrative costs are covered by corporate sponsors to ensure all public donations are passed on to the supported projects.

On television

Missing image

The television programming begins in the afternoon, with children's BBC having various related reports, money-raising events and a celebrity gungeing. This is all in-between the regular programmes, but after the six o'clock news, the normal schedule is suspended in favour of a live show, with each hour overseen by a different celebrity team. These celebrities do the work for free, as do the crew, with studio space 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 & Jones and a parody sketch starring Rowan Atkinson are both regularly featured – the first being Blackadder: The Cavalier Years (1988).

1999 event

Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death, a parody of the Doctor Who series starring Rowan Atkinson as The Doctor, was featured during the show.

2001 event

In 2001 the total raised on Red Nose Day was in excess of 55 million. 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. In 2001 5.8 million red noses were sold, approximately one each for 10% of the UK population.

Jack Dee won Celebrity Big Brother.

2003 event

The 2003 "Red Nose Day" was held on March 14, 2003. The fund raising activities for included Lenny Henry providing the voice of the speaking clock between March 10 and March 23 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. A total of 61 million was raised that year, setting a new record.

Jack Dee stood outside at the top of a pole for the duration of the show, parodying the acts of David Blaine.

2005 event

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

The 2005 event was also noteworthy for supporting the Make Poverty History campaign

Shows included

As usual a variety of specially-filmed versions of television shows were made. Popular BBC talent show 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:

Spider-plant Man, a parody of Spider-Man starring Rowan Atkinson, was also featured.

Donation progress

Times approximate and amounts rounded to the nearest million where not stated exactly:

  • 7:30pm - 2 million
  • 8:30pm - 7 million
  • 9:30pm - 18 million
  • 10pm - 22 million
  • 11:30pm - 30,503,394
  • 12:45am - 35,325,862
  • 02:00am - 37,809,564

Types of nose and amounts raised by Comic Relief

Source notes. The 'amount raised' figures from 1988 to 1999 are taken from[1] ( Note that that site has not been updated since before 2001 for which it lists an estimated figure. The 2001 and 2003 figures are from various sources. The description of noses was obtained from a history of the nose at [2] (

YearAmount raised : on the night (m)Amount raised : total (m) Type of red nose
1988Unknown15.8 Plain plastic red nose.
1989Unknown26.9 Plain red nose with 'MY NOSE' on the front. The nose also contained a mild scent.
1991Unknown20.3 Also known as "The Stonker" (Named after that year's Comic Relief single), the nose had arms and a face.
1993Unknown18.0 The nose became a tomato with a face. The larger noses for cars and buildings looked like tomatoes thrown against the wall and were called splats.
1995Unknown22.0+ The nose changed colour (from red to pinky-purple or yellow) when heated; holding in a closed hand was enough.
1997Unknown27.1+ The nose was furry.
1999Unknown35.0+ The nose made a squeaky noise when squeezed and also glittered.
200122.0+55.0+ The nose had a tongue, a small rolled-up tube of latex that would unfurl and make a raspy noise when the nose was squeezed.
200335.0+59.0+ The nose had red stylable hair.
200537.0+ The nose had multi-coloured hair made from rubber strands, a funny face and came with stickers to add additional facial features. It was packaged with red hair gel and red/yellow face paints.

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 of the charity singles (details follow) was donated to Comic Relief. Normally a song is released to just before the official Red Nose Day. There have been exceptions, such as "(I want to be) Elected" that 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 then on, until 2005, the charity singles were generally more serious, although the videos still feature comical moments.

Release DateTitleArtistsHighest 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. 4
February 1989 "Help!" Bananarama & La Na Nee Nee Noo Noo (French and Saunders with Kathy Burke) No. 4
March 1991 "The Stonk" Hale and Pace (backing band includes David Gilmour) No. 1
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 and friends No. 4
May 1994 "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
March 1997 "Mama" / "Who Do You Think You Are" the Spice Girls No. 1
March 1999 "When The Going Gets Tough" 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" † Tony Christie & Peter Kay No. 1

† - "Is This the Way to Amarillo", though released expressedly with the intent of proceeds going to Comic Relief, is not an official Comic Relief single.


On October 5, 2004, the Burma Campaign UK criticised Comic Relief for its association with the multinational DHL, a partner of Myanmar Post and Telecom. John Jackson, head of Burma Campaign UK, noted that they were aiding war victims in Rwanda while funding the military regime in Myanmar.

In March, 2005, several Catholic schools in South Wales were banned from supporting Red Nose Day by church leaders because of claims that money raised would fund abortions in Africa. Reports of this were denied by other church leaders.

Similar events outside the United Kingdom

In the 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 HBO, that has raised and distributed nearly $50 million toward providing health care services to homeless men, women, and children throughout the United States. Comedians Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg are hosts of the event.

In Australia

A Red Nose Day, without a related television programme is held each year in Australia to raise money to research the causes of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

In Germany

The German TV station Pro 7 planned a similar event in 2003. With selling red noses money is collected for the charity foundations PowerChild, Deutsche Kinder- und Jugendstiftung (lit., German Child and Youth Foundation), and Comicrelief.

See also

External links

sv:Red Nose Day


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