Friday 13th March is Red Nose Day in the UK. The event, hosted by the BBC, is part of the charity Comic Relief and every year around this time a series of events is planned as a way of using comedy to raise money for charity.
The charity Comic Relief was founded by Richard Curtis (director of Four Weddings And A Funeral and Notting Hill) in 1985 as a response to the famine in Ethiopia. The event has grown year on year and has now raised hundreds of millions for charity. The idea is that various comedians donate their time and creative talent to put on comedy shows and skits on TV and in between there are telethons where money is pledged. Much of the money goes to help projects in Africa particularly children whose parents have died from AIDS.
There have been many wonderful comic episodes in the past and no doubt there will be again this Friday. One of my favourite skits was when Ali G (created by Sacha Baron Cohen who went on to introduce Borat to the world) interviewed David and Victoria Beckham. He came on wearing a tracksuit that said ‘Save Africa’ above a map of Italy! The interview was wonderful – that was in the days when Becks was scared and silent and Posh was funny, sweet and smiley (hard to imagine now!) You can still watch it on YouTube and if you want a laugh, that’s where to go.
Catherine Tate has been a regular on Comic Relief playing her appalling schoolgirl character Lauren. A couple of years ago, she performed a skit with Tony Blair inside 10 Downing St. He was actually very good at playing along. Then she played the same character in a school with David Tennant acting as her English teacher. You can watch all these on YouTube as well.
This year Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant will be participating, as will David Tennant again and the cast of Gavin and Stacey. There will also be a special episode of Outnumbered. This is a brilliant family sitcom starring Hugh Dennis and Claire Skinner and three fantastic young children who lines are largely improvised. It’s pure genius.
But it’s not just comedians who are taking part. Venerable newsreaders will be singing, dancing and generally acting in a way we don’t expect. Members of the public are being asked to ‘Do Something Funny for Money’ and Stella McCartney has designed some special T-shirts – all proceeds going to charity. A team of celebrities have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for sponsorship money. Almost the whole nation will be taking part.