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[[quoteright:350:[[WesternAnimation/AmericanDad http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/american_dad_telethon.jpg]]]]

Marathon television show, almost always broadcast to raise money for a charitable cause. Can run anywhere from 24 hours to a week or more of combined VarietyShow and pointless {{filler}}.

The first telethon, broadcast by Creator/{{NBC}} in April 1949, was a fundraiser for the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. (In fact, NBC executive Sylvester Weaver coined the word "telethon" -- a {{portmanteau}} of "television" and "marathon" -- to describe the program, which was a radically different event that he hoped would entice people to buy TV sets.) The Foundation's first big fund-raiser, the telethon ran a then-unprecedented 16 hours with Milton Berle as its host, and raised $100,000. In all ways it was more or less indistinguishable from "modern" telethons, from the stars and celebrities who performed and urged donations, to the big on-screen bank of telephone operators taking calls.

!!Real life examples of Telethons:

* The most famous would be Creator/JerryLewis's ''Muscular Dystrophy Telethon''.
* The most ''infamous'' might be [[ViewersLikeYou pledge week]] on Creator/{{PBS}}.
* Britain has ''UsefulNotes/ComicRelief'' and ''Series/ChildrenInNeed''. One example of the latter had half of Creator/TheBBC's news team dress up as Duran Duran and sing "Wild Boys". The most recent example involved a ''Film/JamesBond'' spoof with the entire team (and Creator/RogerMoore).
* Every October, Perth hosts the Australian Telethon (simply known as 'Telethon') to raise money for sick kids. And for the last 10 years it has exceeded the 1 million dollar mark, with the current record being 6.5mil last year.
* In Norway, this is done by the NRK, the Norwegian State Broadcaster, every October. The money goes to different good purposes each year, which is promoted weeks in advance. In addition to being a telethon, volunteers go door-to-door and ask for donations on the same day the telethon is held.
* Ever since TheSeventies, Chilean public TV channels host the Chilean Telethon almost every December to donate for the "Sociedad de Ayuda al Niño Lisiado" (roughly translated as "Crippled Children Aid Society"), raising money for crippled kids. This is said to be the inspiration for Creator/JerryLewis's ''Muscular Dystrophy Telethon''; whether it was the case of not, it ''did'' doubtlessly inspire many other telethons across Latin America.
* ABC Family is required to air a CBN telethon every year the last Sunday in January; this was one of the sale conditions CBN owner Pat Robertson put in his contract to sell the network to Fox in the late 1990's, along with keeping three hours of ABC Family airtime per day.
* OnceASeason the Non-Profit ''WebVideo/TheFundayPawpetShow'' holds a telethon/auction to raise money for creator Yappy's operating expenses and music licensing costs.
* UsefulNotes/NewZealand's South Pacific Television and its successor TVNZ hosted eleven 24-hour telethons between 1975 and 1991, raising money for various charities, with the record being $6 million in 1985[[note]]That's $15.7 million in 2014 dollars[[/note]]. [=TV3=] also hosted telethons in 1993 and 2009.
* Not technically a ''tele''thon, as it's not aired on television, but WebVideo/LoadingReadyRun holds "Desert Bus for Hope" every year to raise money for Child's Play.
* Project for Awesome, started by the WebVideo/VlogBrothers which includes a 48-hour livestream on YouTube.

!!Fictional examples of Telethons:

* ''Manga/MyBrideIsAMermaid'': Parodied when Lunar holdsa telethon for Mikawa when everybody [[MistakenForDying thinks he's dying]].

* ''Film/{{Americathon}}'': In a future America, the country holds a 30-day telethon to repay its debts or risk foreclosure by Native Americans.
* ''Film/TheMuppets'': The climax involves the Muppets hosting a telethon to save their studio. [[spoiler: Thanks to the villain knocking a telephone pole down with his car, the telethon ends with them mere ''cents'' away from their goal.]]
* The basis of Music/{{GWAR}}'s second film, ''Skulhedface'', has the alien barbarian band hosting a "Maggothon" on their own Slavepit TV channel to gather enough souls of killed people for the World Maggot, a giant worm that's supposed to take them out of our "miserable planet" when it is satiated.
* ''Film/{{UHF}}'': Near the end, George holds a telethon to raise funds to buy the station.

* ''Carter Country'': In one episode, he staff at the police department puts on a telethon to raise money for a former chief who has become quite ill. During the telethon - but unbeknownst to them - local news breaks into the telethon feed to announce that the former chief had died. One staffer, who had refused to participate because of the former chief's racist views, sneaks onto the show to surreptitiously inform the current chief while he's in the middle of a musical tribute.
* ''Series/FamilyTies'':
** Steven was working a PBS Telethon when his snowbound wife goes into labor.
** And again when Uncle Arthur tried it on with Malory. That guy had no luck with telethons.
* ''Series/FullHouse'': One episode has Danny hosting a telethon at the TV station he works at. When what he plans to be a 2-minute rest ends up with him out like a light, his family has to [[TheShowMustGoOn keep the show going]].
* In an episode of ''Series/{{Friends}}'', Joey is asked to assist with a telethon. He thinks he has been invited to host and arrives in a tuxedo, but discovers that he is actually one of the volunteers assisting with answering the phones. At several points during the broadcast, he attempts to attract attention from the phone bank in back, and once actually walks down to the stage.
* ''Series/MysteryScienceTheater3000'': During the show's presentation of ''Film/OverdrawnAtTheMemoryBank'', Pearl held a PBS-style telethon, in reference to the film's origin on public television.
* ''Series/{{Newhart}}'': In one episode, Michael convinces Dick to host a 72-hour telethon for the TV station they work for -- despite that it's a commercial station and not PBS.
* ''Series/{{SCTV}}'': There were four episodes involving telethons and pledge weeks.
* ''Series/{{Seinfeld}}'': In "The Pledge Drive", Jerry hosts a pledge drive at WNET Channel 13, and then has Kramer take over while he searches for his missing Nana.

* The video for Music/{{Cinderella}}'s song, "Shelter Me" deals with a telethon to save rock & roll. Music/LittleRichard plays the host.

* ''WesternAnimation/AmericanDad'': In "The Phantom of the Telethon", Stan steals Roger's idea for a telethon to raise finds for the CIA's torture program, leading Roger to try to sabotage it. Roger claims that he actually invented the telethon in the first place, but Jerry Lewis stole the idea from him then too.
* ''WesternAnimation/GIJoe'': One rather silly episode involves Cobra holding a telethon to fund their next evil plan.
* ''WesternAnimation/PhineasAndFerb'': In one episode, Dr. Doofenshmirtz hosts a "Telethon of Evil," which hilariously gets [[PoesLaw mistaken for satire]] by Lawrence Fletcher.
-->'''Doofenshmirtz:''' I want your money, I'm strapped for cash! I need your money, too lazy to get a job.
* ''WesternAnimation/RobotChicken'': In the Season 3 finale, creators Seth Green and Matthew Senreich host a telethon for the show, and Matt ends up [[KillEmAll killing everyone]] to attract donors.
* ''[[WesternAnimation/RockyAndBullwinkle The Bullwinkle Show]]'': A "Bullwinkle & Rocky Fan Club" sketch involves Bullwinkle hosting a telethon for the club. They end up with ''minus'' ten cents, because Rocky gave Boris a dime for the parking meter.
-->'''Bullwinkle:''' The number to call with your donations is "SUCKER 9-2222", or if that's busy, call "SHAKEDOWN 5-6565". That's the Chinese restaurant downstairs, they'll take a message.
* ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'': In "Missionary: Impossible", Homer flees the country after welching on a $10,000 donation he made to get PBS to end their telethon. At the end, it turns out the entire episode was part of a Creator/{{FOX}} telethon, which Bart tries to end with a $10,000 donation.
* ''WesternAnimation/TinyToonAdventures'': The episode "[[Recap/TinyToonAdventuresS2E1PledgeWeek Pledge Week]]" has the Tiny Toons hosting a telethon. However, nobody seems to be pledging any money, or even calling, aside from [[PrankCall a prank caller]]. In the third wraparound, after telling the viewers the wonderful stuff they could get if they pledged (including the actual Plucky), they manage to raise $0.07.
* ''WesternAnimation/TazMania'' had an episode where the cast made a telethon to keep the show on the air, which raised only ''[[EpicFail ten cents]]''. It turned out that [[{{Jerkass}} Digeri Dingo]] had switched the telethon's donation number so the pledgers would call ''his'' house, and he stole all of the money.