Useful Notes: Comic Relief
's other charity telethon. As the name implies, its main focus is on comedy, with many major British comedians often taking part (and some, such as Lenny Henry
, are almost expected to appear every year), down to the main motif, a red clown nose that takes a different form with every event.
The telethon, known as Red Nose Day, airs every two years (ever since the second telethon in 1989, March of every odd-numbered year, usually on the third Friday; the first one was in 1988 and aired on the first Friday in February
) and is generally similar to Children in Need
in format, with comedy skits and spoofs, appearances by celebrities (often poking fun at themselves), and performances by special musical acts (that often get interfered with by the comedians). All the while, there are short reports showing people in desperate need that Comic Relief has helped. Like with Children in Need
, the BBC News separates the family friendly and the racier parts of the night.
The skits in the Comic Relief telethons often either special versions of BBC comedy shows, or specially made for the telethon. These usually include spoofs, pieces involving a comedian with a celebrity, or a Cross Over
between two different programmes (which have a good chance of being from two completely different shows
). The most notable of these is the Doctor Who
spoof The Curse of Fatal Death
, the centrepiece of Red Nose Day '99, which was written by Steven Moffat
, the writer of Coupling
, some of the most critical and fan acclaimed episodes of the new Who, and current showrunner.
Comic Relief often also have a special charity record to go along with the event. This is usually a cover
performed by a well known pop act alongside a popular comedy act, but is sometimes just a cover by a well known pop act with some comedians doing wacky things in the video. As expected, the song is performed during the telethon, often with interference. Another regular fundraiser is a bright red plastic nose (a different design, or more usually two or three different designs, every time) which is inevitably sold using some variant of the phrase "Pick Your Nose Here".
In even-numbered years, an event called Sport Relief
runs instead. The actual telethon is similar to Comic Relief, but the events surrounding it are more sport-oriented and include celebrities (notably David Walliams and Helen Skelton) taking on endurance challenges, and fun runs all over the country under the "Sport Relief Mile" banner.
There's an American version of Comic Relief, which is like the British version
, except on HBO instead of free TV, focused on stand-up comedy rather than sketches, running irregularly instead of every two years (most recently for a Hurricane Katrina benefit in 2006), and not involving any red clown noses. It's hosted by Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, and (until his death) Robin Williams
Not to be confused with Plucky Comic Relief
Notable Relief stuff:
- Blackadder (1988), a brief episode, but notable for being by Blackadder writer and Comic Relief co-founder Richard Curtis (who had had thought up the charity with Lenny Henry in 1985).
- Star Trek: The Next Generation (1994), a brief bit done for the American Comic Relief that had pretty much all the main cast except Patrick Stewart. The bit, in which some Comic Relief artifacts are found on a planet's surface, is done in such a way that it really doesn't look out-of-place in the Trek mythos.
- Several Mr. Bean sketches, with Rowan Atkinson reprising the role:
- "BallyKissDibley" (1997), a crossover between Ballykissangel and The Vicar of Dibley.
- Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death (1999), a spoof Doctor Who adventure starring Rowan Atkinson as the Doctor and Jonathan Pryce as the Master. Written by Steven Moffat, who would later go on to write for the series upon its actual return in 2005 and run the series beginning in 2010.
- Amusingly, the BBC released Curse (re-edited into a two-parter with a new opening sequence for one) on VHS just like any other Who story, using the same formatting and all.
- 2003 featured Jack Dee stuck on top of a column all night, a parody sketch of Harry Potter featuring Dawn French as a female Harry and Jeremy Irons as a self-obsessed Snape, and a celebrity driving school where Paul O'Grady lost his temper after finding out he failed his first test by one point.
- "Is This the Way to Amarillo?" (2005): A re-release of the 1971 Tony Christie song, with accompanying video featuring, well, a lot of people, including Ronnie Corbett falling off a treadmill. This charity single spent seven weeks at No.1 and a version done by the Royal Dragoon Guards in Iraq crashed a server at the Ministry of Defence because it was being emailed so much.
- 2007 saw a crossover between Lauren Cooper of The Catherine Tate Show and... then Prime Minister Tony Blair, in which he became increasingly exasperated after listening to two straight minutes of her constant chattering, finally responding with her own catchphrase.
- Deal or No Deal (2007), a "mini-episode" with Nan of The Catherine Tate Show. The whole thing is played extremely straight.
- Top Gear of the Pops (2007), a crossover between the car show and the music showcase, featuring the Top Gear presenters introducing various musical acts instead of cars, talking about music-related topics during the news, charging Mc Fly with writing a new song for the special using the words "sofa", "Hyundai", and "administration", and concluding with a performance of "Red Light Spells Danger" by the Top Gear Band.
- Let's Dance for Comic Relief (2009): Namely, celebs doing dance routines. This one included Lampshade Hanging on result announcements ("Can we have some dramatic music?") and a Stupid Sexy Flanders moment involving Robert Webb, "What a Feeling" and a leotard.
- 2013 had Jessie J shaving her head and skits where Simon Cowell gets married to himself and the Doctor, alongside the cast of Call the Midwife, tries to stop the birth of the most terrifying being the universe has ever seen... Jedward.