Comic Relief

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Comic Relief
Comic Relief 2018.svg
GenreCharity telethon
Created by BBC
Richard Curtis
Lenny Henry
Presented by Lenny Henry
Emma Willis
Paddy McGuinness
Zoe Ball
David Tennant
Alesha Dixon
Romesh Ranganathan
Clara Amfo
Rob Beckett
Joe Sugg
(See full list)
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
Production locations BBC Television Centre (1988–2013)
The London Palladium (2015)
Building Six at The O2 (2017)
Elstree Studios (2019, 2021)
Camera setup Multi-camera
Running timeVarious
Original network BBC One
Original release5 February 1988 (1988-02-05) 
Related shows Children in Need (1980–)
Sport Relief (2002–)
External links

Comic Relief is an operating British charity, founded in 1985 by the comedy scriptwriter Richard Curtis and comedian Lenny Henry in response to the famine in Ethiopia. [1] The concept of Comic Relief was to get British comedians to make the public laugh, while raising money to help people around the world and in the United Kingdom. [1] [2] A new CEO, Samir Patel, a digital expert, was announced in January 2021. [3]


The highlight of Comic Relief's appeal is Red Nose Day, a biennial telethon held in March, alternating with its sister project Sport Relief. The first live fundraising evening, held on 4 April 1986, featured comedians and pop stars, including Rowan Atkinson, Billy Connolly, Stephen Fry, Kate Bush and co-founder Lenny Henry. [4]

A prominent biennial event on British television, Comic Relief is one of the two high-profile telethon events held in the UK, the other being Children in Need, held annually in November. At the end of the Red Nose Day telethon on 14 March 2015, it was announced that in the 30-year history of Comic Relief, the Red Nose Day and Sport Relief appeals had raised in excess of £1.4 billion. [5] According to the OECD, Comic Relief’s financing for 2019 development increased by 31% to US$46.3 million. [6]

Red Nose Day history

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 charity worker Jane Tewson, who established it as the operating name of Charity Projects, a registered charity in England [7] and Scotland. [8]

On 4 April 1986 [9] the inaugural live fund-raising show, [10] "Comic Relief Utterly Utterly Live", was staged at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London featuring popular alternative comedians and pop stars (including Rowan Atkinson, Billy Connolly, Stephen Fry, Lenny Henry, Kate Bush and Cliff Richard [11] ). An audio recording was released on WEA which included a live performance of the charity single "Living Doll" by Cliff Richard and the Young Ones. [9]

The highlight of Comic Relief is Red Nose Day. [1] On 8 February 1988, Lenny Henry went to Ethiopia and celebrated the very first Red Nose Day Telethon. Over 150 celebrities and comedians participated. The event raised 15 million British pounds sterling and attracted 30 million television viewers on BBC1. To date, Richard Curtis and Lenny Henry are still active participants of the Red Nose Day Telethon which continues to raise funds for numerous charities that help children in need and tackle worldwide poverty.

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". [12]

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, Sainsbury's supermarket chain and British Airways. 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.

The July 2010 accounts for charity registration 326568 show grant payments of £59 million, net assets of £135 million, with an investment portfolio held in a range of managed pooled funds and fixed term deposits. The average full-time 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.

At the end of the 2015 Red Nose Day telethon on 14 March it was announced that in the 30-year history of Comic Relief the Red Nose Day and Sport Relief appeals had raised in excess of £1bn (£1,047,083,706). [5]

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 7 pm in favour of a live show, with a break at 10 pm 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 10:35 pm, 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 clips, events, and specially filmed versions of comedy shows. Smith and Jones , and a parody sketch starring Rowan Atkinson are both regularly featured.[ citation needed ]


1980s and 1990s


The First Red Nose Day was held on Friday 5 February 1988 with the slogan: "The Plain Red Nose", and raised £15 million. [13]


The Second Red Nose Day was held on Friday 10 March 1989 with the slogan: "Red Nose Day 2", and raised £27 million. [13] (This is also when the event would start generally being scheduled in mid-March, often close to, or on 17 March – St Patrick's Day.)


The Third Red Nose Day was held on Friday 15 March 1991, with the slogan "The Stonker", and Raised £20 million. The charity song was a double A-sided single featuring "The Stonk" performed by Hale & Pace and "The Smile Song" performed by Victoria Wood.


The Fourth Red Nose Day was held on Friday 12 March 1993 with the slogan "The Invasion of the Comic Tomatoes", and Raised £18 million.


The Fifth Red Nose Day was held on Friday 17 March 1995, with the slogan "What A Difference A Day Makes", and Raised £22 million.

1997 event

The 1997 Red Nose Day event was held on 14 March. Its slogan for the year was "Small Change – Big Difference". The event raised over £27m for charitable causes. [14] The Spice Girls song "Who Do You Think You Are" became the official Comic Relief single of this event and sold 672,577 copies. [15] The telethon was hosted by Father Ted Crilly (Dermot Morgan) and Father Dougal McGuire (Ardal O'Hanlon), characters from the sitcom Father Ted .

1999 event

The 1999 Red Nose Day was held on 12 March and raised over £35m. Perennial hosts Jonathan Ross and Lenny Henry were joined by Davina McCall, Chris Evans, Ben Elton, Jack Dee and Julian Clary, with Peter Snow providing regular updates on donations. Angus Deayton hosted a live cross-over panel game, Have I Got Buzzcocks All Over . A parody of the Doctor Who series starring Rowan Atkinson as the Doctor, Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death , was featured during the show, as was Wetty Hainthropp Investigates (a Victoria Wood parody of Hetty Wainthropp Investigates ) and The Naughty Boys (a mock 1967 pilot for Men Behaving Badly ).

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 was "When the Going Gets Tough" by Boyzone.


2001 event

The 2001 Red Nose Day was held on 16 March. The total raised was £55 million . [16] 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. Celebrity Big Brother 1 was produced in honour of Comic Relief, with the finale airing as part of the Red Nose Day festivities.

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 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 £61.6 million was raised that year, setting a new record. [16]

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. £65m was raised. [17]

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:

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.

Raised by March 2006: £65 million. [16]

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. The event raised £67.7 million. [16]

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'. The event raised £82.3 million. [16]


2011 event

The 2011 event took place on Friday 18 March 2011. £74.3 million was raised on the night, the highest ever 'on the night' total. This was beaten by £0.8 million on Red Nose Day 2013's on the night event. The total for the whole campaign was £108.4 million, the highest so far raised for one event. [16]

In addition to the continued absence of Rowan Atkinson, two more prominent supporters of the charity were absent for 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.

2013 event

The 2013 event took place on Friday 15 March 2013. By the end of the night, Comic Relief raised £75,107,852. In total that year Comic Relief raised £100.3 million. [16]

One Direction recorded the official single "One Way or Another", a medley of Blondie's "One Way or Another" and "Teenage Kicks" by The Undertones. The single was released on 17 February 2013. [18]

2015 event

The 2015 event took place on Friday 13 March 2015. It was broadcast live for the first time at the London Palladium, with £99.4 million being raised. [16]

2017 event

The 2017 event took place on Friday 24 March 2017, broadcast live from Building Six at The O2 in London. It was widely criticised, for both the quality of sound, sketches, and going from films on poverty to a biscuit competition.[ citation needed ] The event raised £82.1 million. [16]

2019 event

The 2019 event took place on Friday 15 March 2019 live from BBC Elstree Centre. The event raised £63,548,668.


2021 event

The 2021 event took place on Friday 19 March 2021. The event raised £52 million and was once again hosted by Sir Lenny Henry alongside Davina McCall, Paddy McGuinness, David Tennant and Alesha Dixon.

Sketches included a crossover between Catherine Tate’s Nan character and James Bond (Daniel Craig), a comic relief zoom meeting featuring Jack Whitehall and various celebrities and a trailer for 2020 - The Movie featuring Keira Knightley, Michael Sheen, Jodie Whittaker, KSI, Anna Friel and Dame Joan Collins. Sheen and Tennant also starred in a special edition of their TV show Staged while McGuinness and his Top Gear co-stars, Freddie Flintoff and Chris Harris were asked questions by kids in a segment hosted by Radio 1's Jordan North. The Vicar of Dibley's Geraldine Granger (played by Dawn French) appeared alongside the Reverend Kate Bottley to open the show. There were musical performances from The Proclaimers, Gabrielle and the cast of Back to the Future the Musical . After the main show, Amanda Holden and Jason Manford presented The Great Comic Relief Prizeathon. [19]


YearBroadcastBBC Television
Total viewers (millions)Weekly rank
19885 February16.40N/AN/AN/A
198910 MarchN/AN/AN/AN/A
199115 MarchN/AN/AN/AN/A
199312 MarchN/AN/AN/AN/A
199517 MarchN/AN/AN/AN/A
199714 MarchN/AN/AN/AN/A
199912 March6.833.132013
200116 March8.515.4782
200314 March11.746.0141
200511 March10.944.7241
200716 March9.736.4021
200913 March9.847.0911
201118 March10.267.5311
201315 March10.284.7911
201513 March8.484.6711
201724 March6.302.2167
201915 March5.852.9932
Source: BARB


2019£63,548,668 1 [20]
Total 2 £1,068,416,012
Source: Past Red Nose Days


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 [21] 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 . The Fantastic Beasts book, would ultimately lead to the mid-late 2010s series of films of the same name as part of the expanded "Potterverse".

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. 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.

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. This regular re-design was in part to stop people from re-using previous years designs, and having to buy the latest version, as for example some people may re-use the same Poppy, repeatedly, rather than buying a new one each year. 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 (20-foot) 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 2019, Comic Relief has sold 50 different red noses over 17 Red Nose Days. [22] [23] Two noses were available for the 1995 event. Three noses per event were available from 2009 to 2013. In 2015, nine noses were released, and in 2017, there were 10 different noses available—for both these years, this included a rare collector's nose. For 2019, 11 different noses are available to buy, including "rare" and "ultra-rare" noses. 10 different plastic free noses are available for Red Nose Day 2021.

1988The Red NoseNo specific branded noses were produced for the event, with a variety of noses sold.Plastic
1989My NoseHad an embossed smiling face with spiked hair logo, known as 'Harry'.Scented plastic
1991The StonkerHad hands protruding from each side and the embossed face logo.Plastic
1993Tomato NoseRed nose with embossed face and a green tomato stalk.Plastic
1995The Heat Sensitive NoseThe nose came in two versions which turned either yellow or pink when heated. The words 'MY NOSE' were embossed on it.Heat sensitive plastic
1997Shaggy NoseA clear plastic nose covered in shaggy red furPlastic, fur
1999The Big Red HooterFaceless with gold glitter, and when squeezed it 'hooted'. The first nose to be sold in a small cardboard box.Plastic with glitter
2001Whoopee NoseRed head with inflated cheeks, when squeezed the tongue inflated.Plastic with rubber tongue
2003Hairy NoseHad 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.Plastic with synthetic hair
2005Big Hair & Beyond (Chad)Had a smiley face and colourful elastic hair. It came with red and yellow face paint and stickers for the nose.Plastic with elastic hair
2007The Big One (Théo Dumont's Nose)Faceless and more comfortable, came with stickers to decorate the nose with, and a Chocpix chocolate. [24] The last nose to be sold in a small cardboard box until 2019. £40,236,142 was raised.Foam with stickers
2009This One, That One, The Other OneThree noses were available. "This One" had a big smile with mouth open. "That One" had glasses and a smile with the teeth closed. "The Other One" had a shocked look.

All three came with six stickers depicting each of the noses, the RND 2009 logo and tag-line "Do something funny for money". Also included were a "Hello, my nose is:" name tag sticker and a small booklet of nose-related jokes. £59,187,065 was raised.

Foam with stickers
2011Monster NosesThere were three different 'monster noses' for RND 2011. "Honkus" had a furry face, a large mouth with sharp teeth and small eyes near the top of the head. "Chucklechomp" had small round spectacles and a large mouth. "Captain Conk" was roughly based on a pirate, with a Jolly Roger bandana and an eyepatch. Each nose came with a circular leaflet which contained monster related jokes and pictures of the three monster noses.

An augmented reality version of the nose was created as part of the Red Nose Day website. Via a webcam the user's head was converted into a giant red nose which could then be recorded as a short movie and posted to Facebook or YouTube.

2013The Nose With ToesFor the third year running, three noses were available and they were dinosaur-themed. "Dinomite" had a spiky hairdo and a large pointy-toothed growl with small eyes near the top of the head. "T-Spex" had a big nose and black thick-rimmed glasses. "Triceytops" was based upon a Triceratops with a large smile and a spiked 'mane'. Their slogan was 'Meet the diNOSEaurs!' These were also the first noses to include feet in their designs.Foam
2015Nose in a BagFor the first time, 9 nose designs had been created, each placed in a "mystery bag" packaging, meaning that people would get one of the nose designs at random rather than being able to choose. The Red Noses were:
  • Supernose – A superhero nose.
  • Nosebot – A nose as a robot, created by Snotty Professor.
  • Snotty Professor – A professor-like nose and creator of Nosebot and the Golden Noses.
  • Stripey – A criminal nose with a masked identity.
  • Astrosnort – A nose resembling an astronaut.
  • Snorbit – An alien-like nose.
  • Snout Dracula – A parody of Count Dracula.
  • Snortel – A nose with a snorkel.
  • Karate Konk – A nose disguised in karate outfit.

Comic Relief hid 12 golden versions of these noses in stores around the country, offering winners a "Golden Nose Experience".

2017The Red NosesThe nature of the red noses was exactly the same as for 2015, but with different characters. [25] Noses were once again sold in the bags. 10 noses were available, including one rare nose. £82,154,943 was raised.
  • Nose-it-all: A nose in the shape of an all-knowing owl.
  • Norse Nose: A nose which resembles a Viking.
  • Snootankhamun: Nose based on a mummy, wrapped in bandages. Alongside Snuffles and Dr. Nose (see below), one of the first female nose characters.
  • Snuffles: A nose based on a dragon.
  • Sneezecake: a nose based on a chef, wearing chef's clothing.
  • DJ Boogie: A nose with star shaped glasses and headphones.
  • Sniffer: a nose based on a dog, with dog ears.
  • Dr. Nose: a nose doctor with a stethoscope.
  • The Snorcerer: Nose with magician hat.
  • Frankinose: rare silver nose based on Frankenstein's monster. Only 1 in every 900 bags has this character.
2019The Red NosesThis year's noses were once again made from the same material, but introduced different characters. There were 9 regular, 1 rare (1 in 840) and 1 ultra-rare (1 in 8400). Inside the package of each nose was a part of a castle building, and the red noses had their own app, [26] titled "Red Nose", which involved augmented reality. The noses were unveiled on 19 December 2018.

The regular noses were:

  • Wolfnose: A werewolf.
  • Schnoz III: A knight.
  • Abominable Snoseman: A yeti.
  • Honkus Ponkus: A magician.
  • The Gnose: A gnome.
  • Hairy Nostroll: A troll.
  • Snufflekins: A cat.
  • Nosediva: A mermaid. Along with Conk Jester, it has a plush toy. [27] / [28]
  • Conk Jester: A jester. Along with Nosediva, it has a plush toy. [27] / [28]
  • Hoppy Hooter: A frog (1/840 chance)
  • Transforminos (1/8400 chance)
2021The Plant-Based NoseOn October 5, 2020, Comic Relief unveiled its first ever plant-based, plastic free red nose for Red Nose Day 2021, created in response to concerns over the environmental damage of plastic waste. [29] There will be 10 noses, all with environmental themes. They are made of bagasse, a natural product of sugarcane, chosen for its "widely celebrated sustainable qualities".

The 10 noses all have different names and designs based on nature. All come with their own box: [30]

  • Chief (the leaf)
  • Robin
  • Snail
  • Fox
  • Badger
  • Caterpillar
  • Lady B (lady bird)
  • Daisy
  • Tommy (tomato)
  • "Ultra rare" Gold Tommy

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. [31] The original grill-attachable design returned for 2011, for the first time since 1999. [32]

1989The Red NoseA curved, dome-like plastic red nose which attached to the car's radiator grille at the front.
1991The Hands NoseA red plastic nose with hands, which attached to the car's radiator grille at the front.
1993The Tomato NoseA red plastic nose with a green tomato stalk, which attached to the car's radiator grille at the front with cable ties.
1997The Aerial NoseA small red plastic nose which attached to the car's aerial. This nose was sold in Texaco fuel stations.
1999The Hands NoseAnother 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.
2001The Big Sticky Car NoseA 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.
2003The Hairy Air Freshener NoseA small plastic nose with a smiley face and red tuft of hair, attached to the driver's rear-view mirror.
2005The Air Freshener NoseA small plastic nose with a smiley face and colourful koosh-like elastic hair, for attaching to the driver's rear-view mirror.
2007Big Smelly Nose BallsTwo furry air freshener noses with black spectacles, which dangled from the driver's rear-view mirror, synonymous with furry dice from the 1950s.
2009The Magnetic NoseA thin and flat magnetic nose, with a grinning face, which attached magnetically to the car's bonnet.
2011The Monster NoseA return to the curved plastic nose, featuring a monster face, which attached to the car's radiator grille at the front with cable ties.
2013The diNOSEsaur Air FreshenerA return to the air freshener for cars. The flat design featured the three dinosaur red noses, T-Spex, Triceytops and Dinomite, with the tag line 'It's extinction time for bad odours'.
2015The Mystery Bag Air FreshenerA flat design with the 9 noses from the mystery bags.

2014 saw the new release of 2 Flip Flap noses, the Poppy and England flag red nose designs and the first paper noses for cars and the 1st year for 2 car noses.

Charity singles

In April 1986, the first Comic Relief charity record was released. It featured Cliff Richard and the cast of The Young Ones in a rendition of Richard's late 50s hit "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 the single released in 1995, Comic Relief records were all more-or-less comedy releases, mostly involving an actual band or singer teamed up with a comedy group. From 1995 on, they have been generally more serious, although the promo videos still feature comical moments.

2003 saw a return to the format of old. From 2005 to 2011, two Comic Relief singles were released each Red Nose Day, a song by a mainstream artist and also a comedy song.

In 1991, a music video was created called "Helping Hands", which included numerous children's television 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 Henson's Tale of the Bunny Picnic and more. In 1993 a follow up single happened, this time feature the biggest stars of children televisions at the time called "You can be a hero". Neither song was ever released.

The biggest-selling Comic Relief single is Tony Christie and Peter Kay’s "Is This the Way to Amarillo", with 1.28 million copies sold. Westlife's 2001 cover of Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl" is the second biggest-seller, followed by 1986's "Living Doll" and the Spice Girls' 1997 double-A side single "Mama"/"Who Do You Think You Are", with Boyzone's 1999 cover of "When the Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going" rounding up the top five. [33]

YearTitle(s)Respective artist(s)Respective
highest chart
position(s) reached
1986"Living Doll" Cliff Richard and the cast of The Young Ones No. 1
1987"Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree"Mel & Kim (Mel Smith and Kim Wilde)No. 3
1989"Help!" Bananarama and Lananeeneenoonoo (French and Saunders with Kathy Burke)No. 3
1991"The Stonk"
"The Smile Song" 5
Hale and Pace (backing band includes David Gilmour and Brian May)
Victoria Wood
No. 1
1992"(I Want to Be) Elected"Smear Campaign (Bruce Dickinson, Rowan Atkinson, Angus Deayton)No. 9
1993"Stick It Out" Right Said Fred No. 4
1994"Absolutely Fabulous"Absolutely Fabulous (Pet Shop Boys, Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley)No. 6
1995"Love Can Build a Bridge" Cher, Chrissie Hynde, Neneh Cherry and Eric Clapton No. 1
1997"Mama" / "Who Do You Think You Are" 5 Spice Girls No. 1
1999"When the Going Gets Tough" Boyzone No. 1
2001"Uptown Girl" Westlife No. 1
2003"Spirit in the Sky" Gareth Gates and the Kumars No. 1
2005"All About You/You've Got a Friend"
"Is This the Way to Amarillo" 1
Tony Christie & Peter Kay
No. 1
No. 1
2007"Walk This Way"
"I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" 2
Sugababes vs. Girls Aloud
The Proclaimers & Brian Potter & Andy Pipkin 2
No. 1
No. 1
2009"Just Can't Get Enough"
"Barry Islands in the Stream"
The Saturdays
Ruth Jones and Rob Brydon, featuring Tom Jones and Robin Gibb 3 [34]
No. 2
No. 1
2011"Gold Forever" 4
"I Know Him So Well"
The Wanted
Susan Boyle & Peter Kay (as Geraldine McQueen)
No. 3
No.11 (Week end 27th)
2013"One Way or Another (Teenage Kicks)" One Direction No. 1
2015"Lay Me Down" 6 Sam Smith featuring John Legend No. 1
2017"What Do I Know?" 7 Ed Sheeran and Kurupt FM [35] No. 9

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 - during February - by the education music publisher 'Out of the Ark Music'. Schools would 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 has been sent to every primary school in the UK. It was again published by 'Out of the Ark' music, and contained a more upbeat melody than the version released in 2007. 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 was filmed in black and white so that only the red stood 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 women. 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 prat-fest 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?' [40]

The British Stammering Association criticised comedian Lenny Henry over his opening sketch for the 2011 telethon, during which he spoofed the film The King's Speech and grew impatient with Colin Firth in his 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'. [41]

In December 2013, an edition of the BBC One series Panorama pointed out that between 2007 and 2009, millions of pounds donated to Comic Relief had been invested in funds which appeared 'to contradict several of its core aims', with shares in tobacco, alcohol and arms firms. [42]

The 2017 event was negatively received by viewers, with many criticising it for its various technical problems, poor sound, unfunny sketches and inappropriate jokes such as comedian Russell Brand yelling 'fucking hell' after the broadcast cut off due to a technical fault, two sketches shown before the 9 pm watershed (one in which comedian Vic Reeves showed a fake penis to Good Morning Britain presenter Susanna Reid, and another in which actor Brendan O'Carroll, playing his character Agnes Brown, showed the V sign) and a scene in which presenter Graham Norton asks model Cara Delevingne why she had sex on a plane.

In the same year, a video featuring Ed Sheeran meeting and rescuing a child in Liberia for Comic Relief was criticised as 'poverty porn' and was given the 'Rusty Radiator' award for the 'most offensive and stereotypical fundraising video of the year'. [43] [44]

Writing in The Guardian in 2017, Labour MP David Lammy argued that Comic Relief perpetuated problematic stereotypes of Africa, and that they had a responsibility to use its powerful position to move the debate on in a more constructive way by establishing an image of African people as equals. [45]

In 2018, in response to Lammy's comments and the backlash to Sheeran's video, Comic Relief announced they would take steps towards change by halting their use of celebrities for appeals. [46]

However, in February 2019, Lammy also criticised Stacey Dooley for posting on social media about her trip to Uganda for Comic Relief, saying that 'the world does not need any more white saviours', and that she was perpetuating 'tired and unhelpful stereotypes' about Africa. [47] [48] The pressure group 'No White Saviours' argued that Comic Relief had pledged to make changes to their celebrity campaigns in the past, and now needed to put them into practice. [49]

The remarks by Lammy were believed to have damaged coverage of Red Nose Day; viewership dropped and the donations received for the broadcast in March 2019 fell by £8 million and the money raised that year was the lowest since 2007. [50] [51] In 2020, as a result of Lammy's intervention, Comic Relief announced that it would no longer send celebrities to Africa nor portray Africa with images of starving people or critically ill children. [52] Instead, they would be using local film makers to provide a more “authentic” perspective and give agency back to African people. [53]

Similar events outside the United Kingdom

See also

Related Research Articles

Lenny Henry British stand-up comedian

Sir Lenworth George Henry is a British actor, comedian, singer, television presenter and writer. He is known for co-founding the charity Comic Relief, and appearing in TV programmes including children's entertainment show Tiswas, sitcom Chef! and The Magicians for BBC One. He was formerly married to Dawn French. He is currently the Chancellor of Birmingham City University and is acting in the Amazon Prime series, Lord of the Rings.

Davina McCall British television presenter

Davina Lucy Pascale McCall is an English television presenter. She was the presenter of the reality show Big Brother during its run on Channel 4 between 2000 and 2010. She has also hosted Channel 4's Streetmate, The Million Pound Drop (2010–2015), Five Minutes to a Fortune (2013), and The Jump (2014–2017), as well as ITV's The Biggest Loser (2011–2012), Long Lost Family (2011–present), and This Time Next Year. From 2010 to 2014, McCall presented the Sky One dance competition show Got to Dance. Since 2020, she has been a judge on the ITV musical competition show The Masked Singer, and since 2021, a spin-off of the show, The Masked Dancer.

A telethon is a televised fundraising event that lasts many hours or even days, the purpose of which is to raise money for a charitable, political or other purportedly worthy cause.

David Lammy British Labour politician

David Lindon Lammy is a British Labour Party politician serving as Member of Parliament (MP) for Tottenham since 2000, and has served as Shadow Secretary of State for Justice and Shadow Lord Chancellor in Keir Starmer's Shadow Cabinet since 2020.

<i>Children in Need</i> UK charity of the BBC

BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980, it has raised over £1 billion for disadvantaged children and young people in the UK. When adjusting for the year 2020's inflation, this totals £1,493,556,399 from 1980 to 2019.

<i>Sport Relief</i>

Sport Relief is a biennial charity event from Comic Relief, in association with BBC Sport, which brings together the worlds of sport and entertainment to raise money to help vulnerable people in both the UK and the world's poorest countries. At the heart of the campaign is the "Sport Relief Mile", which involves members of the public doing their bit for charity.

<i>Comic Relief Does The Apprentice</i>

Comic Relief Does The Apprentice is a special celebrity version of British reality television series The Apprentice, initially produced to raise money for Comic Relief. The first edition aired in March 2007. In 2008, the same format was broadcast until the title Sport Relief Does The Apprentice. Each series involves five male and five female celebrities competing in a single Apprentice task.

<i>Comic Relief Does Fame Academy</i>

Comic Relief Does Fame Academy is a spin-off of the original Fame Academy show where celebrities students sing as students of the Academy. The programme was launched in 2003 to help raise money for the charities supported by Comic Relief, with the final of the show occurring on Red Nose Day.

<i>Red Nose Day 2007</i>

Red Nose Day 2007 was a fund raising event in England organized by Comic Relief, broadcast live on BBC One and BBC Two from the evening of 16 March 2007 to early the following morning. It was part of "The Big One" campaign. Presenters introduced the show in two-halves, one titled 'The funny' and the other titled 'The money'.

Greg James British radio and television presenter

Gregory James Alan Milward is an English broadcaster, comedian and author. He is the host of BBC Radio 1's breakfast show, co-presenter on the cricket podcast Tailenders alongside Felix White and James Anderson and writer of the Kid Normal book series alongside Chris Smith.

<i>Red Nose Day 2009</i>

Red Nose Day 2009 was a fund-raising event organised by Comic Relief, broadcast live on BBC One and BBC Two from the evening of 13 March 2009 to early the following morning. It was part of the "Do Something Funny For Money" campaign. It was held on Friday 13 March till Saturday 14 March 2009 from 7:00 pm to 3:45 am on BBC One.

Fearne Cotton English television and radio presenter

Fearne Wood is an English television and radio presenter. She has presented television programmes such as Top of the Pops and the Red Nose Day telethons.

<i>Red Nose Day 2011</i>

Red Nose Day 2011 was a fundraising event organised by Comic Relief. There was a live telethon broadcast on BBC One and BBC Two from the evening of 18 March 2011 to early the following morning as well as a number of run-up events. The theme for the Red Nose Day 2011 invited fund-raisers to "Do Something Funny For Money".

Comic Relief USA is an operating 501(c)(3) American charity with the vision of a just world free from poverty. Comic Relief, Inc. specialized in using the power of entertainment to drive positive change.

Red Nose Day 2013 is a fundraising event organised by Comic Relief. A number of run-up events took place and the main event consisted of a live telethon broadcast on BBC One and BBC Two from the evening of Friday 15 March 2013 to early the following morning.

Sport Relief 2014 is a fundraising event organised by Sport Relief. A number of run-up events took place and the main event consisted of a live telethon broadcast on BBC One and BBC Two from the evening of Friday 21 March 2014 to early the following morning. Due to the closure of BBC Television Centre, the live studio event is now broadcast from the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London.

Red Nose Day 2015 was a fund-raising event organised by Comic Relief, broadcast live on BBC One and BBC Two from the evening of 13 March 2015 to early the following morning. It was part of the "Face the Funny" campaign. It was held on Friday 13 March till Saturday 14 March 2015, from 7:00 pm to 2:00 am on BBC One.

Red Nose Day 2017 was a fund-raising event organised by Comic Relief, broadcast live on BBC One and BBC Two from the evening of 24 March 2017 to early the following morning. This 2017 edition of Red Nose Day was part of the "Make Your Laugh Matter" campaign. It was held on Friday 24 March till Saturday 25 March 2017 from 7:00 pm to 2:30 am on BBC One.

Red Nose Day 2019 was a fundraising event organised by Comic Relief, broadcast live from BBC Elstree Centre on BBC One and BBC Two from the evening of 15 March 2019 to early the following morning. The event was broadcast from 7:00 pm to 2:30 am, and raised £63,548,668 for charity.

<i>The Big Night In</i> 2020 UK telethon for COVID-19 pandemic

The Big Night In was a British telethon that was broadcast by BBC One from 7 pm to 10 pm on 23 April 2020 to support those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is the first joint initiative between two BBC telethon charities, Children in Need and Comic Relief. By the end of the programme, over £27.3 million had been raised. The British government promised to match all public donations if the minimum of £20 million was reached.


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