Comic Relief

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 in need in Africa, and at home in the United Kingdom.[1] It is currently led by Liz Warner, founder of a production company. Key people include: Ruth Davison, Helen Wright, Charlotte Hillenbrand and Suzi Aplin.[2]

Comic Relief
GenreCharity telethon
Created byBBC
Richard Curtis
Lenny Henry
Presented byLenny 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 language(s)English
Production location(s)BBC Television Centre (1988–2013)
The London Palladium (2015)
Building Six at The O2 (2017)
Elstree Studios (2019)
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running timeVarious
Original networkBBC One
Original release5 February 1988 (1988-02-05) 
Related showsChildren in Need (1980–)
Sport Relief (2002–)
External links

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 show, held on 4 April 1986, featured comedians and pop stars, including Rowan Atkinson, Billy Connolly, Stephen Fry, Kate Bush and co-founder Lenny Henry.[3]

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 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 £1 billion.[4]

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[5] and Scotland.[6]

On 4 April 1986[7] the inaugural live fund-raising show,[8] "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[9]). 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.[7]

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".[10]

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).[4]

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.


On television in the United States

Since 2015, Red Nose Day USA's annual Red Nose Day Special airs each May, typically on the Thursday before Memorial Day.

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.[11]


The Second Red Nose Day was held on Friday 10 March 1989 with the slogan: "Red Nose Day 2", and raised £27 million.[11] (This is also when the event would start generally being scheduled in mid-march, often close to, or on the 17th of 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.[12] The Spice Girls song "Who Do You Think You Are" became the official Comic Relief single of this event and sold 672,577 copies.[13] 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 £61,000,140. 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, approximately one tenth of the UK population. The final of Celebrity Big Brother 1 aired as well.

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. A total of £61,477,539 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. 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.[14]

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:

2005's telethon, more than any other, severely overran and many pre-filmed segments were cut short, including Harry Hill's TV Burp, Al Murray, Smith and Jones, and Lenny Henry as Condoleezza Rice. The uncut versions have never been screened.

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 m.

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.

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'.


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.

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.

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.[15]

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 £99,418,831 being raised, the highest so far.

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.

2019 event

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


Year Broadcast
BBC Television
Total viewers (millions) Weekly rank
One Two One Two
1988 5 February 16.40 N/A N/A N/A
1989 10 March N/A N/A N/A N/A
1991 15 March N/A N/A N/A N/A
1993 12 March N/A N/A N/A N/A
1995 17 March N/A N/A N/A N/A
1997 14 March N/A N/A N/A N/A
1999 12 March 6.83 3.13 20th 13th
2001 16 March 8.51 N/A 8th N/A
2003 14 March 11.74 6.01 4th 1st
2005 11 March 10.94 4.72 4th 1st
2007 16 March 9.73 6.40 2nd 1st
2009 13 March 9.84 7.09 1st 1st
2011 18 March 10.26 7.53 1st 1st
2013 15 March 10.28 4.79 1st 1st
2015 13 March 8.48 N/A 1st N/A
2017 24 March 6.30 2.21 6th 7th
2019 15 March 5.85 2.99 3rd 2nd
Source: BARB


Year Amount
1988 £15,000,000
1989 £26,900,000
1991 £20,000,000
1993 £18,000,000
1995 £22,000,000
1997 £27,000,000
1999 £35,000,000
2001 £55,000,000
2003 £61,600,000
2005 £65,000,000
2007 £67,700,000
2009 £82,300,000
2011 £108,436,277
2013 £100,331,808
2015 £99,418,831
2017 £82,154,943
2019 £63,548,668 (including only funds raised during the telethon)[16]
Total 1 £1,063,237,004
Source: Past Red Nose Days
  • ^1 Including money raised by Sport Relief


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[17] 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 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.[18][19] 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.

Year Name Description Material
1988 The Red Nose No specific branded noses were produced for the event, with a variety of noses sold. Plastic
1989 My Nose Had an embossed smiling face with spiked hair logo, known as 'Harry'. Scented plastic
1991 The Stonker Had hands protruding from each side and the embossed face logo. Plastic
1993 Tomato Nose Red nose with embossed face and a green tomato stalk. Plastic
1995 The Heat Sensitive Nose The nose came in two versions which turned either yellow or pink when heated. The words 'MY NOSE' were embossed on it. Heat sensitive plastic
1997 Shaggy Nose A clear plastic nose covered in shaggy red fur Plastic, fur
1999 The Big Red Hooter Faceless with gold glitter, and when squeezed it 'hooted'. The first nose to be sold in a small cardboard box. Plastic with glitter
2001 Whoopee Nose Red head with inflated cheeks, when squeezed the tongue inflated. Plastic with rubber tongue
2003 Hairy Nose Had 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
2005 Big 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
2007 The Big One (Théo Dumont's Nose) Faceless and more comfortable, came with stickers to decorate the nose with, and a Chocpix chocolate.[20] The last nose to be sold in a small cardboard box until 2019. £40,236,142 was raised. Foam with stickers
2009 This One, That One, The Other One Three 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
2011 Monster Noses There 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.

2013 The Nose With Toes For 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
2015 Nose in a Bag For 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".

2017 The Red Noses The nature of the red noses was exactly the same as for 2015, but with different characters.[21] 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.
2019 The Red Noses This 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,[22] titled "Red Nose", which involved augmented reality. The noses were unveiled on December 19, 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.[23]/[24]
  • Conk Jester: A jester. Along with Nosediva, it has a plush toy.[23]/[24]
  • Hoppy Hooter: A frog (1/840 chance)
  • Transforminos (1/8400 chance)

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.[25] The original grill-attachable design returned for 2011, for the first time since 1999.[26]

Year Name Description
1989 The Red Nose A curved, dome-like plastic red nose which attached to the car's radiator grille at the front.
1991 The Hands Nose A red plastic nose with hands, which attached to the car's radiator grille at the front.
1993 The Tomato Nose A red plastic nose with a green tomato stalk, which attached to the car's radiator grille at the front with cable ties.
1997 The Aerial Nose A small red plastic nose which attached to the car's aerial. This nose was sold in Texaco fuel stations.
1999 The Hands Nose Another 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.
2001 The Big Sticky Car Nose A 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.
2003 The Hairy Air Freshener Nose A small plastic nose with a smiley face and red tuft of hair, attached to the driver's rear-view mirror.
2005 The Air Freshener Nose A small plastic nose with a smiley face and colourful koosh-like elastic hair, for attaching to the driver's rear-view mirror.
2007 Big Smelly Nose Balls Two furry air freshener noses with black spectacles, which dangled from the driver's rear-view mirror, synonymous with furry dice from the 1950s.
2009 The Magnetic Nose A thin and flat magnetic nose, with a grinning face, which attached magnetically to the car's bonnet.
2011 The Monster Nose A return to the curved plastic nose, featuring a monster face, which attached to the car's radiator grille at the front with cable ties.
2013 The diNOSEsaur Air Freshener A 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'.
2015 The Mystery Bag Air Freshener A 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 "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 1995's song, they were all more-or-less comedy records, mostly involving an actual band or singer, and a comedy group. From 1995 on, they have been generally more serious, although the videos still feature comical moments.

2003 saw a return to the format of old. From 2005 to 2011, two comic relief songs were released each Red Nose Day, a song by a mainstream artist, and a comedy song.

In 1991, a music video was created called Helping Hands which included numerous children's TV 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 Hensons Tale of the Bunny Picnic' and more. The song was never released.

The best-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 Dolls" 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.[27]

Year Title(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 & 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, The Tough Get Going" 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[28]
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" Sam Smith featuring John Legend No. 1
2017 "What Do I Know?" Ed Sheeran & Kurupt FM[29] No. 9
  • ^1 "Is This the Way to Amarillo", though released expressly with the intent of proceeds going to Comic Relief, was not an official Comic Relief single. The song was originally performed by Peter Kay (lipsynching to Tony Christie's voice) during the evening, and was later released as a single. It was the number one single for seven weeks, and in its first week it outsold the rest of the Top 20 combined.
  • ^2 In 2007, a version of The Proclaimers song "500 Miles", released on 19 March, featured Peter Kay and Matt Lucas as their wheelchair-user characters Brian Potter and Andy Pipkin. Before its official release, the song reached Number 3 based on downloads alone. The single reached Number one on 25 March, knocking official Comic Relief single "Walk This Way" off the top spot.
  • ^3 In 2009, the comedy release took prominence over the single release by a mainstream recording artist. Gavin & Stacey's Ruth Jones and Rob Brydon covered "Islands in the Stream" for the event, with this being released on the week of Comic Relief. The Saturdays released their record a week earlier.
  • ^4 "Gold Forever" is the lead single from The Wanted's second studio album, Battleground. It is also a promo single on their 2012 American debut, The Wanted EP.
  • ^5 This was a double-A side single

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 in February by the education music publisher 'Out of the Ark Music'. Schools will 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 is being sent to every primary school in the UK. It has again been published by "Out of the Ark" music, and contains a more upbeat melody than the 2007 song. 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 has been filmed in black and white so only the red stands 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 females. 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 pratfest 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?"[30]

The British Stammering Association criticised comedian Lenny Henry for his opening sketch for the 2011 Comic Relief, during which he spoofed the film The King's Speech and grew impatient with Colin Firth's 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".[31]

In December 2013 a BBC Panorama programme 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.[32]

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 9pm watershed; one in which comedian Vic Reeves shows a fake penis at Good Morning Britain presenter Susanna Reid and another in which actor Brendan O'Carroll, playing his character Agnes Brown, shows the V sign and a scene in which presenter Graham Norton asks model Cara Delevingne why she had sex on a plane. However, the Carpool Karaoke and Red Nose Day Actually sketches and an appearance from singer Ed Sheeran were favourably received.[33] The video featuring Sheeran meeting and rescuing a child in Liberia for Comic Relief had been criticised as "poverty porn" and was given the "Rusty Radiator" award for the "most offensive and stereotypical fundraising video of the year".[34][35]

In February 2019, David Lammy 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.[36][37] The remarks by Lammy were believed to have damaged the year's 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, a fall some have blamed on Lammy.[38][39]

Similar events outside the United Kingdom

  • United States: In 2015, Red Nose Day was formally brought to the United States under the auspices of Comic Relief, Inc., an organization unrelated to the defunct Comic Relief USA. The 2015 Red Nose Day Special aired on NBC on May 21, 2015 and was hosted by David Duchovny, Seth Meyers and Jane Krakowski,[40] raising $23 million. The 2016 NBC special aired May 26 with Craig Ferguson as the host.[41] Sponsored by Walgreens, Red Nose Day has since become an annual event.
  • Inspired by the British charity, a United States Comic Relief charity was founded in 1986 by Bob Zmuda. Comic Relief was an irregularly held event, televised on Home Box Office (HBO), which has raised and distributed nearly US$50 million toward providing health care services to homeless people throughout the United States. Comedians Robin Williams, Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg were hosts of the event. The 1989 HBO Comic Relief show debuted the song "Mr. President", written by Joe Sterling, Ray Reach and Mike Loveless. The song was sung by Al Jarreau and Natalie Cole. On 18 November 2006, the event was revived as a fundraiser for those affected by Hurricane Katrina, and was simulcast on TBS.[42] Richard Curtis also created the Idol Gives Back special for American Idol, which follows the same basic premise as Comic Relief, with specially filmed shorts, performances and footage of the stars of the show visiting impoverished countries.
  • Australia: In 1988, the Red Nose Day concept was adopted by the SIDS and Kids organisation to help raise funds for research into sudden infant death syndrome. Since then, Red Nose Day in Australia is held annually on the last Friday of June.[43] An Australian version of Comic Relief, Comic Relief Australia, has also been set up.[44] It plans to divide the money raised between Australian causes (at least 40%) and overseas charities largely in Asia Pacific (at least 40%). Following a campaign encouraging people to buy articles such as red wristbands, the first telethon-style event was held on 6 November 2005 on the Seven Network. It followed the established format, with comedy interspersed with examples of the sorts of charities to benefit. According to its website, this raised over A$800,000. Another telethon was broadcast on 27 November 2006 on Seven Network. The 2006 Comic Relief Show was held under the title '50 Years of Laughs' celebrating 50 years of Television in Australia. It was hosted by Colin Lane, and featured presenters such as Amanda Keller, Mikey Robins, Ugly Dave Gray and Derryn Hinch interviewing Kylie Mole.
  • Germany: The German TV station Pro 7 initiated a similar event in 2003. By selling red noses, money is collected for the charity foundations PowerChild, Deutsche Kinder- und Jugendstiftung (lit., German Child and Youth Foundation), and Comic Relief. The event is called 'Red Nose Day', and took place annually in March or April from 2003 to 2006. However ratings and the collected donations fell way short of expectations in 2006, resulting in no main show being produced in 2007 and 2008. In 2003, Nena (who is famous for her hit song 99 Red Balloons) released an updated version of her song Wunder Gescheh'n (miracles happen) for the charity. In 2010, the Red Nose Day returned on Pro7. It took place on 25 November.
  • Russia: A similar charity campaign, entitled "Red Nose, Kind Heart", was launched in Russia on 1 April 2007. The main goal of the drive, held between 1 April and 19 May 2007 by the Liniya Zhizni (Life Line) foundation, is raising money to help children afflicted with serious diseases (such as heart diseases).
  • Finland: In 2002, the Finnish national broadcaster YLE started an annual charity event, which initially went under the title "Ylen hyvä". In 2007, the event adopted the name "Nenäpäivä" (Nose day), and the use of red noses to more closely follow the example of the British event.
  • Iceland: Dagur rauða nefsins (Red Nose Day) has been held in support of UNICEF since 2006. It has featured the sale of red noses to raise funds and has enjoyed support and publicity from many local celebrities and televised events on the national broadcaster, RÚV.
  • Belgium: "Rodeneuzendag" (Red Nose Day) has been held in Belgium for the first time in 2015 to raise money for children with psychiatric problems on VTM.

See also

References and notes

  1. "Our History". Comic Relief. Archived from the original on 14 March 2013. Retrieved 18 March 2013.
  2. "Meet the team". Comic Relief. Retrieved 18 July 2019.
  3. Roberts, Jem (2018). Soupy Twists!: The Full Official Story of the Sophisticated Silliness of Fry and Laurie. Unbound Publishing.
  4. "BBC News – Comic Relief raises £1bn over 30-year existence". BBC News Online. 14 March 2015. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  5. Charity Commission. Comic Relief, registered charity no. 326568.
  6. "Comic Relief, Registered Charity no. SC039730". Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.
  7. "Kate Bush Encyclopedia".
  8. BBC Radio 4. "The Reunion, Comic Relief". Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  9. "IMDb Comic Relief (1986)".
  10. Vision & Principles for UK grant-making Archived 16 December 2010 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 12 March 2011
  11. "Metro UK – 05/02/2013 digital edition". Metro. 5 February 2013. p. 13. Retrieved 18 March 2013.
  12. "Entertainment | Red Nose Day squeaks into life". BBC News. 12 March 1999. Retrieved 14 March 2009.
  13. "Red Nose Day 1997 – Small change, big difference". Comic relief. Archived from the original on 6 August 2010. Retrieved 14 March 2009.
  14. "Red Nose Day 2005". Comic Relief. Retrieved 18 July 2019.
  15. "iTunes – Music – One Way or Another (Teenage Kicks) – Single by One Direction". 17 February 2013. Retrieved 18 March 2013.
  16. "Comic Relief: Bodyguard and Four Weddings reunion help raise £63m". BBC News. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  17. "Comics FAQ". Neil Gaiman. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
  18. "Past Red Nose Days". Comic Relief. Archived from the original on 14 March 2013. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  19. Comic Relief: Red Nose Day (30 January 2017). "The History of the Red Noses" via YouTube.
  20. "Logistix help deliver Comic Relief's biggest nose". Sales Promotion. Archived from the original on 20 April 2013. Retrieved 9 February 2013.
  21. "Whoops - Comic Relief".
  22. "RedNose".
  23. "Sainsbury's - Please enable cookies or JavaScript". Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  24. "Red Nose Day 2019 - Nosediva/Conk Jester plush".
  25. Tom Bryant (18 February 2009). "Health & safety killjoys ban 'dangerous' Comic Relief car accessory – Exclusive –". Retrieved 18 March 2013.
  26. "A Come Back For The Car Nose", Red Nose Day 2011, archived from the original on 14 March 2012
  27. "The Official biggest selling Comic Relief singles revealed". Official Charts Company. 24 March 2017. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
  28. "Tom Jones and Rob Brydon Record Comic Relief Single". Retrieved 29 January 2009.
  29. "Ed Sheeran and People Just Do Nothing team up for "epic" Comic Relief charity single".
  30. "Read the small print before you donate". The Spectator. UK. Archived from the original on 25 March 2017. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
  31. Ryan Love (2011). "Lenny Henry criticised for 'Speech' spoof". Digital Spy. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  32. "Comic Relief money invested in arms and tobacco shares". BBC News. 10 December 2013.
  33. "BBC viewers criticise 'unfunny' Comic Relief". Daily Mail. 25 March 2017.
  34. Shepherd, Jack (4 December 2017). "Ed Sheeran's Comic Relief film labelled 'poverty porn' by aid watchdog". The Independent.
  35. Drury, Flora (7 December 2017). "Did Ed Sheeran commit 'poverty tourism' in charity film?". BBC News.
  36. "Stacey Dooley hits back at MP Lammy's Comic Relief 'white saviour' criticism". BBC. 28 February 2019.
  37. Badshah, Nadeem (28 February 2019). "'White saviour' row: David Lammy denies snubbing Comic Relief". The Guardian.
  38. Hellen, Nicholas (17 March 2019). "Comic Relief down £8m after David Lammy 'white saviour' row". The Sunday Times.
  39. Waterson, Jim (17 March 2019). "Red Nose Day raises £8m less than 2017, as viewing figures fall". The Guardian.
  40. Driscoll, Molly (21 May 2015). "Will NBC succeed with the US version of Red Nose Day?". Christian Science Monitor.
  41. "The Red Nose Day Special -".
  42. "'Comic Relief' Returns to HBO". Retrieved 2 February 2007.
  43. "Australian Red Nose Day Homepage". Retrieved 2 February 2007.
  44. Comic Relief Australia Archived 24 November 2005 at the Wayback Machine

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