By Richard Lawrence-Allen
They say that laughter is by far the best medicine, and while I’m sure there are countless doctors out there that disagree, they can’t deny it certainly can do a lot of good. At least that is what comedy scriptwriter, Richard Curtis, and stand-up comedian, Lenny Henry, believed in 1985 when they established Comic Relief, a British-based charity created as a response to tackling famine and poverty in developing countries. Thirty-four years later, the good that they have done is undeniable.
Richard Curtis and Lenny Henry are credited as two of the key founders to Comic Relief and as being response for the success that it has become today, however, it was in fact initially the brainchild of fellow-founder and charity worker Jane Tewson. Tewson had worked in a refugee camp in Sudan in 1981 where she was pronounced dead after contracting malaria, with no drugs left in the camp to treat her sufficiently. Miraculously, Tewson regained consciousness and narrowly survived her brush with death, and returning to Sudan 4 years later to launch Comic Relief live on a Christmas Day broadcast of Noel Edmunds’ Late, Late Breakfast Show on BBC1.
Jane Tewson, Co-Founder of Comic Relief.
The idea behind Comic Relief was a simple one: gather a group of comedians and use comedy and laughter as a way to inform and engage the public about the widespread poverty problems of the world, raising as much money to help in the process. The following year saw Comic Relief’s inaugural live fundraising show launched at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London featuring acts from various comedians popular at the time. Two years after this, in 1988, Comic Relief held their first ever televised Red Nose Day, a biennial BBC telethon that encouraged people to donate money to help reduce poverty in Ethiopia. Red Nose Day saw people all over the UK don bright red plastic noses to spread the word of the campaign, and to this day a newly designed cartoonish nose is released each year, to proceeds of which go to the charity. The format of the telethon remains largely unchanged from its inception at heart, a group of comedians, comic actors and entertainers perform sketches, skits, impressions, parodies and satire (both live and pre-recorded), all interspersed with informational videos about the help each donation will give.
Comedian Lenny Henry in Ethiopia for the first ever Red Nose Day (1988).
In its first year Red Nose Day raised an incredible £15m pounds, and since then Comic Relief has achieved a cumulative sum of over £1bn. The symbol of the red nose is now synonymous with Comic Relief in the UK, an iconic symbol of the charity’s work and ethos, and Red Nose Day remains one of the pillar stone television events of the BBC. In 2002, Comic Relief partnered with BBC Sport to launch Sport Relief, another biennial event that would alternate with red Nose Day with a focus of simultaneously uniting the sporting community, encouraging people to keep active and raising further money and awareness for the charity.
Contrary to popular belief by some, Comic Relief doesn’t only help those in developing African countries, but also does a great deal of good in the UK as well. Both here in the UK and overseas, Comic Relief has invested in promoting positive mental health, fighting for gender equality, helping children to survive and thrive, and much, much more.
Comic Relief has continued to provide support to some of the people who truly need it the most across the globe, all with a great sense of humour and spreading stories of hope. This year, to join in with the Red Nose Day last Friday’s celebrations, we combined our true loves of helping others and staring longingly at cake!
We held our very own sweepstake to guess comedian Katherine Ryan’s favourite cupcake. Entrants paid to place their bets on which sugary delight they thought Katherine Ryan would choose as her top pick. The bets were placed and excitement rose as the winner would win a lovely £30 to spend as they chose for the weekend, the rest of the money going straight to Comic Relief. Tension mounted as the deadline for the cupcake reveal drew nearer, but the winner was Theresa, who correctly guessed Katherine Ryan’s love for the Mallow Meringue Cupcake! With all the cake we get through in the name of charity here at RSVP, next year’s Sport Relief may be good for us to work off a few of those extra calories we think. However, even in sporting events, there is always time for cake!
Here's our winner, Theresa, looking overjoyed at her victory! Don't spend your winnings all at once!