More TV Memories – Comic Relief.

Comic Relief (BBC1/BBC2, 1986-present)

It wasn’t really until the mid-80s when singles were realised to support charities that would become chart-toppers and sell in ludicrous amounts, along with endless telethons too. After the groundbreaking success of Live Aid, it was realised that these were ways to raise amounts of money like never before. So the decision was made to host a special show where the biggest comic talent around could perform.

The first edition of Comic Relief was actually a pre-recorded stage show at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London, and some of the highlights were then shown on TV. This all seemed to go down rather well, and when the first Comic Relief single topped the chart for a long time itself not long after, it was realised that this idea could have a big future.

Two years later, this was turned into a live telethon show, that took up the majority of the night. And of course, there was the opportunity to buy a red nose, a tradition that has continued ever since, and people across the country were encouraged to do some rather silly things to help raise some money as well. The earliest editions seemed to consist of plenty of fun sketches, featuring some unlikely combinations taking part.

The hosts included the likes of Lenny Henry and Griff Rhys Jones, who rather entertainingly were barely able to hold everything together, and would end up overrunning by about three hours. By the early-90s, this was an event that took place every other year. The variety of red nose designs on offer increased, and the “we don’t know what’ll happen next” air continued to hover over the TV show. There were also further treats like The Great Big Stupid Celebrity Sketch Show (that was the actual title).

There were often special editions of popular sitcoms like Men Behaving Badly and The Vicar Of Dibley too. By the 2000s though, something had changed, and things started to become a little more settled, with several non-comedians hosting, constantly going on about how much we needed to donate right now. The air of unpredictability had gone, and the comedy acts who did perform died rather badly on stage (Mitchell and Webb being one example).

This was rather disappointing, as many felt that there was now little difference between this and Children In Need. Seriously, who cares who the winner of Celebrity Fame Academy is? There have been some innovations in more recent years, including an edition that came live from the O2, where nobody could see or hear anything. Comic Relief is still going and undoubtedly has helped many people around the world, but doesn’t seem to be that much of an event nowadays really.

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