Comic Relief, The Early Years

Comic Relief, The Early Years, 1986, 1988

Today is Red Nose Day, raising money for Comic Relief.  We thought we’d look back to the launch of the charity and it’s first telethon.

Comic Relief was launched live on Noel Edmond’s Late, Late Breakfast Show on BBC1, Christmas Day 1985 from a refugee camp in Sudan. The idea for Comic Relief came from the charity worker Jane Tewson, she established the Charity under the operating name of Charity Projects.


First Show, Performed 4th April 1986

After the launch the charity had it’s inaugural live fund-raising show entitled “Comic Relief Utterly Utterly Live”.  Staged at the Shaftsbury Theatre in London the show featured popular alternative comedians (alternative comedy was huge at the time) such as Billy Connolly, Rowan Atkinson, Stephen Fry, Lenny Henry.  The comics performed alongside pop stars including Kate Bush and Cliff Richard, who performed alongside the Young Ones with a live version of their hit single, Living Doll.







First Red Nose Day, Originally Transmitted 8th February 1988

This was the very first telethon.  Lenny Henry went to Ethiopia to mark the very first Red Nose Day Telethon.   Over 150 celebrities and comedians participated. The event raised £15 million and attracted 30 million television viewers on BBC1.








Many of the biggest names in comedy at the time took part


Channel: BBC1
Telethon Created By; BBC, Richard Curtis and Lenny Henry
Originally Transmitted: 8th February 1988

Bonus Clip




Red Nose Day 2021, BBC1 tonight at 7pm!