As Live Aid captures hearts and minds, Richard Curtis, Jane Tewson and friends know more must be done. That something is Comic Relief. The idea is to use comedy to raise money and change lives in Africa and the UK.
The Comic Relief Timeline
Below are just some of the many highlights of Comic Relief's history.
Roll over an image below to find out more.
The big idea
Forming the committee
Richard Curtis and Jane Tewson form "The Comic Relief Committee", which includes Rowan Atkinson, Griff Rhys Jones, Rik Mayall, Mel Smith and more. They begin to mobilise support
We have lift off!
On Christmas Day, Comic Relief is launched live on BBC One from the Safawa refugee camp in Sudan during Noel Edmonds’ Late Late Breakfast Show. The producer is Helen Fielding (before her Bridget Jones days!)
BT the brilliant
BT has supported us from day one, making them a huge part of our success. They provide the telephony, call centres, network management and volunteers that enable us to take millions of pounds of donations.
Oxfam the outstanding
Oxfam has been a partner of Comic Relief since the very beginning. They’ve worked closely with us on projects to tackle poverty and social injustice in Africa, and sold millions of red noses in their shops and online
Top of the pops
Cliff Richard and The Young Ones release Livin’ Doll onto an unsuspecting but, thankfully, very generous public. It sells more than half a million copies and goes straight to number one.
For laughs and more
Comic Relief organises three sellout comedy nights at The Shaftsbury Theatre. Coupled with subsequent LP, cassette and video sales, the performances raise more than £300,000 to help fight UK and world poverty.
The Utterly Utterly Merry Comic Relief Christmas Book and accompanying video are launched; both topping the bestsellers lists.
A song for Christmas
Our second single, Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree by Mel Smith and Kim Wilde sees more money raised and peaks at number three in the charts.
First Red Nose Day
Lenny Henry and a group of children in Ethiopia celebrate the first ever Red Nose Day. Over 150 celebrities and comedians take part as 30 million viewers watch a huge night of TV on the BBC and raise over £15 million.
Red Nose Day returns
Red Nose Day is back – and now with added Wogan. National treasure, Terry, hosts an evening of comedy gold which sees more than 70,000 events across the country raise over £27 million for fantastic causes.
Big screen Lenny
The charity film premiere of Lenny Live and Unleashed at the Odeon Haymarket raises a further £18,000 for Comic Relief.
Best foot forward
Prince Edward launches an initiative called Feet First for Homeless People which leads to over 1,000 people in London walking home from work and donating their transport fares to homeless charities in the capital.
Video Relief takes place – a competition for young people to make videos about issues like poverty and homelessness. It was won by one Edgar Wright, who went on to direct cult zombie film Shaun of the Dead
Comic Relief launches Teacher Relief – an educational video pack to help educate 8-13 year-olds about the issues we care about.
Time for The Stonk
Comedians Hale and Pace unleash The Stonk, which tops the UK charts, lodges itself in the nation’s head and, most importantly, helps to raise a stonking amount of money.
Red Nose Day 3
Our third Red Nose Day (The Stonker) continues to bring in the cash and change lives by, again, raising more than £20 million.
Weird and wonderful
Melvyn Bragg gives Postman Pat the South Bank Show treatment in a surreal turn of events. Meanwhile, a powerful film by the late Anthony Minghella, The Wall, brings disability discrimination to the fore of the nation’s attention.
Rights not charity
We hold an event to give disabled people in the UK a voice in the decisions affecting their lives; “rights not charity” becomes the watch-word and marks a turning point in securing rights for disabled people in the UK.
In partnership with hit kids TV show Going Live! and Smash Hits magazine, Pop Relief – a project challenging young people to write and record a Comic Relief song – is launched.
Red Nose Day 4 witnesses the invasion of the tomato noses and an incredible £18 million raised.
Comic Relief and Age Concern stage three Grand Tea-Hee Dances for older people in Scarborough and Bognor Regis.
Pride Against Prejudice
Comic Relief launches Pride Against Prejudice, a 30-minute programme about young people’s attitudes to disability that further raises awareness of disabled people’s rights.
Continuing our fight for disabled people’s rights, we create Altogether Better, an educational film starring Griff Rhys Jones and Sarah Plunkett that promotes the inclusion of disabled children in mainstream schools.
One day = £22 million
Red Nose Day 5 goes live. The theme is ‘What a Difference a Day Makes’, and what a difference it did make: a whopping great £22 million to be exact.
Comic Relief launches a set of eight Christmas cards featuring our famous friends , in conjunction with the Radio Times.
BBC One’s Omnibus marks Comic Relief’s 10th birthday by giving it a programme all to itself. 2.8 million people tune in.
African away game
Fourteen brave celebrity football enthusiasts (including Frank Skinner, David Essex, Nick Hancock and Angus Deayton) go on tour in Burkino Faso and Ghana to play footie and make a TV documentary called Balls to Africa.
Written in the stars
The launch of Red Nose Day 1997 is held at the London Planetarium, whose dome is transformed into a bright red conk for the occasion.
Everyone digs deep
Our sixth Red Nose Day encourages people to use their small change to make a big difference. With more than £27 million raised, it proved that all amounts, no matter how big or how small, really do add up.
Our cunning book
Blackadder: The Whole Damn Dynasty, a book featuring the complete scripts from the comedy and some extra material, is published, thanks to Richard Curtis, Ben Elton and John Lloyd. All proceeds go to Comic Relief.
An African adventure
BBC One screen part one of our Great Big Excellent African Adventure – a three-part documentary exploring the issues faced by the people of Africa.
Sainsbury’s become one of our leading partners and have since gone on to sell almost 60m red noses, raise an astonishing £48m and set up the Fair Development Fund to help transform the lives of small producers worldwide.
Red Nose Day 7 – The Record Breaker – was, well, a real record breaker. It raised over £35 million.
Raise your glasses
Wine Relief is launched, a new initiative bringing the wine industry together raise money for Red Nose Day 1999. Such was its success it has been a part of every Red Nose Day since!
Our Debt Wish campaign launches and calls for debt cancellation at the G7 summit. A delegation including Richard Curtis also visits Downing Street to ask for the world’s poorest countries to have their debts cancelled.
Comic Relief joins together with six other leading UK charities to launch Children’s Promise. It asks everyone to give their final hour’s earnings of the millennium to help the children of the next millennium. It raises £18 million.
A tasty test
Comic Relief’s Chocolate Challenge – a Fairtrade competition for kids – is launched on BBC One’s Live & Kicking.
Superstar Robbie Williams asks Comic Relief to administer his Give It Sum fund to help tackle poverty in his old stomping ground, North Staffordshire.
Robbie the Reindeer's Hooves of Fire picks up a Bafta award for the best entertainment programme. The animated feature was co-produced by Comic Relief and the BBC.
Drop the Debt
Comic Relief joins forces with Jubilee 2000 to spread the Drop the Debt message and urges the online community to email the G7 world leaders in the run up to the July summit in Japan.
JK Rowling offers to write two Harry Potter books exclusively for Comic Relief. The proceeds from the sales of these have so far conjured up over £17 million.
Chris Evans donates £1.3 million for a Dish the Dosh fund to be administered by Comic Relief.
It’s all pants!
Red Nose Day 2001 says ‘Pants to Poverty’ and raises a colossal £55 million.
Top of the class
Comic Relief wins the Hollis Educational Award for our schools pack PaPaPaa – the accompanying website has had over nine million hits since its launch.
Hello Sport Relief
Comic Relief and the BBC decide to do for sport what they did for comedy and launch a brand new fundraising campaign – Sport Relief – during the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards.
Former prime minister Tony Blair visits a cocoa farm in Ghana to see how the Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union, with support from money raised through Comic Relief, is helping cocoa farmers in the area overcome poverty.
Out of the blocks
The first ever Sport Relief kicks off and the great British public prove they’re great sports by raising more than £14 million.
Comic Relief launches a Fairtrade chocolate bar made by workers of the Kuapa Cocoa Co-operative in Ghana and The Day Chocolate Company. The bar was called Dubble. Oh, and no, it didn’t taste funny.
TK Maxx joins the Comic Relief family as a corporate partner (and has been on board ever since).
Good hair day
A hairy nose was all the rage back in 2003 when that year’s Red Nose Day raised a Big Hairy £61.6 million.
Help at hand
Dawn French launches the National Domestic Violence Helpline – the first free domestic abuse helpline. It’s jointly funded by us and the Government to support women who feel they have no escape from domestic abuse.
Make Poverty History
Comic Relief proves instrumental in establishing and creatively developing the Make Poverty History campaign and spreading its message.
Socking it to ’em
Sport Relief rallies over 81,000 people to raise cash by taking part in Sport Relief Mile events… and all in red socks. That’s a lot of socks. Over 162,000 in fact. In total, the campaign raised over £16.8 million.
We launch a campaign to draw attention to the plight of older people in the UK who are abused by people they should be able to trust. As a result, Comic Relief takes its first steps into TV drama with a show called Dad.
Sha la la lala
Red Nose Day 2005 sees Peter Kay and Tony Christie finding their way to Amarillo as people across the country find it in their hearts to raise £65 million.
Live8 rocks the world
Make Poverty History gets its rock on with 10 Live8 concerts across the world. An estimated 3.8 billion tune in to watch and help encourage G8 leaders into greatly relieving the debts of the world’s poorest countries.
A big splash
David Walliams causes huge waves by swimming the Channel for Sport Relief and raises £1 million in the process. His herculean efforts inspire over 420,000 people to run a mile for Sport Relief and raise £18 million.
Little Britain Live
A gala version of Little Britain Live is staged in aid of Comic Relief and filmed to be broadcast on Red Nose Day 2007. Guests include Kate Moss, Russell Brand and Peter Kay.
A beautiful sight
The London Eye glows red in honour of the launch of Red Nose Day 2007.
The Big One
Our 12th Red Nose Day lives up to its billing as The Big One and hauls in over £67 million. That’s bigger than big.
Idol Gives Back
Comic Relief works with American Idol to create Idol Gives Back, a 2 hour TV spectacular which airs in the USA and raises more than $75m.
A historic study
Comic Relief once again breaks new ground by working with the Department of Health to publish the first ever study into Elder Abuse – a study into the abuse and neglect of older people in the UK.
SING with Annie
Comic Relief helps Annie Lennox to set up a campaign to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa. Called SING, it raises more than £1 million in its first year.
Lovable Robbie the Reindeer returns to UK screens for a Christmas Day special. This time, in Close Encounters of the Herd Kind, Robbie and Donner’s wedding is interrupted when aliens kidnap Donner.
An Olympian effort
The Steve Redgrave Charitable Trust joins forces with Sport Relief to form the Steve Redgrave Fund. It aims to help change the lives of disadvantaged children through the power of sport.
A wonderful weekend
Sport Relief decides it’s time to make a weekend of it and raises £28 million over three days.
Education for all
We head to the UN in New York to launch a £10 million match-funded project with the UK government in support of the Class of 2015 – a global Millennium Development Goal to help every child in the world get an education.
Mental health matters
Comic Relief backs the Time to Change campaign with a £2 million grant and, with it, helps challenge the discrimination faced by those coping with mental health problems.
A tasty treat for all
Jamie Oliver’s Red Nose Recipes book is published in support of Red Nose Day 2009. It features 12 of his favourite recipes to cook with friends. Jamie also encourages the public to “Cook something funny for money!”
Top of the world
9 awesome celebs – Gary Barlow, Cheryl Cole, Ronan Keating, Alisha Dixon, Chris Moyles, Denise Van Outen, Kimberley Walsh, Ben Shephard, Fearne Cotton – climb up Mt Kilimanjaro and into our hearts by raising over £3m!
A chance to look back
BBC One broadcasts Comic Relief: The Fool's Guide, a documentary narrated by David Tennant that celebrates the first 21 years of Comic Relief.
Comedian Eddie Izzard completes one of the most incredible challenges ever undertaken for Sport Relief. He runs 43 marathons in 51 days and raises in excess of £1.8 million. We salute you, Eddie!
T-riffic at TK Maxx
TK Maxx sell a Red Nose Day T-shirt designed by Stella McCartney which flies off the shelves and raises a massive £3.3 million.
We all go a bit funny
The nation goes wild and does something funny for money to support Red Nose Day 2009 – and they raise an astounding £82 million, which blows us all away.
From Kili to Uganda
Some of the famous Kili climbers travel to Uganda to see how the money they raised is helping to conquer malaria and save the lives of some of the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet.
Support for Haiti
Comic Relief announces a donation to the Disasters Emergency Committee to help survivors of the devastating Haiti earthquake.
We join the jet set
British Airways chooses Comic Relief as its global charity partner – the first partnership to work with Comic Relief that aims to raises money all year round.
Robin Hood Tax
The Robin Hood Tax adds Comic Relief to its band of merry men and women as together we press for a tiny tax on banks that could literally raise billions of pounds to help people living in poverty.
For Sport Relief, Blue Peter’s Helen Skelton completes a world record-breaking six-week, 2,010-mile kayak down the Amazon River, whilst TV presenter Christine Bleakley waterskis the English Channel in 100 minutes.
A Beckham design
Sport Relief 2010 gets a high-profile launch, thanks to a range of T-shirts designed by David and Victoria Beckham and their children, Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz.
David Walliams, Fearne Cotton, Miranda Hart, Russell Howard, Patrick Kielty, Jimmy Carr and Davina McCall complete a non-stop relay cycle ride from John O’Groats to Land's End for Sport Relief and raise over £1.3m!
Bigger and better
Sport Relief 2010 indulges the UK in another weekend of sporting support for fantastic causes. It turns out to be the biggest Sport Relief to date and raises well in excess of £42 million.
Spotlight on malaria
Malaria No More UK and Comic Relief team up to raise awareness about malaria and provide crucial malaria-preventing nets to 600,000 households in Ghana.
United Relief Live
34,000 turn out at Old Trafford for United Relief Live – a day of music and celebrity football as ex-Man Utd players and famous supporters take on a team of celebrity rivals. More than £75,000 is raised for Comic Relief.