The new Archbishop of Comedy Rowan Atkinson delivers a special Red Nose Day appeal

"I for one am getting sponsored for going to work in a big purple dress - no only kidding - I do that every day!"

Well, it’s lovely as your new Archbishop to be able to have the opportunity to write to you on the occasion of Red Nose Day in Need, one of my favourite nights of television of the year. Now you might say, “Wait a minute, Archbishop, or Archie, or Arch” – I don’t mind what you call me! – “Wait a cotton-picking minute. Surely you’re too busy to watch television. You’ve got the whole Church of England to run!” And you’re right. I am as busy as a bunny at Easter. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t have time to put my slippers on and put my feet up and watch a bit of telly sometimes. Here’s a list of my five favourite progs:


1. Songs of Praise – obvs.
2. Rev – gosh, it’s funny, isn’t it?
3. My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding – being a priest, obviously I love weddings, so this is a real fave. I just wish there were more big fat gypsies in my congregation – that would certainly liven things up a little!
4. The Only Way Is Essex – oops – guilty pleasure. Naughty Arch! And, of course, the only way isn’t actually Essex – it’s the way of the Lord as laid down in the Bible.
5. And last but not least – Red Nose Night Relief…

Which brings me back to where I started. I remember when Comics in Need Relief started, a lot of people used to say to me, “Wait a minute, Vicar” – because I was, of course, only a vicar then; that was long before I even dreamed of being a Bish, let alone an Archbish. “Wait a minute, Vic – are you sure that comedy and charity actually fit together? Isn’t it a bit odd all that sad stuff and then all that hilarious stuff going together?” And you know, I’d always reply, “Absolutely not, Mrs Pendleton.” And do you know why I said that? It’s because Jesus actually had a cracking sense of humour, and was extremely charitable too.

He was very keen indeed that we should help our neighbour and that we should love each other – but he also loved a good laugh. Don’t forget, his first ever miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding. Have you ever given serious thought to what it was like on the kiddies’ table when all their water got turned into wine? It must have been havoc! Hundreds of plastered five-year-olds wandering around the wedding looking up the bridesmaids skirts. Hilarious! And in those days I’m not sure women even wore pants at weddings! Even worse!

So I think Children in Need Relief is deeply in the spirit of Christianity – and I’d like to use this column in Radio Times to ask all of you to do everything you can in this Red Poppy Week to raise a little bit of money – or dosh – or wonga – or spondoolies – doesn’t matter what you call it! – to help people whose lives are very hard. You can do it by watching Red Nose Night and donating money on the phone or online – or of course during this week, you can get sponsored for doing something funny.

I for one am getting sponsored for going to work in a big purple dress – no only kidding – I do that every day! (You see – I’m hilarious actually – I could be the Archbishop of Dibley!) No, I’m actually going to raise money by having a swear box in Canterbury Cathedral and we have to put in money every time one of us blasphemes – and we do! – you wouldn’t believe the language sometimes. “Bloomin’ heck, Bish, it’s damn cold outside!” “40p in the box, Archdeacon!” “O, darnit, Arch, that’s a bit rough, you cad!” “40p more, Archdeacon!”

But my real point is that it doesn’t matter how you give, just do give something. If every person in the UK gave a couple of quid, that would break all Comics Needing Relief’s records and make £120 million. If everyone gave £10, that would be £600 million, which would be jolly good. If everyone gave £2,537 that would be £152,220,000,000, which might be a bit silly, but something less than that would be just grand.

So there we go. Enjoy Red Face Night. Give a little wonga. And let’s pray (no, really, praying is jolly useful!) that it’s the best Cosmic Relief ever. And, as for me, well, I’ve actually got a little guest slot on the show, so I’ll see you there! I’ll be easy to spot – I’m the chap with the white dog collar and the kind face who waves his hands around like an idiot when he talks – you can’t miss me… Till then, Amen, as it were!

Don’t miss all the Comic Relief action – beginning on Friday at 7:00pm on BBC1


See our complete guide to all tonight’s Red Nose Day TV