Strange places can inspire the craziest ideas, as Dermot O’Leary discovered on a sweaty nightclub dance floor last summer. “I was in Italy for my friend’s birthday and we’d been dancing for six hours when one of us said, ‘I wonder if we could do this for 24 hours?’”
His better sense blurred by holiday impulsiveness and chianti, O’Leary decided to take this throwaway remark as a challenge. “The next morning for some reason it still seemed like a good idea so I texted [Comic Relief founder] Richard Curtis to suggest it. I got a message back saying, ‘We’re on’.”
Fast-forward several months and O’Leary is about to embark on a Day of Dance for Comic Relief that will begin on The One Show at about 7.20pm on Thursday. He’ll then spend the next 24 hours cutting some shapes in the piazza outside the BBC’s New Broadcasting House in central London (to DJ sets from the likes of Nick Grimshaw and Fearne Cotton) before shimmying his way down Regent Street to the Palladium for a live Red Nose Day finale on Friday evening on BBC1.
“Initially, I thought it sounded like a lot of fun, but two weeks ago, reality set in and it started to sound like an endurance test. No one’s really done it before, so it’s hard to train for, but at the moment I’m doing a combination of running and dance lessons for about eight hours a week. I’m in a perpetual state of lactic acid coursing through my veins.
“I’m determined to keep moving non-stop – though I’ve requested lots of indie, shoe- gazing music to make sure I can slow it down a bit. And if I’m not actually dancing, I’ll be seat dancing!”
Has he got a signature move to fall back on when exhaustion sets in? “Once an hour I’ll try something that involves some kind of technique. The rest of the time it’s just about keeping those feet moving!”
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news