There's only a matter of days before Red Nose Day 2023 rolls round, bringing with it an impassioned effort to raise money to support people struggling in the cost of living crisis and to help tackle issues such as food poverty, homelessness and mental health problems.


Alongside Sir Lenny Henry, acclaimed comedy writer Richard Curtis is the co-founder of Comic Relief, which was founded back in 1985 and has since raised in excess of £1 billion from its fundraising efforts and epic Red Nose Day events.

With another year's broadcast incoming and an array of entertainment lined up, Richard Curtis spoke with The Radio Times Podcast about how he had a spectacular lack of success with romance, even though he's best known for his romantic comedy writing.

He also chats about the impact of Comic Relief, the TV show that shaped his teenage years and the moments that inspired the likes of Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill.

Emma Freud and Richard Curtis
Richard Curtis with partner Emma Freud. David M Benett/WireImage/Getty Images

What’s the view from your sofa?

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The view is constantly interrupted by cats. They’re jealous. They don’t like us watching TV – they’d rather we paid attention to them.

What have you enjoyed watching recently on TV?

I am watching so much telly at the moment. I watched one episode of Jack Rooke’s Channel 4 series Big Boys then the following evening, five more episodes. I think I’ve seen every episode of Bake Off and Portrait Artist of the Year.

I hear you’re a fan of Love Island. You’re someone who writes about love for a living – what does the show say about the state of relationships?

You hear about your friend falling in love, but you don’t get to watch it. Love Island shows love in action much more convincingly than my films do.

Which TV shows were important in your teenage years?

Monty Python seriously affected me. I watched it religiously. At 14, a third of all my conversation with friends was simply us repeating lines from those sketches.

When did you decide you wanted to write for TV?

I thought I was going to be an actor, [but] when I got to university, I was always cast as some sort of Third Gentleman. Within six months I bumped into Rowan [Atkinson], who was clearly a genius, and I started writing for him. When he got his
first job, I wrote for him on TV. I stumbled into my future.

Richard Curtis, Father Gerald (ROWAN ATKINSON) for Comic Relief (BBC)
Richard Curtis with Rowan Atkinson for Comic Relief. BBC

Atkinson became famous as the star of Blackadder. Did you have any idea of the masterpiece you were creating?

The first series, which was very expensive and shot on film, wasn’t very well regarded. When Ben Elton and I did the second, we could feel that it was more fun – when Blackadder was on, I would walk the streets and see how many people were watching us on telly. We did sweat blood for it – but the fact that it lasted is a surprise and a joy.

Why did you move from writing for TV to films like Notting Hill?

The thing about working with other people, which I did do on sitcoms, was that you could agree about everything apart from what was moving or romantic. So we didn’t even try. I thought if I’m going to write about love, the way to do it is through film.

Are you a romantic yourself?

Does romantic mean you think things are going to turn out well? In which case, no! I was so spectacularly unsuccessful in love for half my life! I first fell in love with a girl called Jill when I was four. Then Tracy when I was seven. Then Julie Andrews.

Is that where your ideas for your films come from? Love stories that never quite come to fruition in reality?

Often, it’s about things that didn’t happen. So for Four Weddings and a Funeral – I remember being at a wedding. There was a girl. We had a dance. I thought, “This is heaven.” She said, “Where are you staying tonight?” And instead of saying, “Wherever you’re staying...” I said, “I’m going back with my friend John and we’re going to play Boggle.” I never saw her [again]! And with Notting Hill – I used to drive across a bridge to my friend’s house and think, “Wouldn’t it be great if I turned up with Madonna?”

You’ve raised more than £1.5 billion for Comic Relief. What impact has the public’s generosity had?

I still break that [figure] down into how much difference a pound can make. The public have helped eight million people. A malaria net – which can and does save lives – is £2. A vaccine can be 17p. Anyone who gives cash on the night or buys a nose is in this magical position of directly handing money to someone whose life is very hard, that makes instant and long-term, decisive change.

Red Nose Day returns to BBC One on Friday 17th March at 7pm.

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