This interview was originally published in Radio Times magazine.


After 38 years of Comic Relief, Richard Curtis recalls seven magic moments – and what to expect this year.

Getting started 1985

The most important television show in my life was Live Aid. As I watched that TV show, I thought, “Is there anything I can do apart from give some money? I know lots of comedians. Can we get together and try and raise some money?” There was a meeting where we said, “We’d better have a symbol.” Someone said, “How about a red nose?” The first broadcast we did was chaos, but it made £15 million, so we felt we ought to do a second one… Now we’re on our 19th.

Detective Constable Kate Fleming (Vicky Mcclure), Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott (Martin Compston), Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) alongside Lee Mack and Jason Isaccs

Corden, Michael and Brown 2011

The main thing is just having your eye on what’s great and having the nerve to ask people to do stuff. When they say yes, their pride and excellence kicks in. We did a great Line of Duty sketch with Lee Mack (2020), and that was because their team wanted to do something fantastic. But a favourite is the James Corden sketch, which starts with George Michael (2011), and they’re picking who should be the next person to make an appeal film – and Gordon Brown and Paul McCartney and everyone turn up. It’s not that much work because in the end everything’s only seven minutes long. It tends to be one day’s filming, everyone working very hard.

When Ali G met the Beckhams 2001

I did love Sacha and the Beckhams. When all those years ago I got in touch with Sacha Baron Cohen, he said, “I’ll do it if you can get me the Queen or Margaret Thatcher, or I’ll compromise on David Beckham, if that’s the best you could do.” And then he really took it seriously, he refused to meet the Beckhams beforehand. I did love that.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 2023: Actors David Tennant (L) and Lenny Henry pose for a portrait behind the scenes of a Doctor Who Sketch for Red Nose Day 2023 on March 3, 2023 in London,England. Photo by David Emery/BBC/Comic Relief via Getty Images)

Lenny gets the giggles

Many things for me are to do with emotions – I loved all the early emotion of Lenny when he used to travel to make the films. There was a lovely bit where he was trying to do a serious piece to camera with a girl in Ethiopia, and they both just kept getting the giggles. And suddenly you thought, “These are real people. This is not a kind of tragic scenario. These are brilliant people who are put in an unbelievably bad situation.”

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Adele raises the roof 2011

There have been lots of very moving moments, as well as funny ones. And then some amazing musical moments. I remember Adele singing Someone like You, and that making something like £4 million in eight minutes because it was just the perfect song at the perfect time. She said at the beginning, “Don’t listen to me. Just give money while I sing.”

Billy Connolly goes streaking 2001

There was an extraordinary live moment. Billy Connolly said, “If we make a million in the next hour I’ll run naked around Piccadilly Circus.” And he did. Then an hour later in the studio, we got 100 men to put on Billy Connolly beards and charge onto the stage. I remember we didn’t tell the hosts, and that was a good moment.

When RT joined the party 1991

I love Radio Times. The very first Red Nose Day we ever did was the first time that Radio Times was going to have some competition. Before then, the newspapers didn’t put the TV listings in, and then suddenly they decided they all would. Someone from Radio Times said to me, “If we can have five Red Nose pictures on five different editions, we’ll give you £250,000.” So we got all the Radio Times profits that year. That’s the miracle of Comic Relief. Suddenly magic money magically changing lives.

SO what’s next?

It’s always hard to make, but it’s always got huge moments of delight and surprise. This year, there’s a Ghosts special – I love Ghosts – and Kylie Minogue is in that. There’s a manifestation of parts of Blackadder coming up, which I think is going to be funny and special. And we’re doing a sketch about The Traitors.

There’s a Love Island special where we’re actually flying out to Love Island with a comedian of the highest value, who’s going to be in the house in a pair of horrible swimming trunks.

And then we’ve got a really interesting thing on BBC2 with footage of our Celebrity Big Brother, which will be re-shown for the first time since we did it more than 20 years ago. When Comic Relief Did Big Brother… and it really kicked off!

And then there are a couple I can’t announce, but I would say switch on – I think it’s going to be an evening full of delights.

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

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