Let’s get one thing straight right here and now. Comic Relief this year raised ?74 million for charity, a large proportion of that money given by ordinary people like you, and that fit girl who works at Costa, and the oaf who sits opposite you at work that reeks of Lynx Africa and once gave you a conspiritorial wink as he came out of the toilets, rearranging his scrotum, with a satisfied grin on his face and FHM’s High Street Honies pull-out tucked under his arm.
We even had a degrading rummage in the nest we’ve made from shredded pictures of Lee Ryan in the corner of the hecklerspray bedsit and came up with a few coins that were unpleasantly sticky, but we donated them anyway. And we’re monsters.
So people will have given their cash because they were entertained by Red Nose Day, or because they felt guilty, or because they are aroused by beans, baths and bake sales; they will have given whatever the hell we think of the televisual event itself, and that is obviously a good thing. And just because we slag off, say, Karl Pilkington for thinking that a sly glance at the camera and Ricky Gervais barking like a blown seal in the background means that every word that falls from his face is worthy of worshipping like he’s some post-modern deity, that doesn’t mean we also want to kick an African child in the face.
In conclusion – charity: great. Saving the lives of children globally: go on then. Red Nose Day: 90% shithouse. Are we clear?
Nowadays, by the time Red Nose Day finally arrives, it’s after so many weeks of harrowing “Comic Relief” programming where the terrible suffering of the world is reflected in Samantha Janus’s tears, even seven hours of a close-up of a drop of sweat making its way down James Corden’s belly would seem absolutely hilarious in comparison. And so as not to disappoint, we did get an eyeful of the Smug Sphere of Smithy, in an evening of sketches, craptastic presenting and musical interludes that ranged through minor triumphs, massive indifference and painful humiliation.
It all started with much vim and vigour, as these things often do, with Claudia “Blinky” Winkleman and Michael “Squinty” McIntyre bounding about and introducing banal fayre like Andy Murray getting annoyed by the now frighteningly giant middle class children from Outnumbered, and a strangely racy Doctor Who short with a plot revolving around Amy Pond upskirt action. (To any readers joining us after Googling that particular phrase – welcome, and apologies for not meeting your needs, you dirty fiends.) Harry Hill does Autumnwatch was a highlight, ressurecting Bernie Clifton and killing him with a boyband in the space of a minute, and giving Ronnie Corbett a little tickle under the chin. But then, Harry Hill is pretty untouchable. He could probably get away with a sketch starting “Well, I like Colonel Gadaffi, but then I like the rebel forces in Benghazi…” and we’d all think it was a bit of wacky fun.
As the night wore on, there was more comedy, and unfortunately, more “comedy”. The definite winner of the night was Alan Partridge, whose recent renaissance has been an utter joy to behold. It’s not even worth trying to do it justice with a summary here; suffice to say, not for nothing were 75% of all Facebook status updates immediately after transmission “You’ve got flecks on your wimple”.
However, the big money was on the “Smithy Rescues Comic Relief” sketch, with, yes, James bloody Corden, driving around West London with a matching tracksuit-wearing, sulky, scene-stealing George Michael. George Michael! That one! Making Snappy Snaps jokes! Not weird enough for you? OK, try chucking in JLS, Davina, Dermot, Rupert Grint, Richard Madeley, Keira Knightley, Lord Coe, that diving half-naked boy champion, Rio Ferdinand, Trigger off of Only Fools, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr, all appearing to wryly chuckle at their own massive, blinding?star power. By the time Gordon Brown turned up looking and talking like a heavily-edited YouTube mash-up of himself, accompanied by Justin Bieber on keys, it was clear that we’d been the victim of a hallucinatory dirty bomb fired from Venus, and our alien overlords should be here to brutally subjugate us with a matter of days.
As for the “comedy”, it was a toss-up between Miranda arsing about in Pineapple Dance Studios with the omnipresent JLS and Jennifer Saunders’ bog-standard I’ve-been-doing-this-since-1989-and-have-no-intention-of-writing-any-new-jokes Downtown Abbey parody for who would take the prize of “Best time to nip out for some more beer.” They were tedious; we moved on. Graham Norton turned up to snog Davina with grim inevitability, and fail completely at the sudden gear changes required to link from the excitement of Blue Wear Wigs to the tragedy of Blind Kids Dying. While Davina passionately emoted next to him, all he could do was wear the expression of a slightly annoyed man listening to a restaurant manager explain why his carpaccio was underseasoned.
Meanwhile, we had time for a few lovely little songs. George Michael undid all his earlier good work by covering a classic New Order track in the style of David Lynch having a slow-motion asthma attack into an accordian. Take That turned into Kraftwerks’ younger brothers’ schoolfriends’ dogs’ cousins who had once listened to Fischerspooner, and managed to rip off the music from a Zelda game. Adele managed to devalue both her stupid “oh no my boyfriend doesn’t love me any more I am so gritty and sad” swan-honking and the plight of dying Africans by slapping one all over footage of the other. And Annie Lennox’s Universal Child just sounded like Elton John having a musical hump over international plug adaptors.
But the best, by which we obviously mean worst, came towards the very end. Peter Kay made a right good stab at being the evening’s Top Bastard by proving that even if it’d save the lives of 1,000 starving orphans, he can’t be bothered to actually come up with any new ideas – wheeling out Geraldine, his fake X Factor winner who was already five years out of date when he unveiled her two years ago, to sing “I Know Him So Well” with Susan Boyle in a big wig and unfurl a picture of Trevor McDonald at the end in the homeopathic equivalent of a punchline. Moronic beanpole Fearne Cotton almost tipped it by accusing the hoardes of weirdos who crashed a website to look at her bony, bescribbled, swimsuit-clad body of being “perverts” and launching the sulk of the century when asked to don it again, for charity, lest we forget; the irony of the fact that googling her name comes up with acres of her naked flesh willingly flashed for gentlemen’s periodicals lost on her, possibly because she wouldn’t know the meaning of any word in that last sentence.
None of that, however, beats the dreadful sight of a ragtag bunch of celebrities attempting to sing Never Forget onstage at 2am, mumbling through the verses, bellowing the chorus, Lenny Henry slumped in the corner, like the end of some soul-destroying office trip to the karaoke. Never Forget, they sang. Never Forget that you’ve wasted a whole Friday night on this when you could have been on YouPorn having a crywank. Never Forget that really, no matter what any of us do, no matter how much money we give, the world is still a terrible place, so it’ll be back next year, and the next year, and it’ll get bigger and bigger, until the whole schedule is either David Walliams hilariously pretending to be gay even though he’s married to a supermodel (do you get it? He’s not gay! But he pretends to be gay! Do you get it? Do you?!) or David Tennant getting under the feet of stoic doctors and bawling like a tosspot.
And Red Nose Day will never again be as anarchic and hilarious as this gem from 1995, found by @profanityswan. Never Forget. hecklerspray can’t. We suffer these things for you. And do we get any charity VTs or a sniff of?the profits? Course not.
Oh well – at least crywanking’s free.