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Comic Relief by the woman who made it happen


From Gordon Brown singing with JLS to Take That duetting with Fake That, Comic Relief founders Emma Freud and Richard Curtis are experts at cajoling celebrities to do their bit for charity.

As it celebrates its 25th birthday, Emma relives her favourite moments...

On March 15th, a massive number of the most talented performers in the UK will be live on BBC1 for Red Nose Day. Many of them will be embarrassing themselves greatly for no more than the cost of their taxi home. They will all have been asked/begged/coerced into it - and for the last 20 years, the person doing that begging has often been me. Hello.

Asking celebrities to do something out of their comfort zone isn't straight forward.

One of this year's missions was finding six people to spend a week negotiating the white water rapids of the Zambezi. Fun, surely? My first request was to Jack Dee. This was his reply:

"It sounds like a completely awful idea on every level, Emma. Even when I Googled Zambezi river the option Zambezi rafting deaths dropped down before I could finish typing. So I don't understand why I'm saying that I'm up for it but I guess that that is what I'm saying. What is it with Comic Relief?"

Jack went to Africa. And it was hell. And the excellent film of his jolly week will be on BBC1 during the week beginning 11th March.

If he can put up with sharing a tent with Dara O'Briain, maybe you'll donate a fiver? I did promise him that you would. And if you do - consider this historical nugget as a thank you...

charity kiss

In 1997 the Spice Girls recorded the Comic Relief single and came to the BBC Television Centre to perform it live. But the show overran, and the girls and I were stuck in the green room. After about 20 minutes of mingling, Geri got frustrated. They had come to raise money for comic relief, and drinking warm white wine wasn't reaching that objective.

She asked me if she could raise money from the people hanging out in the green room - I agreed obviously. So she stood on a chair in the middle of the room and announced that the Spice Girls would be selling kisses for Comic Relief.

By the time they got on stage 30 minutes later, they'd made over £1,000 and left a room full of people stunned. Our runner Andrew, who paid his week's salary for two minutes with Scary, has never fully recovered.

Red Nose Day is on Friday 15 March, 7pm, BBC 1. For more information or to donate go to rednoseday.com



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