An orgy of sanctimonious celebs

ARE YOU feeling warm? Are you feeling caring? In this very special week, are you reflecting that, whether you're black or white, a famous celebrity or just an ordinary person, you are part of one great human family? As you watch your favourite personalities engage in a TV sketch and then, after an appropriate "but seriously though" moment, move on to some heartwrenching footage from the front-line of misery, will you smile through your tears, reach for your credit card, and feel better about yourself until next year's Comic Relief show hits the road?

Because everyone else will be. All the people who matter are showing that they care this week. Literally scores of famous people are donating their time for free. Some have even travelled to Africa to take part in a televised celebrity relay tour. And there have been some beautiful acts of kindness in the business sector. Sainsbury's, the "Red Nose Store", are selling special doughnuts for 99p, of which 5p goes to charity. Colgate have teamed up with the Daily Express to run a (toothy!) Smile of the Year competition, and are distributing "Brush Up with Colgate for Comic Relief" leaflets. Then there's a Body Shop Kissing Kit, a red nose Parker pen, while Pritt Stick are sponsoring a card design kit for kiddies to make their own Mother's Day cards. The giving just goes on and on.

It goes without saying that the People's Party are in the vanguard of celebrity carers. Gordon Brown, the gentle Chancellor, has already posed for a Comic Relief photo-opportunity and it would be no surprise to see him present the Budget wearing a red nose of caring.

No one could deny that this great charity event is doing excellent work for those who participate. Comedians, politicians and soap opera actors can boost their often flagging careers with a public display of those two essential attributes for the modern celebrity: a social conscience and a sense of humour. Large businesses, many of whom have a less than spotless record of philanthropy, can flog their products with the help of free publicity from a compliant press. The BBC can fill up programme space with embarrassingly feeble material. It also, importantly and undeniably, provides a massive boost for worthwhile charities - pounds 138m over the past 14 years.

But is there not something creepily sentimental and self-indulgent about this great annual orgy of public, institutionalised giving? Night after night, we are subjected to show-us-you-care bullying from comedians, the very people who should stand back from the herd and distrust the Diana effect. How unsettling it is to find yesterday's alternative comedians trilling and cooing at one another from the heart of Celebrityland.

First giving becomes part of show business; soon it becomes all show, complete with well-lit documentary film and a backing track from Robbie Williams. Ever since Billy Connolly blubbed in front of the Live Aid cameras, having watched a film of starving Africans to the sweet but utterly irrelevant strains of a number by The Cars, the connection between gloopy pop songs and real suffering has become acceptable. Today, even grown-ups like Richard Curtis can, without a second thought, introduce a Desert- Island favourite by the country chanteuse Iris Dement with some well-meaning, lachrymose thoughts about Third World suffering.

It is as if Hollywood effects must be deployed to remind us how to feel, as if we endlessly need to be reassured of how generous and giving and kind we have all become. "You are a truly amazing bunch of people," Lenny Henry tells us in thanks for raising "a largiferous pounds 27m" last year. But are we that amazing, really? Take a look at the endless TV documentaries that record and batten upon the various types of selfishness, cruelty, vanity and betrayal at the heart of modern society. Consider the behaviour of tabloid journalists, mocking and persecuting the celebrity victim of the moment on behalf of readers who have become suffering junkies, hooked on human pain. See the behaviour of hosts, guests and audiences on daytime TV shows: they cry - crying's obligatory - but does the crushing, all- exclusive obsession with self honestly represent a more caring society than that of 10, 20 or 30 years ago?

Of course, we should give. We should try to ignore such ghastly stunts as Ruby Wax pretending to be a souffle in a sketch with Gary Rhodes; close our ears to the smooth, sincere tones of Stephen Fry; and indulge the zany antics of lovable Lenny. But perhaps it's time to stop wearing our hearts on our sleeves, our red noses on our faces, quite so smugly. Because deep down, we all know that this week's a show biz thing.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

    Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

    The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
    Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

    Stolen youth

    Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
    Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

    Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

    He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
    Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

    Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

    Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
    Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

    Made by Versace, designed by her children

    Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
    Anyone for pulled chicken?

    Pulling chicks

    Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
    9 best steam generator irons

    9 best steam generator irons

    To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
    England v Norway: Wayne Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

    Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

    New captain vows side will deliver for small Wembley crowd
    ‘We knew he was something special:’ Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing

    ‘We knew he was something special’

    Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing
    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York