The Timeline: Comic Relief

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The Independent Culture

1985: Birth of a charity

Comic Relief bursts into life on BBC1 on Christmas Day during Noel Edmonds' Late, Late Breakfast Show. The brainchild of Richard Curtis and fundraiser Jane Tewson, the show aims to carry on the work of Live Aid (which had taken place in July) and raise money for those affected by the Ethiopian famine. The big events were three sell-out all-star comedy shows in London and Cliff Richard teaming up with the cast of The Young Ones for a version of Cliff's "Living Doll".

1988: The first Red Nose Day

Bright-red plastic noses become accepted face-gear, as Lenny Henry, accompanied by a group of Ethiopian children, launches the very first Red Nose Day and the accompanying telethon. The extravaganza features 150 British comedians and 30 million tune in to watch sketches such as "Blackadder: The Cavalier Years", raising £15m by the evening's end.

1995: High-tech noses

The Red Nose transforms into one that changes colour. Although the nose isn't to everyone's liking, the show still raises £22m and sees Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer drink 75 pints while belting out Nilsson's "Without You". Meanwhile, Hugh Grant and Dawn French share an infamous snog.

1997: A big bit of small change

London Planetarium's huge dome is transformed into a gleaming red conk for the evening as the show encourages viewers to give small change from "down the back of the sofa". The pennies stack up and £27m is raised from money-spinners such as the Spice Girls' mega-selling "Who Do You Think You Are" single.

2002: A sporting sideline

Things get sporty with the launch of spin-off project Sport Relief, to run on alternate years with Red Nose Day. The first year saw Tony Blair team up with Pat Cash to play a game of tennis doubles against Ilie Nastase and Alistair McGowan. Blair and Cash won 4-1.

2009: Huge numbers

A bumper year. The show raises £65m – a new record. Sainsbury's, which sells the official Comic Relief merchandise, hands over £9,001,980, the biggest single donation in the event's history. 2009 also sees the biggest personal donation in its history: £6m from an anonymous businessman.