Risking a red face for the sake of a red nose
Saturday 11 March 1995
The whole thing started with Comic Relief, a venture in which funny people tease the money out of your pocket and into African aid projects with punchlines. Although in this case the game is very much worth the candle, the idea that your modern British viewer can only be improved through laughter is troubling. The idea of the charity event, in which the money you pay to have a good time alleviates a social problem somewhere beyond your ken, has been around for a while. But unlike a royal gala or a stadium rock concert, Comic Relief and sundry other fundraising regulars on the box make the link between entertainment and education: they are mutually dependent; they are each other. It's an alliance that can only be brokered with the help of rare communication skills.
Even in the title of Billy Connolly's Return to Nose and Beak (BBC1), so-called after the misnomer the comedian's daughter applied to Mozambique, the jocularity feels ever so slightly forced. But Connolly, doing a little routine about the absurdity that is compassion fatigue, or standing well back from the land-mine disposal team, possesses those skills. Despite a barrier of language, culture, colour and wealth, his rapport with orphans and urchins and large crowds of disenfranchised children seemed genuine and unpatronising.
In advance of the fifth Comic Relief day, this documentary took Connolly back to the country from which he reported in 1989. With the civil war over, the improvement in social conditions has been marked. Deaf children are learning sign language, mines are being cleared from fertile agricultural land, and children and parents separated by war are being reunited. One of the war victims encountered in the previous visit has clearly not allowed the loss of her legs, blown up when she stepped on a land-mine, to hold her back: since then she's had as many sets of prosthetic appendages as she's had children - three of each.
Although films like this cannot be made without a degree of planning, one of its charms is that things don't run too smoothly. True, one magnificent shot of an old steam engine, thrusting through the abundant bush along a line obscured entirely by thick undergrowth, looked like a refugee from a slick travel documentary, but overall there was no disguising the nuts and bolts. The hunt for a boy who, six years before had graphically described the slicing up of his parents, genuinely appeared to take several hours: by showing how difficult it was to find him, the programme astutely brought home the boy's plight as a street vagrant.
At one point, in order to explain what a cumbersome business the gifting of aid can be, Connolly swung the camera round on to the huge operation of which he was just the tiny, visible part. But no amount of pre-emptive apology could dissolve the thorough discomfort felt from watching the last stretch of the programme. Here, Connolly accompanied a man to a village in the bush, where his two long-lost children had been located. As he and his daughter howled and wailed, and his unremembering son stood stiffly alongside, not knowing where to put himself, the presence of a Scottish comedian and his technical entourage could not have looked more intrusive or unwanted.
The case for the prosecution is that privacy should not be sacrificed on the altar of publicity. The case for the defence is that it's all in a good cause, that breaking in on one such reunion will raise enough money to fund 10 more. Which, on balance, means that the case is dismissed.
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
- 1 Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
- 4 Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting
- 5 Man hospitalised with pneumonia after downing eggnog at office Christmas party
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Alex Salmond has 'broken his word to the Scottish people' says Scottish Lib Dem leader
iJobs Money & Business
Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...
£43500 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operatio...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000 + Car + Pension: SThree: SThree are a ...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...
Day In a Page
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens