THE comedian Lenny Henry and the pop group Right Said Fred served notice of the Invasion of the Comic Tomatoes in London's Battersea Park yesterday. From today, cars will begin sprouting the plastic 'splatted tomato nose' on their engine grilles, doors will host the all-new tomato door-knocker and buildings will be adorned with gigantic fluorescent tomatoes which stay alight at night.
On top of this, eight million human nose tomatoes, retailing at 70p each, have just rolled out of the production greenhouse and, inevitably, several million pounds is eagerly waiting to be raised.
Naturally, in the name of the nose, people will also bathe in porridge, maggots and raw eggs, have underwater dinner parties and generally embarrass themselves in the name of charity.
The fourth Red Nose Day on 12 March may be stretching the joke a little far for some, but its beneficiaries in both Africa and Britain will not be complaining. There are no reports of compassion fatigue in Eritrea, which actress Joanna Lumley has just visited to make a film for BBC Television's Comic Relief special.
Since Charity Projects the organisation behind the nose was set up in 1984, when its director Jane Tewson persuaded Tim Bell to get involved, it has raised pounds 75m. It has made grants of more than pounds 22m in Britain and more than pounds 55m in Africa.
Although it now has 25 employees, its running costs are covered by sponsorship and, unusually for a charity, it can boast that every penny it raises goes direct to the people it promises to help.
Paul Jackson, managing director of Carlton Television and the new chairman of Charity Projects, said the new red tomato was an important innovation which would ensure no one could get away with wearing a red nose bought in previous years.
The Building Nose Hotline, for details on how to get a big fluorescent tomato, is 081 818 8600. And according to the organisers, any member of the press who publishes it will go straight to heaven.