Janet Street-Porter: I'll be relieved when this charade ends

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The Independent Online

This Friday is Red Nose Day. You cannot be reminded too often if you tune in to the BBC's radio or television channels, or log on to its website. Nothing illustrates the patronising attitude of the corporation more graphically than its wholesale hijacking of charitable causes with Comic Relief and its equally nauseating bedfellow Children In Need.

This time around, someone has come up with the irritating mantra "do something funny for money", which is beginning to poison my brain. If I hear another trail for the hapless four BBC presenters who are telling unfunny jokes in their new careers as stand-ups, I'll chuck my radio out of the window.

The phrase "comedy is the new rock'n'roll" was coined (possibly by me) well over a decade ago. Well, forget that now. Comedy is limp, lifeless and about as threatening as my Auntie Vi's Victoria sponge. Comedy has rolled over and given up being subversive. It has turned into something (like potato prints and papier-mâché) that even the most dreary bod can excel at. Try listening to 30 seconds of Libby Purves telling a joke if you want any convincing.

Comedians are queueing up to appear on Comic Relief. So are presenters, such as Fern Britton, celebrity chefs from rival channels, Davina McCall, Jamie Oliver, the list is endless. The reason? It is brilliant exposure and they tend to share the same agents. Even I got asked to film a message "supporting" Dom Joly in some dancing escapade ... a request I had no trouble in declining.

Comic Relief does raise a lot of money for worthy causes, although there is increasing debate about how much long-term good this kind of aid to Africa actually achieves.

A controversial new book, Dead Aid by the Zambian-born economist Dambisa Moyo, asks whether Africans would be better helped through trade and less foreign intervention. My beef is that the whole notion of helping those less fortunate than ourselves is a private matter, and in a recession the increasingly strident voice of the entertainers rattling the Comic Relief begging bowls is beginning to sound inappropriate. It is not as sexy, for example, to point out that one in four pensioners right here in the UK is living in poverty. How about helping them?

I know that by writing this, I am branded as a non-believer, a curmudgeon who will incur the wrath of Richard Curtis and his saintly bands of chums. But what about the licence fee-payers who prefer to give privately to charity ? Why should they have so much of the BBC's output devoted to a public display of self-satisfied do-gooders?

The fact is, most of us don't need to stick on a red nose and do something funny for money, we can just quietly dip into our pockets and make a donation, or we can give our time to helping those closer to home who urgently need support.

A lot of the entertainers gracing our screens on Friday night will be engaged in self-promotion – flogging their brands along with their new records, their latest books and their DVDs. They are – along with the much-reviled bankers – some of the highest-paid people in the country. I am not impressed that they bravely take a few days out of their busy schedule to visit Africa and be photographed with grateful orphans.

The whole ego trip of such exercises is thoroughly nauseating. In the distant future, historians will surely find it bizarre that at the start of the 21st century, a middle-aged multi-millionaire rock star called Bono toured the world telling elected politicians about poverty, while the citizens of a highly developed society called Britain decided they could best collect charitable donations by wearing a red plastic nose and dressing up as a turkey.

Why do we seek public approval for giving to worthy causes? Because the me generation always put itself first.

Was BMW heiress seduced while starved of her senses?

The story of the serial gigolo who managed to seduce one of Germany's richest women and extract millions of pounds from her provides a really good reason not to visit those over-priced houses of misery and delusion called spas.

What happens in a spa is that you spend so much time having your thighs pummelled, your midriff slathered in hot mud and your digestive system sluiced out by aggressive enemas, you lose all sense of reason. Light-headed on a diet of raw food, a few nuts, hot water and a slice of lemon, you are reduced to something resembling a bit of protoplasm wearing a fluffy bathrobe. Look at the Lembik Opik lookalike Helg Sgarbi (about as seductive as a junior accountant) and ask yourself how the BMW heiress Susanne Klatten, said to be worth £8.5bn, could give him the time of day, let alone have sex with him in a Holiday Inn.

One of his previous victims gave him £28m, but Sgarbi kindly gave back £25m when her friends threatened to go to the police. No wonder he was smirking in court when he was sentenced to six years in jail. He has managed to accrue a considerable sum of money from naïve women.

Kitchen knives drawn in dining debate

When I wrote recently about sub-standard, over-priced food and pitiful service in restaurants, dozens of you wrote and emailed in agreement. One reader even suggested we should tour the country awarding JSP-approved ratings to places that come up to scratch.

Well, I'm not going to give up the day job, but plenty of you are brassed off with being over-charged for meals you could cook better at home. Paul Heathcote owns the Preston restaurant where I had a lousy meal, and was miffed by my criticism. He told the Lancashire Evening Post that because I had eaten bush tucker in I'm A Celebrity... I had no tastebuds, adding: 'I'm nervous that our customers would think she is coming here – that might put them off."

Sadly, Mr Heathcote's attempt at humour has backfired, with locals writing to the newspaper to agree that the Olive Press is mediocre.

The comments include "service is dreadful; JSP is spot on"; "over-priced, rubbish food"; "keep away at all costs"; "he needs to go on a customer awareness course" and "the staff have a couldn't-care-less attitude". Over to you, Mr Heathcote.