Our History

Where did we come from? How did we get here? Here’s a little history lesson from your good friends at Comic Relief USA.

Timeline

1985

  • December 25

    We have lift off!
    We have lift off!

    Richard Curtis, Jane Tewson and friends come up with the idea to use comedy to raise money and change lives in Africa and the UK. On Christmas Day, Comic Relief is launched live on BBC One from the Safawa refugee camp in Sudan during Noel Edmonds’ Late Late Breakfast Show. The producer is Helen Fielding (before her Bridget Jones days!).

1988

  • February 5

    First Red Nose Day
    First Red Nose Day

    Lenny Henry and a group of children in Ethiopia celebrate the first ever Red Nose Day, run by Comic Relief UK. Over 150 celebrities and comedians take part as 30 million viewers watch a huge night of TV on the BBC and raise over £15 million.

1995

  • March 17

    Comic Relief in the 1990s
    Comic Relief in the 1990s

    Throughout the 90s, Comic Relief UK celebrates five Red Nose Days, develops a partnership with supermarket chain Sainsbury’s – one that has sold over 50 million Red Noses, and sees hundreds of celebrities helping to raise money to save and change lives. The decade concludes with the record-breaking Red Nose Day #7, which raised over £35 million. You can learn more at Comic Relief UK.

2007

  • April 8

    Idol Gives Back
    Idol Gives Back

    After over 20 years of making a difference in the UK, Comic Relief teams up with American Idol to create Idol Gives Back. This two hour TV spectacular raises more than $75 million to help children and young people living in poverty in the US and abroad. Learn more.

2014

  • November 10

    Across the pond
    Across the pond

    Comic Relief Co-founder Richard Curtis once said, “For many years, I have dreamt of bringing Red Nose Day to the US.” And in 2015, the dream becomes a reality. After years of planning, Comic Relief officially moves across the pond to create Comic Relief USA (also known as Comic Relief Inc.), a registered U.S. 501(c)(3) public charity. Comic Relief USA is an independent sister organization of Comic Relief UK, but they are joined by a shared mission to drive positive change through the power of entertainment.

2015

  • March 2

    British Airways Flying Start
    British Airways Flying Start

    After a successful partnership with Comic Relief in the UK, British Airways joins forces with Comic Relief USA to make an even bigger difference around the world. Funds raised through the British Airways Flying Start program goes to projects supporting kids and young people at risk within the US.

  • May 21

    Red Nose Day launches in the USA
    Red Nose Day launches in the USA

    The first Red Nose Day in America makes a big red splash, raising over $23 million for children in need, both in the US and some of the poorest communities internationally. NBC hosts a three-hour live special on NBC, and Hollywood’s biggest stars get on board to support. Game of Thrones gets musical. M&M’S joins the fun as a national partner. The Empire State Building lights up in honor of Red Nose Day. And five million Red Noses sell out from Walgreens, the official retailer, in 10 days.

2016

  • May 26

    Red Nose Day 2016
    Red Nose Day 2016

    Red Nose Day returns to the USA in 2016 better and bigger than ever. Craig Ferguson hosts the live television event on NBC, Walgreens sells over 10 million Red Noses, an estimated 20 million Americans support the campaign, and Red Nose Day in School launches. In its second year on American soil, Red Nose Day raises over $36 million to help children in need.

2017

  • May 25

    Red Nose Day 2017: Noses On!
    Red Nose Day 2017: Noses On!

    Red Nose Day returns in 2017 with a brand new look and call out: Noses On! Celebrating the third annual event in the USA, the campaign brings millions of Americans together to help end child poverty — one nose at a time. NBC airs a special night of primetime TV, including the Red Nose Day Special with Chris Hardwick as host, the first-ever celebrity-edition of American Ninja Warrior for Red Nose Day, and Running Wild with Bear Grylls for Red Nose Day, which features Julia Roberts and Bear Grylls delivering live-saving vaccines to children in rural Kenya. Walgreens, the exclusive retailer of the now-iconic Red Noses, sell another 10 million of them. A partnership between The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Red Nose Day helps to reach millions on Facebook and raise a million more dollars for the campaign. By the end of May, Red Nose Day raises over $38.1 million, and counting.

  • September 12

    Hand in Hand
    Hand in Hand

    After the devastation of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Comic Relief USA joined SB Projects for Hand in Hand: A Benefit for Hurricane Relief, a telethon to raise funds and help those affected by the recent hurricanes. The the one-hour special broadcast live across multiple networks and streamed internationally on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Some of the nation’s biggest stars joined to help encourage the nation to help out, including Beyoncé, George Clooney, Oprah Winfrey, Justin Bieber, Julia Roberts, Jamie Foxx, Barbra Streisand, Reese Witherspoon, Ellen Degeneres and Robert DeNiro to name a few. Comic Relief USA will manage the Hand in Hand Hurricane Relief Fund, distributing grants to a number of charity partners working in impacted areas. Learn more.

2018

  • May 24

    Red Nose Day 2018
    Even The Simpsons got involved!

    For Red Nose Day's fourth annual campaign in America, millions across America went #NosetoNose, towns across the country came together to celebrate Red Nose Day through Noses On Across America,  and millions more tuned in for a special night Celebrating Red Nose Day on NBC. Together, we raised more than $42 million to end child poverty.

2019

  • May 23

    5 years. Over $190 million raised.
    The Every Day Hero Red Noses

    Celebrating five years of bringing the nation together, Red Nose Day introduced The Everyday Hero Red Noses and the #HeroHighFive at Walgreens locations nationwide, launched our first-ever live streaming campaign with celebrity friends like Jack Black and Stephen Colbert and social influencers like Jacksepticeye and CriticalRole, held the world's  biggest Joke-Ha-Thon in Schools across America and on social media platform Tik Tok, said "Good Morning" with Alexa in millions of homes, and much more! All in all, Red Nose Day 2019 raised more than $40 million with money coming in still being tallied.

  • September 12

    A look back at the impact of Hand in Hand: A Benefit for Hurricane Relief
    Hand in Hand: A Benefit for Hurricane Relief

    On it's two year anniversary, Comic Relief USA took a look back at the amazing impact that millions across America were able to have through the Hand in Hand: A Benefit for Hurricane Relief special originally held on 9/12/2017. You can read a the full update here.

    Photo credit: VARIETY