Editorial : Silliness for serious cause

Last updated 11:00 27/08/2012

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Ridiculous people, take a bow. That's another Red Nose Day dealt with.

Once again the nation's comedians have been able to crack wise in the knowledge that their audience will perhaps not suspend, but at least temper, their judgement because of the virtue of the cause - Cure Kids.

The first New Zealand Red Nose Day was held back in 1989 and the practitioners have proven adept at keeping the process engaging.

As for those not-always-so-funny amateurs who join in, well good on them. As Dai Henwood said while he was recording with the All Blacks: the best thing was that everyone had been so willing to take the mickey out of themselves.

So the high-profile figures who take part in the Red Nose skits can be commended for their good-heartedness, rather than their bravery.

After all, imagine the public reaction if it were to leak out that so-and-so wasn't prepared to accept the indignity of taking part and, by implication, to hell with those kids. You'd be setting yourself up to look like a jerk, and playing into the hands of people expert in exposing and mocking jerks.

It could be argued that Red Nose Day harks back to a tradition of edgy virtue. We are encouraged to trace it back to Christmas Day 1985, when Comic Relief was launched live on the BBC from a refugee camp in Sudan. After a few live events the first Red Nose Day was broadcast three years later.

Recently, the Brits have enjoyed having Miranda Hart and Ruby Wax cook for David Cameron at No 10 in a spoof of MasterChef; Lenny Henry heckling a stuttering King George VI (played by Colin Firth) to hurry up and start the show.

But memory stirs farther back to the sense of real excitement generated by Amnesty International comedy fundraisers, The Secret Policeman's Ball (1979), and the first of its many sequels. It is regarded, in hindsight, as having been very influential in galvanising the participation of entertainers in political and social causes.

And back then, didn't it seem like provocative stuff? Older timers like Peter Cook, Alan Bennett and John Cleese mixing it with fresher faces like Rowan Atkinson, Billy Connolly and Victoria Wood.

Red Nose Day has a credible face nowadays. Even respectability. The job ahead is to keep things sufficiently silly to stop that becoming a problem.

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- The Marlborough Express


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