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Comedy as Philanthropy

NBC announced recently that the network would partner with Comic Relief UK, a British charity, and Funny or Die, a comedy video website, to bring American viewers standup, music, short films and sketch comedy in May 2015. The network will raise money for charities both in the U.S. and across the globe through the television program.

Comedy as philanthropy? The idea might surprise Americans, but it is quite familiar to many British television viewers. Comic Relief has been around since 1985 and has promoted Red Nose Day, one of its two major fundraising campaigns, since 1988.

Red Nose Day is the brainchild of Richard Curtis, who will be an executive producer on the American special. Curtis’s name might sound familiar to fans of films like “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and “Love Actually, ” because he wrote all three screenplays.

Curtis’s charity event takes place every two years. On the day of the event, the BBC airs comedy programs. The event has succeeded overwhelmingly in its goal to “inspire the nation to give generously.”

In 2013, Comic Relief featured Simon Cowell’s marriage in addition David Brent, with his own brand of awkwardness, who played the British version of Michael in “The Office.” In the end, the charity raised £100,331,808 (about $172 million.)

By channeling our desire for entertainment toward charitable purposes, Comic Relief has had a considerable impact.

The charity distributes viewer donations by awarding grants to projects that promote some or all of the following five concepts: (1) “better futures,” (2) “healthier finances,” (3) “safer lives,” (4) “stronger communities” and (5) “fairer societies.”

Grants are awarded both in the UK and throughout the rest of the world. Most importantly, the organization has had a great impact in the areas where it is involved. In the realms of education, HIV treatment and malaria prevention, Comic Relief has helped millions, according to their website.

The hope, then, is that Comic Relief’s successful methodology will resonate with an American audience. The charity has some notable friends in the U.S., which bodes well for the endeavor.

In fact, the most prominent American philanthropist strongly supports Comic Relief’s efforts. “I’ve been really impressed by how Red Nose Day in the UK has both raised large amounts of money and also engaged the public on the issues of poverty,” said Bill Gates, adding: “I hope lots of people from throughout the U.S. will participate.”

– Ryan Yanke

Sources: Deadline, Comic Relief 1, Comic Relief 2, Comic Relief 3
Photo: Mirror