CLOWNING AROUND: Lenny Henry.Pic:PA
LENNY HENRY is to join other notable personalities to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Comic Relief on March 15.
The UK comedian was a founding member of the telethon, which was set up to raise money for people and groups in need both here and Africa.
Henry has helped the charity raise over £800 million through its Red Nose Day Appeal since its launch on February 5, 1988.
The charity has also helped more than than 50 million people in the UK and Africa.
Writing in the Telegraph , Henry recalled how nervous he and others were when they hosted the first telethon.
"None of us had really hosted a full night of TV and it was very tense because we had to make the gear-change between being funny to being incredibly sombre," he wrote. "Comic Relief these days is much more in line with shiny-floor shows like The X Factor – fast, zappy, presenter-led – but we were just asking everybody to be kind and help.
Lenny Henry during that first Red Nose Day
"We had live entertainment from comedians such as the Goodies and pre-recorded films from Africa, but lots of comedians discovered it was very difficult to do live comedy with an audience that has just watched somebody die."
He said: "There is a lot of fear bound up in comedy – 'How will I be funny? Am I going to be the funniest?’ – but since we were all aiming at the same target there was a bullish vibe. Everything went wrong, of course – the autocue stopped, someone tried to do some magic and it didn’t work, Frankie Howerd came on and wouldn’t stop talking – but people were really moved by the films.
"I thought that if I made people laugh, and donate, then maybe the kids I visited in the Kibera slum in Kenya wouldn’t have to live in a room with a sewer running down the middle of it. We raised £15 million that night, which was a big deal"
He also struggled to fit the red nose, he said.
"The red noses were a great irony, because they don’t make them to fit black people. I have a wide nose like a Volkswagen and I’ve never had a red nose that fitted me – I had to get mine cut in the middle and use tape to secure it. They were always flying off.