Shropshire Star

Comic Relief kicks off without Sir Lenny Henry for first time in show’s history

The live annual charity event returned to BBC One on Friday evening with a three-hour special.

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Comic Relief – 2023

Comic Relief 2023 has returned to screens “for the first time in history” without Sir Lenny Henry, who co-founded the charity fundraiser in 1985.

The opening credits saw Sir Lenny regenerate into Doctor Who star David Tennant, who kicked off the three-hour live show with fellow presenters AJ Odudu, Joel Dommett, Paddy McGuinness and Zoe Ball.

A pre-show sketch saw Sir Lenny feeling sick in his dressing room and asking for a “doctor”, before regenerating into Tennant.

Red Nose Day 2023
Sir Lenny Henry sporting the new transforming red nose, in support of Red Nose Day 2023 (Richard Davenport/Comic Relief/PA)

Appearing from Salford’s MediaCity on BBC One, 51-year-old Tennant said: “For the first time in Comic Relief’s history, we are flying without our captain, Sir Lenny Henry.

“He is in the thick of another project, but before he regenerated, he did make a little film for us and you’ll see that later on.”

Swedish singer Zara Larsson also delivered the first musical performance of the evening, giving an electrifying rendition of her new track Can’t Tame Her.

Meanwhile, pop superstar Kylie Minogue appeared in the first sketch of the night with the cast of BBC sitcom Ghosts.

The singer and her live agent, played by Tanya Moodie, arrived at haunted Button House to see if it is a suitable concert venue, shocking the supernatural inhabitants.

Comic Relief – 2023
Kylie Minogue appears in a sketch with the cast of BBC sitcom Ghosts during Friday night’s Comic Relief show (BBC/Comic Relief/PA)

The ghosts gathered around her, describing her as “beautiful as her verse” and “rather fabulous”, before Minogue revealed she was able to see the ghosts.

“You know the roller skating montage and the Spinning Around video? I had a fall, I banged my head and now I can see ghosts,” she said.

Minogue was forced to “prove” she was the real deal to the sceptical phantoms, though ultimately chose a different haunted venue.

She went on to sing her hit song I Should Be So lucky in the sketch alongside actors Mathew Baynton and Charlotte Ritchie.

Sir Tony Robinson also reprised his famous role as dimwitted Blackadder sidekick Baldrick in a Comic Relief sketch.

Comic Relief – 2023
Sir Tony Robinson who returned as the character of Baldrick to read a bedtime story during Friday night’s Comic Relief show (BBC/Comic Relief/PA)

The 76-year-old read a humorous bedtime story inspired by Cinderella accompanied with cartoon illustrations.

Broadcaster Gethin Jones also became emotional when discovering he had raised £1,192,298 during his 24-hour dancing challenge.

The emotional 45-year-old, who completed the Gethin Keeps Dancing challenge, said: “Everything is stinging, I haven’t been able to touch my toes since 2am. It’s been an epic effort. What really kept us going was the donations.”

Meanwhile, a host of famous faces appeared in a Eurovision unseen audition clips sketch.

Chat show host Graham Norton, Eurovision winner Lulu and Eurovision runner-up Sam Ryder made up the judging panel for the sketch – which saw them facetime Abba singer and Eurovision winner Bjorn Ulvaeus.

The sketch saw comedian Miranda Hart sing and dance to Hero by Mariah Carey, while Fifty Shades Of Grey actor Jamie Dornan had “lost his voice” and had big cards with the words to Adele’s Someone Like You.

Singer Fleur East also appeared in the sketch in which Norton described her as a “runner-up” following her appearance in X Factor and other reality shows, and saw her humorously storm off stage.

The sketch also saw TV chef Gordon Ramsay play the recorder and comedian David Walliams dressed in a leather ensemble singing Eye Of The Tiger by Survivor hitting his own “golden buzzer” referencing Britain’s Got Talent.

There were also performances from Zara Larsson, Tony Hadley, Bono, Richard “Dick” McCourt and Dominic “Dom” Wood, Cheryl Baker and Bucks Fizz, a Dalek from Doctor Who and French TV star Fred Sirieix pretending to be British.

Dermot O’Leary was placed outside to give contestants hugs referencing his previous role on X Factor and the judges left before final star Ed Sheeran was set to audition with a song called To Love Is To Win.

The cast of Mrs Doubtfire The Musical also delivered their first UK performance of Make Me A Woman from the new stage show which had the audience on their feet.

News broadcasters including Clive Myrie, Kay Burley, Huw Edwards and Naga Munchetty as well as Susanna Reid, Piers Morgan and Richard Madeley also appeared during a sketch which saw the UK’s most serious people telling jokes.

Comic Relief Red Nose Day is a UK charity that aims for a “just world, free from poverty” and was co-founded by Richard Curtis and Sir Lenny in 1985.

This year, the fundraiser will support people struggling with the cost-of-living crisis and tackle issues such as homelessness, mental health problems and food poverty.

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