Comic Relief is upon us, making today, Red Nose Day, the least humorous day in the British calendar. I appreciate I’ve never been much of a joiner (actually, I am a joiner—well, a bit—but I’m easily bored and hence just as much of a leaver) but there’s something about institutionalised fun that makes me grind my teeth. K. said I hated organised charity events, which isn’t quite true: I hate charity events that impose upon people some sort of hard-to-maintain theme, and still expect it the paying public to be all spontaneous.
It’s interesting to see why companies and the like have Red Nose Day events in house. Where I work, Comic Relief seems (thus far) to be passing without any comment. This is because the company is reasonably enlightened, and likes to be both inclusive and donate to charities all year round, a combination which most workplaces find difficult. Prompting for payroll giving came largely from the top, and management support all sorts of things from green energy and regular cycling to work, to redistributive social schemes. Also, nobody who works here (as far as I can see) is of the jolly-hockey-sticks mentality that feels the need to whip people up into a frenzy for one day a year.
At the other end of the scale, the grammar school (yes, yes) I attended once tried to ban Comic Relief: I think it might even have been Mr Lenworth Henry’s first outing, in fact. The then headmaster objected to the rather uncomfortable coincidence of a nationwide charity event with the school’s launch of fundraising events for the new swimming pool. It’s hard to credit that someone might be so crass, and indeed the local paper ran a picture of him with a red nose superimposed on his oily face, rather diminished by them printing it in black and white. The headmaster got his swimming pool in the end; sadly, history does not record him drowning in it.
This morning everyone’s favourite Oirish charity-shill was telling generic lightbulb-changing jokes on Radio 2. Now I normally love a bit of Wogan in the morning, but Comic Relief, like Pudsey Fucking Bear, manages to turn his otherwise entertainingly shambolic slot into the dreariest tranche of radio you can imagine. The premise of this particular dullness was that for every joke told nPower would donate Â£100 to Comic Relief. Actually, of course, for every Â£100 nPower was able to buy mention of their brand name in a prominent spot in otherwise advertising-free media. With any luck this might make people forget that they’re utterly destroying the environment just south of Oxford, or that they’ve abused anti-stalker legislation to prevent the local villagers protesting. We might forget how utterly, utterly awful this company is, as it washes itself clean in the BBC’s bloody nose.
It isn’t compassion that drives these diverse reactions to Comic Relief. It isn’t pity, or a desire to do good. It’s corporate guilt. Or lack of it.