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The BBC's Jane Warr
"Proof that laughter can help fight poverty"
 real 56k

Saturday, 17 March, 2001, 16:18 GMT
Comic Relief a roaring success
Ali G (back) made David and Victoria Beckham squirm
Ali G (back) made David and Victoria Beckham squirm
Britain's TV charity marathon Comic Relief looks set to raise a record amount after an extravaganza of laughter which has already seen more than 23m raised for good causes.

A naked Billy Connolly, Posh and Becks grilled by Ali G, camp TV host Graham Norton chatting with the Duchess of York - the 2001 Comic Relief produced many highlights as well as millions of pounds for charity.

As money was still being counted, the latest figure at 0850 on Saturday was 23.5m - 10m ahead of the last show in 1999 which led to a final campaign total of 35m.

The eight-hour show attracted more than 12 million people to watch a host of comedians and stars perform special sketches and shows to raise money to help combat poverty and social injustice in Africa and the UK.

Star-filled night

Pop superstar Robbie Williams, chart-topping band Westlife, actress Kate Winslet, TV chef Jamie Oliver and opera singer Lesley Garrett were among those who lent their support by appearing on BBC One's Friday night show.

Comedian Billy Connolly in London's Piccadilly Circus
Baring all: Connolly in Piccadilly Circus, London

The show was hosted by TV stars Ant and Dec, comedian Lenny Henry and presenters Zoe Ball and Jonathan Ross.

Viewers were able to pledge money by phone or over the internet.

One of the most bizarre moments of the night was when Scottish comedian Billy Connolly danced naked around London's Piccadilly Circus before 40 naked dancers wearing Connolly wigs joined a startled-looking Lenny Henry in the studio.

An audience of 11.9 million tuned in to see comic interviewer Ali G subject football star David Beckham and his wife and Spice Girl Victoria to his infamous interviewing style complete with intimate, tongue-in-cheek questions.

Ali G told the footballer: "Just because it's Comic Relief doesn't mean you can speak in a silly voice."

Pegg, Henry and Winslet in Popsters
Pegg, Henry and Winslet as Popsters hopefuls
Miserable TV character Victor Meldrew was brought back to life for one night only in a one-off special of comedy show One Foot In The Grave.

Perhaps the most eagerly-awaited event of the night was discovering the winner of Celebrity Big Brother.

About 12.3 million people watched as comedian Jack Dee was pronounced winner of a contest which began a week ago when six celebrities were locked into a house together with no TV, music, or contact with the outside world.

Other highlights saw stars including Henry, comedian Simon Pegg and actress Kate Winslet acting as hopeless musical hopefuls in a spoof version of the Popstars TV show.

Fergie chat

Chat show host Graham Norton - who is soon to export his show to America - interviewed the six celebrities who took part in Celebrity Big Brother as well as the Duchess of York.

Robbie Williams featured in a Fast Show comedy sketch as well as sequences filmed in Africa to highlight the problems that Comic Relief is hoping to help solve.

On Saturday Williams was auctioning some of his most prized possessions to raise yet more cash for the Comic Relief cause.

Giant G-string

The world's largest G-string was draped across the Body Shop in Oxford Street to crown its fund-raising efforts, which involved asking people to write messages about poverty on large sized pairs of pants.

Melinda Messenger
Melinda Messenger: Launched fun run with comedian Richard Blackwood

Radio personalities Mark Chapman and "comedy" Dave, sidekick of DJ Chris Moyles raised 10,000 by visiting all Scottish and English premier league clubs in 72 hours and offering kits from every club in a competition.

More cash will be raised when the script of the 5,000th episode of Coronation Street is auctioned online at www.eBay.co.uk, with bidding closing at 1600GMT on Sunday.

Comic Relief started in 1985 and had raised over 174m ($250m) before Friday night's show.

Two thirds of that has been spent on projects in Africa, with one third spent in Britain.

You can make a donation by calling 08457 910 910 or logging on to the Comic Relief website.

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See also:

17 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Robbie's charity clear-out
16 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Dee big winner of Big Brother
16 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Red nose Norton and the Duchess
16 Mar 01 | Education
Schools' 'web nose' challenge
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