Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Tuesday 17 March 2009

Comic Relief - a Counterblast

Will somebody please tell me what’s happened to Comic Relief?

I know it raises vital funds and helps save lives, and I appreciate that people dig deeper into their pockets when prompted by such an incentive, but does it have to be a national festival of inanity spreading its unwanted influence into every sphere of life?

Don’t get me wrong – I have the greatest respect for Lenny Henry and the other celebrities who have worked hard for the cause for many years and I wish them well in their fundraising endeavours – but enough is enough; I am happy to participate by choice but less so when it is forced upon me.

Now it’s over and the danger of red-nosed lynch mobs is past, I can say I am not a fan of being accosted by someone dressed as a chicken rattling a collecting bucket – how much does he have to take just to cover the costume hire? - or of the slogan ‘do something funny for money’. The problem is that one person’s ‘funny’ is someone else’s ‘bloody stupid’ or worse.

We are in danger of creating a sort of All Fools’ Day, giving license to the most puerile and tasteless pranks as long as money can be made from it. As an example, I offer the 6-weeks ‘celebrity’ Speaking Clock; Chris Moyles et al using silly voices, blowing raspberries and generally messing about – 10p per call to Comic Relief.

They obviously hope Radio 1 fans will call in in droves to listen, which would have been fine had the joke recordings used a separate telephone number. The continued existence of the Speaking Clock suggests that people still use the service; someone who needs to know the exact time badly enough to pay 30p for it is hardly likely to want it embellished with infantile pranks.

What next? Customer services staffed by the cast of Eastenders? Tax helplines manned by footballers? 999 calls answered by Jonathan Ross? By all means raise money for charity, but leave the country’s infrastructure alone.

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