Q&A: Jack Black and Richard Curtis on the Red Nose Day telecast fundraiser
The Scene spoke with actor and comedian Jack Black and Red Nose Day director Richard Curtis.
The United Kingdom’s widely successful Red Nose Day charity campaign will come to the United States for the first time on Thursday, May 21 at 8 p.m. EST. Airing on NBC, the three-hour event will feature some of today’s biggest celebrities wearing a red nose (in reference to clowns) to get a laugh and raise funds for organizations, such as The Global Fund and the National Urban League, in the United States and abroad.
The Scene participated in a conference call with actor and comedian Jack Black, who recently made a trip to Uganda to visit a project Red Nose Day organization to discuss the event. Richard Curtis, the movie director and creator of Red Nose Day, also answered questions on the call.
On what drives Richard Curtis to work in fundraising
Richard Curtis: “I think that there are two things. I've never lost the belief because of things that I've seen, like Jack has seen in Uganda, that tiny bits of money can make a huge amount of difference. So it's massively tempting when you think, ‘Well if I can do this, I'll raise $1000,’ you think, ‘Well it’s $1000; that's 250 malaria nets.’ I can never get that out of my mind, that it's an unbelievable reward for quite a simple action. And then the length of it really is because it was surprisingly successful. It was like having a child, and then you have to manage it. We made $15 million, I think, on the first one, and then $27 million on the second one, and I didn't know how to walk away. So I'm just trying to be a responsible adult. But I do hugely believe in the effect that just the generosity of one human to another can— the difference that can make.”
On how the kids in Uganda responded to wearing the red nose
Jack Black: “We had some fun with the red nose. Everyone wanted a chance to try it on. There was a flurry of red nose activity. You know it's as old as comedy, that red nose, and yet it still has some magic in it, unlike the pie to the face, which really seems to have faded over the decades. The red nose still somehow has survived the years of ridicule.”
On the thought process behind bringing Red Nose Day to the U.S.
RC: “Well, as you know it's an obvious thing to me because there is—this is such a country of great comedy. I mean, just at the moment there's just so much extraordinary . . . comedy coming . . . out of the country, so many great films. And it's an amazingly generous country. I did this first Idol Gives Back, and I think we raised $50 million or something from the public in a couple of hours. So it always seemed like a very natural thing to do. It's just taken me this long to get around to it. And in a way, you know, just the particular people at NBC at the moment I mentioned it to them were really, really keen. So it all came out perfectly. But it doesn't seem to me there's any reason, in terms of compassion and humor, that America shouldn't be exactly the same as the U.K.
On the part of the trip that most affected Jack Black
JB: “You know, it was spending time with these kids and these parents and just seeing how amazing they were as people that really moved me the most. If I had gone over there and just seen a bunch of victims that didn't have any hope, it wouldn't have been as powerful to me as seeing these kids that were so funny and talented and brilliant. And I just was most blown away by the tragedy of the potential, you know, and these amazing people that I could see growing up and having amazing contributions to the world.”
On how kids and teenagers can get involved with Red Nose Day
RC: “We've got, you know, a huge number of movie stars from Anna Kendrick to Chris Pine involved. We've got Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins from “Pitch Perfect.” We've got Michelle Rodriguez from “Fast and Furious.” We've got a lovely sketch with the Voice and with Will Ferrell. So I think that, you know, it would be an odd child who wouldn't love something during the course for the night.”
On how jokes and films motivate people to give to charity
RC: “It's the little appeal films which are full of sort of grace in humor in their own way, that make the money, and I think the comedy that makes people stay watching. That'd be my sentiment.”