Here's when Comic Relief 2021 is taking place - and where to get a Red Nose

Dame Judi Dench and Benedict Cumberbatch have launched this year’s Red Nose Day fundraising campaign (Photo: Jacqui Black/Comic Relief)

Dame Judi Dench, Sir Lenny Henry and Benedict Cumberbatch have launched this year’s Red Nose Day fundraising campaign with a new short film.

The clip features projects supported by Comic Relief and sees the stars talking about how comedy and laughter has helped them in their lives.

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Cumberbatch describes laughter as a “national medicine”, saying “when you make light of something, often then it can just release the tension enough to breathe, to just have a moment’s respite from it.”

"That relief is much needed right now, there’s a reason why this is called Comic Relief,” he adds.

Here is everything you need to know about it.

What is this year’s theme?

The event returns next month and this year features the Share A Smile initiative, which aims to bring the country together using humour.

Star of the big and small screen, Dame Judi says: “Red Nose Day is something we can all enjoy, and goodness knows during this lockdown everyone has relied so much on television and seeing as many films as they can.

“I look forward to it enormously. I hope we all have a wonderful laugh and at the same time donate something as it goes to a very, very good cause.”

Comedians Shappi Khorsandi, Joe Lycett and Mo Gilligan and radio host Roman Kemp are also supporting the Comic Relief fundraiser.

The Great British Sewing Bee host Lycett speaks in the film about how humour has helped him, saying: “Literally every bad thing that has happened to me in my life, I have been able to get round it with humour.”

Comedian and TV star Gilligan, currently on screens as a panellist on The Masked Singer, says: “Every time I speak to my mum, which is pretty much every day, she’s the one who makes me laugh like the most.”

When is Red Nose Day?

This year’s Red Nose Day broadcast will take place on March 19, with an “unmissable evening of television” featuring sketches, live performances and one-off comedy specials on BBC One.

The programme will feature Dawn French in a special segment of The Vicar Of Dibley, and David Tennant and Michael Sheen in the comedy Staged.

Singer and TV star Alesha Dixon, Davina McCall and Paddy McGuinness will join Comic Relief co-founder Sir Lenny Henry in presenting on the night.

In the short film, Sir Lenny says: “Red Nose Day will be different this year, we know that it’s hard financially for so many people right now but we’d love you to join us even if it’s just to share a laugh.

“If we raise some money along the way then brilliant. We know that when times are tough, laughter can really make a difference.”

How can I get a Red Nose?

There are a range of 10 different characters depicted on the plastic free and plant-based noses (Photo: Jonathon Minster/Comic Relief)

The money raised by Red Nose Day in 2021 will help tackle homelessness, domestic abuse and the stigma around mental health. Funds will also be donated to support those affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The red noses for this year’s campaign are plastic free and made from plant-based materials.

There are a range of 10 different characters depicted on the noses, which can be bought in supermarket Sainsbury’s or at comicrelief.com/shop.

The online shop also features other Red Nose Day merchandise, from t-shirts to toys and games and accessories.

When did Comic Relief start?

Comic Relief was founded in 1985 by comedy scriptwriter Richard Curtis and comedian Lenny Henry in response to the famine in Ethiopia, with the aim to get British comedians to make the public laugh while raising money to help people around the world and in the United Kingdom.

The first of Comic Relief's Red Nose Day telethons was held on 4 April 1986, and featured comedians and pop stars including Rowan Atkinson, Billy Connolly, Stephen Fry, and Kate Bush.

Comic Relief has raised more than £1.4 billion over 35 years.

A version of this article originally appeared on our sister title, the Yorkshire Evening Post