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What is Red Nose Day, and why are celebrities wearing clown noses?

An explainer for the May 21 event.


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Posted on May 21, 2015   Updated on May 28, 2021, 6:54 pm CDT


Red Nose Day is here! The only problem? No one really knows what it is. 

Leading up to Thursday (May 21) night’s event, celebrities have been posing with red clown noses on their faces and joking around with each other in fun videos. But what exactly is Red Nose Day and why is every celebrity so excited for it? The show is the U.K.’s No. 1 television fundraising event and thanks to its creator, Richard Curtis, it’s coming to the U.S. According to NBC, the event was “built upon the foundation that mass media and celebrities can help raise money and increase awareness of poverty in order to save and change millions of lives.”

Still confused about some of the basics? Take a look below to find out everything you need to know before Red Nose Day begins.

Is it like a telethon?

Kind of: it’s a fundraising event and variety show all in one.

What actually happens during the event?

The three-hour show will be filled with both live and pre-taped content. Red Nose Day will feature sketches—watch out for Game of Thrones: The Musical—live musical performances and a variety of other comedy bits. The benefit will also air short appeals films that “shed light on those in need.

What is it raising money for?

According to NBC, the money raised during the event “will be used to fund programs that address the immediate needs of children and young people living in poverty in the U.S. and internationally in Africa, Asia and Latin America.”

How long has it been going on in the U.K.?

Red Nose Day has been taking place in the U.K. for 30 years. To date, it has raised over $1 billion in donations.

Is there a host?  

Several, actually. Seth Meyers, David Duchovny and Jane Krakowski are set to host the event.  

So which celebrities are involved?  

Um, a bajillion of them, basically. Get ready for this lineup:  

  • Julia Roberts
  • Will Ferrell
  • Jennifer Aniston
  • Reese Witherspoon
  • Jodie Foster
  • Jimmy Fallon
  • Neil Patrick Harris
  • Ed Sheeran
  • Josh Groban
  • Christian Slater
  • Al Roker
  • Andy Cohen
  • Kellan Lutz
  • Kermit the Frog
  • Julianne Moore
  • Jack Black
  • John Krasinski 
  • Emily Blunt
  • Michelle Rodriguez
  • Gwyneth Paltrow
  • Adam Levine
  • Blake Shelton
  • Christina Aguilera
  • Pharrell Williams
  • Richard Gere
  • Jennifer Garner
  • Keith Urban
  • John Mellencamp
  • One Direction
  • Coldplay
  • Zac Efron
  • Helen Mirren
  • Robert Pattinson
  • Liam Neeson
  • Nick Cannon
  • Sienna Miller
  • Paul Rudd
  • Olivia Wilde
  • Eddie Redmayne
  • Benedict Cumberbatch
  • Sir Ian McKellen
  • Orlando Bloom
  • Leslie Mann
  • January Jones
  • Simon Cowell
  • Matt Lauer
  • Carson Daly
  • Nick Offerman
  • Elizabeth Banks
  • Chris Pine
  • Jeff Goldblum
  • Billy Eichner
  • Martin Short
  • Laura Linney
  • Anna Kendrick
  • Sean “P. Diddy” Combs
  • John Michael Higgins
  • Bill and Melinda Gates
  • Stephen Merchant
  • Naomi Campbell
  • Anna Camp
  • Jeanne Tripplehorn
  • Yvette Nicole Brown
  • Retta
  • Natalie Morales 
  • Danny Pudi
  • Rob Huebel. 
  • Matt LeBlanc
  • Hugh Bonneville
  • Dame Diana Rigg
  • Kyle MacLachlan
  • Rose Byrne
  • Elisabeth Moss
  • Hoda Kotb
  • Gilbert Gottfried
  • Cheryl Burke
  • Nicole Scherzinger
  • Jeff Dye
  • Saturday Night Live cast members Jay Pharaoh, Colin Jost and Michael Che
  • Game of Thrones cast members Kit Harington, Peter Dinklage, Iwan Rheon, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Emilia Clarke, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Mark Addy, John Bradley, Rose Leslie, Alfie Allen and Charlotte Hope
  • Orange Is the New Black cast members Dascha Polanco, Samira Wiley, Yael Stone, Selenis Leyva, Lea DeLaria, Adrienne C. Moore and Jackie Cruz

When does it air?

Red Nose Day airs on Thursday, May 21 from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.

Photo via Sleeping Walrus/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)

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*First Published: May 21, 2015, 5:57 pm CDT