A look back at five pivotal moments in the 20-year history of Comic Relief
May 16, 1985
A year to the day of best friend Andy Kaufman’s death from lung cancer, Bob Zmuda holds a benefit for the American Cancer Society at the Comedy Store in Hollywood. Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg and Eddie Murphy are among more than two dozen volunteer performers. The event raises more than $30,000.
March 29, 1986
Zmuda and former writing partner Chris Albrecht firm up plans to hold the “Live Aid of Comedy.” The first Comic Relief telethon scores big, raising $2.5 million to benefit National Healthcare for the Homeless. Billy Crystal, Goldberg and Williams are joined by the likes of Richard Belzer, Bobcat Goldthwait, Paul Rodriguez and others.
March 18, 1989
Comic Relief III, live from the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles, raises $3.5 million for the homeless with appearances by Goldie Hawn, Charlton Heston and other movie luminaries. Though the org will eventually produce more than 80 television broadcasts, it is the live pledge-driven telethons that generate its biggest results.
Oct. 10, 1992
Less than three months after Hurricane Andrew, Zmuda raises $2 million for disaster victims with a Comic Relief event at Miami’s Joe Robbie Stadium. The 77,000 on hand see performances by comedians Goldberg and Rosie O’Donnell, as well as music acts including the Bee Gees; Jimmy Buffett; Crosby, Stills and Nash; and Gloria Estefan & the Miami Sound Machine.
Nov. 18, 2006
Hoping to raise long-overdue funds for Hurricane Katrina-devastated New Orleans, Zmuda is to stage his first Comic Relief telethon in eight years, from Las Vegas, as part of the Comedy Festival. The program is to run on both HBO and TBS, potentially doubling viewership. Iconic hosts Crystal, Goldberg and Williams return, joined this time by Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher and Sarah Silverman.