HBO’s ‘Relief’ reels in $5 mil

Crystal and co. face NBA Finals, go 40 minutes over

Despite going up against the sixth game of the NBA Finals, HBO’s “Comic Relief VIII” harvested a bountiful $5.2 million in pledges to aid the homeless.

That’s $400,000 more than the pledges chalked up during the previous “Comic Relief” outing on Nov. 30, 1996.

Host Billy Crystal kept the audience at Radio City Music Hall and subscribers at home informed about the score of the Bulls-Jazz game, annoying viewers who were taping the game on their VCRs while watching “Comic Relief.”

“Comic Relief VIII” ran 40 minutes over its scheduled three-hour slot because the three hosts — Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg and Crystal — made a hash of the cue cards by indulging in a continuous stream of often-hilarious ad libs.

The Nielsen ratings of “Comic Relief VIII” won’t be available until today.

Another first for the show, although HBO wasn’t necessarily boasting about it: Bob Odenkirk appeared in a comedy sketch that required him to be buck naked, marking the first time a naked performer, male or female, had ever adorned the stage of the Music Hall during a public performance.

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