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NBC Sets 3-Hour ‘Red Nose Day’ Live Telethon for May 21

NBC will close out the 2014-15 regular season on May 21 with a three-hour live telethon that marks the arrival in the U.S. of the Red Nose Day charity drive that has become a U.K. institution.

The Peacock is planning a star-packed telecast featuring standup and sketch comedy segments, musical performances and various celebrity appearances. The special will originate from New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom.

Red Nose Day was launched in 1985 by director Richard Curtis, of “Love Actually” and “Bridget Jones’s Diary” fame. The goal was to raise money for a range of worthy causes and also generate awareness among the public of the struggles of underprivileged people around the world.

As in the U.K., Red Nose Day will include a retail push to encourage people to buy plastic red clown noses to wear on May 21 as a means of acknowledging the greater need in the world.

Paul Telegdy, NBC’s president of alternative and latenight programming and native of Blighty, worked on Red Nose Day programming earlier in his career at the BBC. He’s eager to see it expand to the U.S. on NBC’s air. The priority is to raise a lot of money for charities, but it will also be a big, noisy live event that will be supported across NBCUniversal divisions and hopefully draw a big crowd to the network just as it transitions into its summer schedule.

“Something like this really goes to the heart of what it means to be a broadcaster,” Telegdy told Variety. “Live events are really, really important to this company. And this is one of those times when you get to do something that is great entertainment but also really stands for something.”

During his time at the BBC, “Red Nose Day was one of those times when you were really, really proud to be working there,” he added.

Proceeds from the event will be directed to 12 charities that aid children and young people in the U.S., Africa, Asia and Latin America: Boys & Girls Clubs of America; Charity: water; Children’s Health Fund; Feeding America; Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; the Global Fund; Lift; National Council of La Raza; National Urban League; Oxfam America; Save the Children; and United Way.

Curtis said he has long dreamed of taking Red Nose Day across the Pond.

“Experience has taught me how extraordinarily compassionate and generous Americans can be, and I’ve lived my life in awe of American comedy talent,” Curtis said. “So putting those two things together will, I hope, create an amazing event that will make a massive difference to the lives of millions of children and their families.”​

The telecast will be exec produced by Curtis and Hamish Hamilton and Ian Stewart of Done + Dusted, a U.K. and U.S.-based production banner known for staging big live events.

Telegdy said the talent lineup is coming together now, and he has no worries about assembling an impressive list given the platform and the long track record of Red Nose Day. Actress Sienna Miller and “Voice” coach Christina Aguilera (pictured) are already on board for early promotional efforts. So is “Mad Men” star Jon Hamm.

“Red Nose Day is almost like a national holiday in the U.K. — it’s a day of real excitement, everyone looks forward to it and the entire country gets involved in some way,” Miller said. “I’m thrilled it’s coming to the U.S.”

The three-hour special on Thursday, May 21, for which Funny Or Die will partner with NBC to create original content, will come on the heels of four hours of live production of “The Voice” finale earlier that week, Telegdy noted. The hope is that Red Nose Day telecast will also rev up promotion for the two-hour return of “America’s Got Talent” on the following Tuesday, May 26.

“It will throw a strong spotlight for us at a really important time of the year for NBC,” Telegdy said. “We’re not stopping for the summer.”

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