Tonight, NBC is digging deep for children’s charities with Red Nose Day, a three hour charity special featuring star-studded sketches and musical performances — an annual tradition in the UK that production company Done + Dusted is responsible for bringing to America for the first time.
A few sketches have already been released (including the above “recreation” of an all-female “Reservoir Dogs,” featuring the cast of “Orange is the New Black”), but tonight’s the big night for the team. Via email, producer and Done + Dusted president Ian Stewart explained to Indiewire what to expect from tonight’s special, and which partners went above and beyond when it came to creating original comedy for the night.
I’d love to hear a little bit about the origins of the project — when did you get involved?
Our relationship started when Comic Relief and NBC decided to bring this sensation to America. We’re fairly uniquely placed in that, even though we’re based in Los Angeles, we also have an office in London (where we originated), and so many of our team grew up with Red Nose Day in the UK. So we sort of get both sides — American production and Red Nose origins.
As an American who didn’t have the same experience, I’d love to know more about that: What does Red Nose Day mean, to those who grew up with it?
Red Nose Day is an institution in the UK. It’s truly a nationwide celebration — almost like a holiday. Everyone participates — from school children who donate money for the opportunity to wear pajamas to school and wear their red noses, to adults who put red noses on their cars, to major entertainers and television shows that incorporate Red Nose Day into productions. It’s a major honor to be given the opportunity to introduce this tradition to America. We are aware that we have a lot to live up to in creating what we hope to be the first of many Red Nose Days to come.
How much explaining did the concept of Red Nose Day take, for those unfamiliar with the UK tradition?
The brilliant thing about Red Nose Day is that it’s been around for 30 years in the UK, so many of the US stars have been involved on the other side of the pond. So the talent and their reps already know about it. As for the public, it’s a really easy concept for people to get their heads around. It’s simply being funny for money.
What’s been the most complicated thing to coordinate, so far in the production process?
There are a lot of parties involved – Comic Relief (the Godfathers of Red Nose), NBC, ourselves at Done + Dusted, and our friends at Funny or Die, as well as a plethora of artists. While you’d think that might be like trying to herd cats, since we’re all focused on one thing – which is helping children – it actually focuses us all.
Which participants surprised you most with their enthusiasm?
NBC’s indefatigable enthusiasm for the whole project has been infectious. As for the talent, Coldplay has gone to extraordinary lengths to help us. It’s incredibly humbling. But having said that, every single celebrity, crew member and the public all deserve a whopping kiss on the cheek.
Are there any specific technologies or strategies you’re using with social media to encourage donation?
It’s interesting because in the UK the show airs commercial-free for the entire 7 hours – which in some ways is good, but also bad because people never get a break to catch their breath. Having commercial breaks in America means we’re actually giving people an opportunity to make a donation without missing any of the action; of course throughout the night, we will also be using social media to help drive donations and discussions.
How much of the show will be pre-taped vs. live?
About 2/3 will be live, and 1/3 will be pre-taped.
What goes into deciding on that balance?
We always prefer to do things live, but the sheer number of talent involved means that not everyone can be in one place at one time. In addition, it’s just not possible from a production standpoint to pull off some of the sketches in a live environment, so in order to create the best show possible, we tape those elements.
How important is the live aspect to what you’re planning for the 21st, especially given how much viewing these days is time-shifted?
The live aspect is important because it creates an immediacy and will hopefully inspire people to donate during the show. It will of course be possible to donate before and after the live transmission as well.
In planning the event, does every single thing have to go through the primary producers? Or do different entities simply have their own specific chunks of time to plan?
Comic Relief has been incredibly hands on with the international appeals. Funny or Die has created amazingly hilarious skits. NBC has pulled out all of the stops in terms of bringing their contacts to the table. And, our team has worked on the American stories. Ultimately, we all have one objective, which is to raise money for our charity partners and having that goal in mind has enabled our teams to work together seamlessly.
How big a team — how many people — will be specifically tasked with working on packaging clips — sketches, live moments, etc. — for digital distribution afterwards?
The number of people involved is massive. It’s definitely in the hundreds and from a group element is one of the larger productions we’ve done.
What do you, personally, feel like will make the evening a success?
We love making great television, but the true gauge of the night’s success will be how much is raised in donations throughout the broadcast.
Red Nose Day goes live on NBC at 8pm tonight.