From the Vault: Red Nose Day 2015 — Will Geraldine finally become the Bishop of Dibley?

Dawn French as Vicar of Dibley

Dawn French in the 2015 Red Nose Day “Vicar of Dibley” special / Credit: screengrab

Red Nose Day has to be the single most brilliant example known to man of an entire country rallying around a charitable cause.

Comic Relief was launched on Christmas Day in 1985 by comedian Lenny Henry (Chef) and writer/director Richard Curtis (Blackadder, Vicar of Dibley, Notting Hill, Love Actually, Four Weddings and a Funeral) and aired live on the BBC to highlight the famine crippling Ethiopia.

Not long after, the concept of “Red Nose Day” was created to focus attention on Comic Relief’s activities with the first ever RND event in 1988 raising an impressive £15 million. Since its inception, the event has raised in excess of £1 billion to help change lives in the UK and Africa.

Dawn French as Vicar of Dibley during Red Nose Day 2015

Dawn French during Red Nose Day 2015

Red Nose Day in the UK is nothing short of a cultural phenomenon. It’s an institution. The entire British acting community lends their time and talents to this effort to create some of the most inventive comedic efforts since, well, the last Red Nose Day. 

It’s a perfect way to kick off the relaunch of our weekly Friday feature, From the Vault — which, much like the Deep Tracks channel on XM, will dig deep to find that classic clip, or highlight that classic series, that you’ve been hoping to revisit for some time.

From the Vault: The 2015 Comic Relief “Vicar of Dibley” special

For RND 2015, the Dibley Town Council reconvened and joined forces alongside guest stars Richard Ayoade, Annette Crosbie, Maureen Lipman, Emma Watson, Ruth Jones, Jennifer Saunders and Fiona Bruce to lend their talents and efforts to the cause:

After taking part in the Ice Bucket Challenge (which, you’ll remember, occupied the entire bandwidth of the Internet in 2015), Geraldine (Dawn French) gets an offer to become Bishop.

Confusion on her behalf, however, leaves her last in the running when other, more successful, candidates turn up for the interview process.

Dawn French as Geraldine Kennedy and Jennifer Saunders as Reverend Jen in the 2015 "Vicar of Dibley" Comic Relief special for Red Nose Day

Dawn French’s Geraldine Kennedy, left, vies for the Bishop of Dibley post versus Jennifer Saunders’ Reverend Jen in the 2015 “Vicar of Dibley” Comic Relief special.

Interestingly, there was a brief discussion of this back in 2010 when we interviewed Roger Lloyd Pack for the PBS documentary, Behind the Britcoms: From Script to Screen.

Pack, who starred as Owen in Vicar of Dibley, shared with us a local Kentish Town newspaper editorial cartoon (below) perhaps laying the groundwork for the Red Nose Day sketch for the 2015 Comic Relief special.

The caption accompanying the cartoon read: “Oh, forget all that village hall stuff for a minute, Roger — the Beeb wants you to star as daft Owen in a new, follow-up series called The Bishop of Dibley.

Kentish Town newspaper cartoon about Vicar of Dibley

Sadly, the former Harry Potter, Only Fools and Horses and Vicar of Dibley star wasn’t around to appear in the sketch as he unexpectedly passed away in January 2014.

• The biennial Red Nose Day returns Friday, 15 March 2019 on BBC1.

More Red Nose Day 2015

Dawn French to vie for Bishop of Dibley in new Comic Relief sketch
Red Nose Day 2015 doesn’t disappoint as Rowan Atkinson and Dawn French return

In: Comedy