The specter of some of the biggest stars in Hollywood on screen together for a night of comedy raised more than $21 million in the first American “Red Nose Day” telethon for children living in poverty.

Building upon the UK’s wildly successful charity effort, a collection of comedy-musical skits created to go viral on social media and mobile phones (like this Game of Thrones musical number) culminated in a three hour NBC variety show on May 21 that drew 3.2 million viewers.

Red-Nose-Day-photoby-Just me-CC
Photo by Just me…. (CC)

Across the Atlantic, the Red Nose Day campaign has been putting the “fun” in fundraising for 27 years and through its celebrity-fueled Comic Relief efforts more than $1.5 billion has been collected to help 50 million children in the UK and around the world.

Because the charity brand is new to the states, the producers made sure not to squander the opportunity to have loads of fun during its American introduction.

In the video above, for example, a “phone tree” between an ever-increasing cast of celebrities–like Chris Pratt, Emily Blunt and Reese Witherspoon– begins with talk of Red Nose Day and is somehow turned into a charity about red roses and garden hoses.

Jack Black with Uganda orphan youtube-326pxThe telethon wasn’t all giggles, however. In a particularly poignant pre-taped segment, see it on YouTube, Jack Black spent the day with a homeless orphan named Felix in Uganda. The 12-year-old was typical of the millions of children living on the streets for which schools have been opened to offer a better future thanks to charities supported by Red Nose Day donations.

U.S. corporate partner Walgreens sold wearable red noses and helped to raise $8 million, while bringing brand awareness across the country. Read more about how organizers pulled off another British Invasion in “Why Red Nose Day Paid Off,” from The Guardian.

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