Comic Relief 2021 (BBC One, 7pm Friday)

It has been 35 years since Red Nose Day was launched by director and scriptwriter Richard Curtis alongside Sir Lenny Henry in response to the famine in Ethiopia.

Over the past three-and-a-half decades, the biennial event has raised in excess of £1.4billion and seen millions of people, young and old, in schools and workplaces take part in fundraising activities.

However, like most things this year, the charity has been affected by Covid, and as we are still in the middle of a lockdown, the majority of Comic Relief’s fundraising activities will have to be done at home.

With that in mind, this year’s theme is designed to help the nation through what will hopefully be the final months of restrictions and “get us laughing at home”.

RND aims to harness the power of humour to bring a smile to the nation and the money raised will go towards helping issues including homelessness, domestic abuse and mental health stigma, and support those impacted by the pandemic.

“We all need cheering up, so this year Red Nose Day will be a bit different,” Sir Lenny explains.

“Of course we want to raise as much money as possible for people who really need it in the UK and around the world. But we also want to make you smile and bring you some laughter.”

Thankfully, one thing that hasn’t changed this year is the quality of the entertainment and the calibre of guests joining in.

As usual, stars of stage and screen will be taking part in hilarious sketches, live performances and big surprises.

Hosted by Sir Lenny, as well as Davina McCall, Paddy McGuinness, Alesha Dixon and David Tennant, tonight’s show will see David teaming up with Michael Sheen once more for a special instalment of their hit comedy series Staged.

Anna Friel and Keira Knightley co-star in the greatest disaster movie never made, and Paddy and his fellow Top Gear hosts face interrogation by their most savage critics to date.

Dawn French is also set to make an appearance as her much-loved character the Rev Geraldine Granger from The Vicar of Dibley, and she will joined by the Rev Kate Bottley. And fans of Fleabag and Normal People get a confessional close-up, as the stars of two of TV’s biggest shows meet for a mash up like no other.

During this week, The One Show is pitting celebrities together in a competition described as a ‘race with a difference’.

Tim Vine rewards the men and women of the UK’s military forces by spreading a smile, and Jack Whitehall hosts a Comic Relief Zoom meeting that quickly descends into chaos.

Some of the other famous faces involved this year are Benedict Cumberbatch, Dame Judi Dench, Karim Zeroual, Joe Lycett, Mo Gilligan, Roman Kemp and Shappi Khorsandi.

Sherlock and Marvel star Cumberbatch said: “Laughter’s always been a national medicine.

“I think people reached out for it in lockdown; it’s a way of getting through life’s difficulties and release the tension; and that relief is much needed now.”