I’m really excited about Friday – it’s Red Nose Day – the one day of the year when wealthy celebrities give up 24 hours of their time to encourage poor people to telephone in and give money to charity.
The highlight of the event for me will be when multi-millionaire songstress Jessie J shaves her head live on stage to get those phones ringing.
I once shaved my head, but only because the school nurse told me I had nits. As far as I know Jessie doesn’t have nits – she’s shaving her head out of pure philanthropy.
Comic relief was launched in 1985 and, since then, it has raised almost £750 million for charity – and I for one have nothing but admiration for the countless celebrities who have dedicated their lives to helping the starving Africans.
These unsung heroes act completely selflessly, shunning the limelight and, at enormous inconvenience to themselves, they have saved the lives of millions of starving African children.
But there is one group of celebrities who have gone far beyond the call of duty in their sacred mission to eradicate poverty and make the world a fairer place.
I’m talking, of course, about pop stars. People like Paul McCartney, Elton John, Madonna and Bono.
In 1984, the year before Red Nose Day was launched, dozens of pop stars in Britain and America gave up an entire day of their valuable time to record two songs, “Do they know it’s Christmas?” in Britain and “We are the World” in the USA.
I know there has been a lot of criticism of “Do they know it’s Christmas?” Apart from it being a crap song people like tax dodging comedian Jimmy Carr have made fun of the lyrics, written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure.
“Do they know it’s Christmas?” asks Bob and Midge.
“No, because most of them are muslim,” sneers Jimmy Carr.
“No rain or rivers flow in Africa,” say Bob and Midge.
“What about the Nile?” sneers Jimmy Carr.
“There won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time,” claim Bob and Midge.
“Not even on Mount Kilimanjaro?” sneers Jimmy Carr.
But what do you expect from pop stars Jimmy? They aren’t experts in Theology or Geography. They were too busy playing guitar and taking drugs when they were at school to get any O levels.
There is a long and rich history of pop stars being experts in many areas in which they have no actual expertise. Fitness DVD’s, diet books, climate change, politics – you name it, pop stars will comment on any subject from a unique combination of great authority and complete ignorance.
They are an easy target, but instead of concentrating on how thick they are and just how unqualified they are on every level to appear on Question Time, why don’t we just focus on the enormous good they have done?
“Do they know it’s Christmas?” raised millions of pounds for Africa. Before that charity song’s release six million children starved to death in Africa every year but, since its release – thanks to the enormous sum of money it raised, the number of children who starve to death in Africa every year is now down to only six million.
And you might think that having given up a whole day of their time in 1984 to help record “Do they know it’s Christmas?” pop stars have done far more than their fair share to alleviate world poverty – but not as far as they are concerned! Only last year, just over a quarter of a century after Band Aid released “Do they know it’s Christmas?” pop stars congregated at Hyde Park, giving up yet another day of their time, to put on a free concert for Africa’s starving children. Millions more were raised, but still poverty and starvation persists in Africa.
I bumped into Bono, the charismatic lead singer of U2, in Burger King last week and he explained the problem to me.
“It’s heartbreaking Kevin,” he said, “the problem is that the Africans have less than their fair share. That’s why they’re starving.”
“So how do we solve that problem?” I asked.
“It’s a simple question of mathematics,” Bono explained, “there’s only so much money in the world and if people in Africa have far less than their fair share that means that there must be other people in the world who have got far more than their fair share.”
“And who are these people?” I was shocked to find out they existed.
“I don’t know yet,” Bono replied, “I’m having a meeting with Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Elton John on Madonna’s yacht next week and we’re going to pool our intelligence to try and work out who the selfish bastards who have got far more than their fair share of money are.”
“And what are you going to do to them when you find out who they are?”
“Ask them to examine their consciences,” Bono became a little animated, “and ask them how they can sleep knowing that children are dying in Africa because of their selfish capitalist greed.”
Now I know there will be cynics amongst you who are quick to point out that Bono’s personal wealth of £2.5 billion is more than double the £1.24 billion GDP shared between the 4.1 million citizens of the Congo – the world’s poorest country – but you’d be missing the point. It’s only because he has so much money that Bono can dedicate his time to helping the starving children of Africa. Imagine asking your boss for the day off work to record a charity song for Africa. He’d almost certainly say no or, at best, tell you you’d have to take it as unpaid leave. What would you do then? You probably can’t afford to lose a day’s pay. Well Bono can – and that’s why he took a day off to record “Do they know it’s Christmas?” and you didn’t!
And that’s not the full extent of Bono’s charity work. As well as recording numerous charity songs and playing, free of charge, at several charity concerts he also founded the organisations DATA, encouraging rich countries to write off third world debt and the One Campaign to encourage first world governments to give aid to third world countries.
So forget the fact that the top ten pop stars in 2012 earned more money collectively than the world’s three billion poorest people (not far off half of the world’s population,) or the fact that U2’s gross earnings of £825 million in 2012 were more than the collective earnings of the world’s poorest one billion people that year, and start recognizing Bono for his selfless charity work that has eradicated third world hunger (except for the two billion people existing on less than £1 a day and the six million children who starve to death every year.)
“So what are U2 doing for Red Nose Day this year?” I asked Bono as he bit into his flame grilled quarter pounder with cheese.
“We’re just going to chill at home this year.”
“What, back in Ireland?”
“No, we left Ireland some years ago because we were paying too much tax. We’re now tax exiles in Holland.”
“So you’re going to spend Red Nose Day in Holland?”
“No,” he scoffed, “we don’t live there. It’s just our residence for tax reasons.”
“So where will you spend Red Nose Day?”
“We haven’t decided yet, it won’t be in my £5 million house in Dublin, but it might be my villa in the South of France or my £15 million penthouse in Manhattan.”
“So aren’t you going to do anything for Comic Relief this year?”
“The Edge and I are going to change our names for charity,” he replied.
“That sounds great,” I chuckled, “what to?”
“He’s going to become David Evans and I’ll become Paul Hewson.”
“That’s radical,” I was forced to concede, “and do you think you’ll raise enough money to feed the world?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” he scoffed, “we might raise a few hundred quid, but to feed one starving child for a year would cost around £137.50p. To feed all six million children who starve to death every year would cost around £825 million.
“But isn’t that the same amount of money that U2 earned last year?” I asked.
“Probably,” he replied, “anyway I’ve got to get going, the Edge and I are off to Harrods to buy some wine – they’ve put aside a case of 6 bottles of Henri Jayer Richebourg Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits for me – at a bargain cost of only £60,000. I hope you’ll give generously out of your benefit money next Friday.”
“Don’t worry I will,” I said as I watched him walk away and disappear through the eye of a needle.