What is Red Nose Day?

The "Today" show crew sported red noses for the cause.

Story highlights

  • NBC is presenting a "Red Nose Day" special tonight
  • The event has run for almost three decades in the UK; it raises money for children in poverty

(CNN)You've probably noticed a lot of photos lately of celebrities wearing red clown noses.

It's all part of an effort to bring attention to "Red Nose Day," which started in Britain in 1988 to raise money for poverty-stricken children in the UK and Africa. This year, the fund-raiser has extended to the United States, where NBC is airing a three-hour special Thursday night.
What is it? It's sponsored by Comic Relief UK, an organization founded after the 1985 Live Aid concert. (It helped inspire -- but has no other relation to -- the American telethon started by Bob Zmuda and long hosted by Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal.) The British event is held every two years. There are also Red Nose Days in Finland, Germany and Iceland.
    How has it done? According to the Red Nose Day website, it's raised more than £78 million (about $122 million at current exchange rates).
    Why is it just coming to the United States? Part charity and part business, according to accounts. Variety reported that NBC executive Paul Telegdy used to work for the BBC, which has aired Red Nose Day events since the late '80s. He's seen the power of the event in Britain for raising money for a good cause.
    But it's also an opportunity to raise awareness of the NBCUniversal brand networks, he added.
    "Live events are really, really important to this company. And this is one of those times when you get to do something that is great entertainment but also really stands for something," he said.
    For his part, writer and director Richard Curtis ("Notting Hill," "Love, Actually"), who co-founded the event, is thrilled.
    "For many years, I have dreamt of bringing Red Nose Day to the US, and I am so excited that we have teamed up with NBC, who will do such a brilliant job on this," he said on the Red Nose Day website. "Experience has taught me how extraordinarily compassionate and generous Americans can be, and I've lived my life in awe of American comedy talent. So putting those two things together will, I hope, create an amazing event that will really make a massive difference to the lives of millions of children and their families in the US and in the poorest countries around the world."
    What charities are involved? They include the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the Children's Health Fund, Feeding America, the National Council of La Raza and the United Way.
    Who's participating? The NBC event will be hosted by Seth Meyers, David Duchovny and Jane Krakowski from New York's Hammerstein Ballroom.
    And dozens of celebrities are taking part, including Anna Kendrick, Julia Roberts, Will Ferrell, One Direction and Kim Kardashian. The latter has already earned chatter for her photo, since her nose doesn't appear to be the sole focus:
    Others have had their own fun.
    And then there's "Game of Thrones' " Peter Dinklage, singing in a Coldplay musical about the show:
    The Red Nose Day special airs at 8 Eastern/7 Central tonight on NBC.