Comic Relief co-founder Richard Curtis has defended the use of “frivolous comedy” in the BBC’s Red Nose Day telethon.
The show, which included the Love Actually sequel and pop singer Ed Sheeran’s trip to Liberia, was criticised by viewers for its lewd humour.
Asked about viewers being “upset at the mix of frivolous comedy with disasters”, Curtis, 60, told Radio 4 show Midweek: “I don’t see any contradiction.
“I’m aware that people are sensitive but when I first started Red Nose Day it was because I went to Ethiopia during the famine, in 1985, and was startled to find, even in places where people were right near death, that their sense of humour was still there.
“I remember a boy was put in a flying, blue plastic thing …in which they were weighing kids and him falling through … and everyone in the room laughed.
“They didn’t know they were in a tragedy. They were fighting for the right to laugh and to normality.”
He added: “I don’t think there’s any contradiction in the expression of joy and expression of compassion.”
Regulator Ofcom is considering launching an investigation into the show after more than 150 complaints, mostly about content.
Several moments on the show – including when Vic Reeves flashed a fake penis at Susanna Reid before the 9pm watershed and when host Russell Brand responded to a technical glitch by saying “f****** hell” live on air – sparked controversy.
The show was criticised for pre-watershed profanity and sound problems.
Asked about the Red Nose Day telethon hosted by NBC in the US, Curtis said: “They use the word shag a bit less. …We’ve had some fun stuff there. It’s a little bit stricter.”
The amount raised so far for this year’s Red Nose Day has reached more than £73 million and Curtis added: “I hope we’ll be getting close to £90 million.”