NBC’s ‘Red Nose Day Special’ raises $30M for kids’ charities

Jane Lynch arrives at Red Nose Day at Universal Studios on Thursday, May 26, 2016, in Universal City, Calif. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. (AP) — NBC’s “Red Nose Day Special” mixed comedy and musical performances with heartfelt pleas for children in need, raising more than $30 million.

Funds raised during the live variety show Thursday night will benefit children’s charities around the world.

The second annual charity telecast — already a 25-year institution in the U.K. — featured more than 60 celebrities. Most appeared on pre-produced video pieces, but Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher, Minnie Driver, Scott Foley, Mayim Bialik, Malin Akerman, Jane Lynch and Jay Pharaoh were among the stars manning the phones and appearing live on the air.

“New Girl” star Lamorne Morris took several donor calls during the telecast, but acknowledged afterward that he could hardly hear what callers were saying. One pitched him a movie script, he said.

Craig Ferguson hosted the live show on a soundstage at Universal Studios near Los Angeles. During commercial breaks, he implored the audience to laugh.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s not funny,” he said off-camera. “You’re laughing to save lives.”

The two-hour telecast included pre-taped performances by Elton John and Blake Shelton and videos of experiences Jack Black and Julia Roberts had with homeless and sick children.

Ferguson joked off-camera that the celebrity phone banks looked “like the Scientology center.” Kunis, Kutcher and “The Big Bang Theory” star Johnny Galecki were animated as they answered calls and passed the phone handsets to each other.

“I got my first call!” declared a clearly pleased Kunis moments after the program started.

Driver said she spoke with “a lovely drunk person.”

“I think they donated more than they intended,” she said.

Stars appearing by video on the live special included Anna Kendrick, Margot Robbie, Sarah Silverman, Paul Rudd, Blake Griffin, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and Tracy Morgan, who offered an updated retelling of “Snow White.”

Donations collected for Red Nose Day support domestic and international children’s charities such as Save the Children and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Viewers were encouraged to participate by buying red clown noses at Walgreens and hosting their own “fun-raisers.