On the Ball...

Amensty benefit hailed a success

The first Secret Policeman's Ball benefit show for 17 years has been hailed a success with the likes of Eddie Izzard, Chevy Chase and Russell Brand sharing the Royal Albert Hall stage.

Five thousand people attended the show, raising money for Amnesty International and, more importantly in organisers’ eyes, its profile

The show featured sketches that highlighted the human rights group’s work. In one, two confused holiday makers find themselves in Guantanamo Bay posing for a souvenir snap on all fours, with black bags over their heads.

There was also a series of satirical animations voiced by actors including Brian Cox, Joanna Lumley and Patrick Stewart.

But many of the comedians simply performed parts of their usual sets.

Pub landlord Al Murray ranted about the threat of the euro creeping up on us, as a giant coin appeared behind him, panto-style; The Mighty Boosh fenced with words then fled, terrfied, from giant rabbits, while Brand railed against The Sun and its readers.

Bad-taste American comic Sarah Silverman, pictured, who would have been unknown to much of the audience, proved one of the hits of the night with material about rape, Aids tests and the exhumation of her dead grandmother.

Other performers included Jon Culshaw, Graham Norton, Tamsin Greig, Jo Brand, Ronni Ancona Julia Davis, Richard E Grant and Meera Syal as well as musicians The Magic Numbers, The Zutons, Gorillaz and Natalie Imbruglia,

Closing the show, actor Jeremy Irons told the audience Amnesty was a ‘movement of ordinary people – people like us from around the world who stand up for humanity and human rights wherever truth, freedom or justice are denied’

The Secret Policeman's Balls started in 1976, with comics such as Peter Cook and the Monty Python team on the bill.

They helped make the name of a new generation comics including Izzard and Rowan Atkinson and inspired a raft of celebrity fundraising events. Bob Geldof has said that without the Secret Policeman's Ball there would have been no Live Aid.

Amnesty's UK director Kate Allen said: ‘The reason we brought back The Secret Policeman's Ball is that it's never been more important to stand up for human rights. They are coming under threat in ways that we hadn't anticipated.’

Saturday's gig was shown live at 17 cinemas around the country. It will be screened on Channel 4 later.

Published: 15 Oct 2006

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