Excuse me vicar, is that your husband?

Millions of us mourned the loss of one of our favourite comic creations, the Vicar Of Dibley's chocolate-loving vicar Geraldine Granger, when the last episode of the hit sitcom aired at Christmas.

Millions of us mourned the loss of one of our favourite comic creations, the Vicar Of Dibley's chocolate-loving vicar Geraldine Granger, when the last episode of the hit sitcom aired at Christmas.

But little did we know that writer Richard Curtis had another special Dibley treat up his sleeve. This week, the comedy show returns with a special one-off Comic Relief instalment, featuring Sting and his actress wife Trudie Styler.

"We made the Comic Relief show at the same time as the Christmas specials," says comedienne Dawn French, who plays Geraldine.

"The premise of it, now that Geraldine is married, is that she does a celebrity/non-entity Wife Swap.

"So Sting is the celebrity, I am the non-entity, he comes to live with me for a week and my husband goes off to live with Trudie, with hilarious consequences. It's a mini episode with a very happy ending.

"I really will miss Geraldine because I loved that show," Dawn adds.

"I loved making it and I loved the people involved in making it - we're a proper little family. But it was the right time to end it.

"I've been asking Richard Curtis to write the last episode for the last four years, and he finally agreed. Big thanks to Sting and Trudie for being so game. When you see what we do to them in the show, you'll see what I mean."

The special episode will be shown on Comic Relief night this Friday, along with other comic treats including a brand new Mr Bean sketch starring Rowan Atkinson and Michelle Ryan, the conclusion of Comic Relief Does The Apprentice, the final of Comic Relief Does Fame Academy and contributions from Catherine Tate, Billy Connolly and Ant and Dec.

"It's going to be fantastic this year," Dawn says.

"I'm flying back specially from America the day before so I can be at the studios on the night itself."

As usual, Dawn's husband Lenny Henry will be joining the night's presenters who include Jonathan Ross, Russell Brand, Graham Norton and Chris Evans.

"Lenny will be there and I think my kid Billie is coming along as well," says Dawn, who's especially pleased that many younger comedians are contributing to this time round.

"A few years back, Lenny and I did a sort of recruitment drive to try to get the younger comedians on board," she said. "They've taken the baton so willingly. Russell Brand, Ricky Gervais and Ali G have all done a bit for the show."

Clearly, Dawn is looking forward to an event that has given her some very happy memories over the years.

"Jennifer Saunders and I did the single Who Do You Think You Are? with the Spice Girls, which was great," she recalls. "And kissing Hugh Grant was obviously very nice. We made a million quid for that kiss!"

Dawn also made her own contribution to this year's Red Nose Day when she and Jennifer, plus a whole host of celebrity duos, recently held a massive car boot sale in south London.

"We had a great time, with people like Kim and Aggie and Dick and Dom all having stalls," Dawn says.

"Kirstie Allsopp - I tell you - she was prepared to go to any lengths to try to raise the most money. I've never seen a woman so driven. We made packets of money for Comic Relief."

But Dawn confesses she got a bit carried away.

"We went through everything in our household and I got in quite a lather," she said. "Once I started loading up the lorry with our stuff, I couldn't stop. I saw it as a chance to de-clutter my house. I was putting in quite valuable items which I might regret.

"I was selling old signed pictures of Jennifer and I, and she didn't really want me to sell them because they were completely unique, but hey. I was completely in the mood.

"I sold my cross from The Vicar Of Dibley too.

"It was hard to part with it but I won't be using it again and we raised a lot of money with it."

Buoyed by the success of her own sale, Dawn is now encouraging people to carry out their own in aid of Comic Relief.

"It's a very friendly and easy way to make money," she says. "The British love car boot sales, and that's why we're trying to encourage people to sell their stuff on behalf of Comic Relief.

"You make a bit of dosh, you de-clutter your house, and you're really doing something valuable. For Comic Relief, a couple of quid makes an enormous difference. People can hold car boot sales on their front lawns if they want."

And, of course, the cash goes to a good cause, with 60% of money donated to Comic Relief going to Africa, and 40% used to fund projects in the UK.

"We have so much and they have so little," Dawn says. "I don't understand people who go on about compassion fatigue, because that's like saying you've run out of love or something."

While Lenny often jets off to Africa to check on the progress of the charity's projects, Dawn elects to remain at home to look after their 15-year-old daughter Billie.

"We've got a kid, so I slightly feel that if one member of the family is going off to Africa and doing that, the other one should be tending the hearth at home.

"Not that I've got a hearth to tend! It's just better for me to stay at home and look after our kid while he's away."

With all her work commitments and busy life, does Dawn find it difficult to juggle being a mum with work?

"Not with the right kind of support, and good timetabling," she says. "I've always been a working mum and I'm very proud to be.

"Billie is absolutely used to that, and wants to do that herself when she's a mum.

"I have plenty of time with her, and unlike a lot of working mums or dads, Lenny and I decide how our year goes. We can take three months off to just be with Billie during the summer holidays, for example. We can do that and a lot of working people can't. There's always one of us at home."

This year will see Dawn busier than ever. She and Jennifer Saunders will be filming some new instalments of their sketch show to celebrate their 20th year at the BBC, and she'll star in a second series of Jam And Jerusalem.

But first she's travelling up and down the country to interview male comedians in the follow-up to her documentary Girls Who Do Comedy.

"It's so interesting," Dawn says. "I'm intending to make a programme that explores how guys who do comedy tick.

"I live with one and I know them, so I'm very glad to have this chance to ask them all these questions. It's really fascinating."

* Dawn French appears in a special Vicar of Dibley sketch during Comic Relief on BBC One on Friday, March 16.

Log on to www.rednoseday.com for more information on how to get involved in Comic Relief.

RND noses, Big Smelly Nose Balls and badges are available from Sainsbury's, Oxfam and BBC shops nationwide with RND T-shirts available from TK Maxx stores nationwide and www.rednoseday.com

To make a donation to Comic Relief, call 08457 910 910, calls cost no more than 4p per min from BT landlines.

Other operator and mobile rates may vary.


Name: Dawn French.

Birthdate: October 11, 1957.

Significant other: Married comedian Lenny Henry in 1984. They have an adopted daughter, Billie.

Career high: Playing Geraldine Granger in The Vicar Of Dibley - a huge hit with TV audiences.

Famous for: Being one half of Britain's most popular female double act, French and Saunders.

Words of wisdom: "Any people whose lives are about the way they look, whether it's fat or thin, are in a dangerous area."


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