Caroline Aherne

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Caroline Mary Aherne (24 December 1963 – 2 July 2016) was an English comedian and BAFTA-winning writer and actress, best known for Mrs MertonThe Fast Show and The Royle Family.

She was also the narrator of the Channel 4 reality series Gogglebox. On 2 July 2016 it was announced that Caroline Aherne had died.


Aherne was born in Ealing, London, into the family of an Irish railway worker, and from the age of two was raised in Wythenshawe,Manchester. Like her brother, Patrick, Aherne suffered fromretinoblastoma in childhood, which left her partially sighted in one eye. She attended the Hollies Convent Grammar School in West Didsbury and then studied drama at Liverpool Polytechnic.


Early career

Aherne began performing on the Manchester comedy circuit as characters such as Mitzi Goldberg, lead singer of the comedy country and western act The Mitzi Goldberg Experience, and Sister Mary Immaculate, an Irish nun.[5] She developed her Mrs Merton character with Frank Sidebottom for his show on Piccadilly Radio, where she worked as a receptionist. Aherne's first TV appearances were a semi-regular spot on the Granada TV discussion show "Upfront" in 1990, as Mrs Merton. She made brief appearances in The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer (1993), alongside Steve Cooganand John Thomson in a Granada TV pilot entitled The Dead Good Shows.

Between 1994 and 1997 she appeared in and wrote for the BBC comedy series The Fast Show. One of her most notable characters was the "Chanel 9 Neus" meteorologist Poula Fisch, who invariably reported a temperature for all locations of 45 °C (113 °F) while exclaiming "Scorchio!" with apparent surprise.

She rose to prominence in 1994 as her created character Mrs Merton on the mock talk show, The Mrs Merton Show under her then married name of Caroline Hook. Guests (real-life celebrities, not actors) found themselves on the receiving end of outrageous faux naïve questions. A particularly memorable example was the question addressed to the partner of magician Paul Daniels, Debbie McGee: "So, what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?"

 Another episode featured comedian Bernard Manning and actor Richard Wilson. Manning clashed with Wilson and Aherne, although he did acknowledge that One Foot in the Grave was funny. The series ran in various formats from 1994 to 1997, winning a BAFTA in 1995. The character was given a sitcom, Mrs Merton and Malcolm, which depicted her home life with her "mummy's boy" son (played by co-writer Craig Cash). However, this aspect of Malcolm's character was exaggerated to the point where many complained that the series made fun of people with learning difficulties. Mrs Merton and Malcolm lasted one series, and was only released on DVD in 2008.

In 2011 it was confirmed that Aherne along with most of the original cast (except Mark Williams) would reunite for an online series of The Fast Show sponsored by lager brand, Fosters.

The Royle Family

Her most popular creation is the situation comedy The Royle Family, which she co-created and wrote with Cash, and directed in its third season. Aherne starred alongside Ricky Tomlinson and Sue Johnston, as their daughter Denise Royle. The show was a commercial and critical success, and ran for three series of six episodes as well as three one-offs. After a 2000 spoof documentary with Cash entitled Back Passage to India, Aherne said The Royle Family would end in December 2000 after a Christmas special, and that she would not appear on television again, although she would continue to write.

Recent career

Following an argument with Craig Cash, Aherne moved to Sydney, retreating from the press. She wrote Dossa and Joe, screened on BBC 2 in 2002. Although critics applauded it, the show did not attract viewers and did not return for a second series. Returning to Britain, she began work on another sitcom with Cash but pulled out, leaving Cash to write with Phil Mealey. Early Doors was a hit in 2003. It was commissioned for a second series, screened in August 2004.

Since Dossa and Joe, Aherne avoided media attention. When The Fast Show was featured on the BBC One showComedy Connections, Aherne was the only cast member not interviewed. In April 2006, the BBC said Aherne and Cash were developing a script for a one-off special of The Royle Family; the episode, entitled The Royle Family: The Queen of Sheba, was broadcast on 29 October 2006, to an audience of 7.8 million. Aherne later made few appearances on TV. On 14 October 2008 she was in the BBC comedy drama Sunshine as a barmaid. It was written by Cash and Phil Mealey. She appeared in The Royle Family, The New Sofa on Christmas Day 2008. In 2009, she appeared in a Royle Family special for Comic Relief as well as another Christmas Day special of The Royle Family entitled The Golden Eggcup. She co-wrote the ITV comedy-drama The Fattest Man in Britain, which aired in December 2009.

In November 2010, Aherne made another appearance, in the special The Royle Family: Behind the Sofa shown on Gold, featuring clips of The Royle Family and interviews with Aherne, Cash and the cast, which was followed by another Christmas Day special, Joe's Cracker. She narrated a BBC1 documentary entitled Pound Shop Wars that was broadcast in November 2012. She also appeared in The Fast Show internet specials, which reunited all of the original principal cast except Mark Williams, who was unable to participate due to a conflicting engagement.

Aherne wrote the 2013 one-off sitcom The Security Men alongside Jeff Pope for ITV. The episode starred Paddy McGuinness, Brendan O'Carroll, Dean Andrews, Bobby Ball and Peter Wight.

From 2013 she narrated the Channel 4 programme Gogglebox. In 2014 Aherne narrated the four-part series Pound Shop Wars, which aired on BBC One and in 2015 Caroline made a brief cameo in episode three of Sky 1's After Hours, reuniting her with her old writing partner Craig Cash, who directed the series.

Personal life

Aherne was married to Peter Hook of rock band New Order from 1994 until 1997. During their marriage, he appeared in her TV series as leader of Hooky & the Boys, the house-band of The Mrs Merton Show.[4]


During the 1990s Aherne suffered from depression and alcoholism. In 1998 she attempted suicide and was subsequently treated at The Priory.

She also suffered from bladder cancer and from a rare cancer of the retina. In 2014 she embarked on a programme of treatment for lung cancer.

In June 2014 Aherne appeared in Manchester at the launch of the Macmillan Cancer Improvement Partnership (MCIP), a £3.4m scheme to co-ordinate cancer care in the city. She spoke about how a sense of humour has helped her in her battle against the disease. In 2016, Aherne became the voice behind the UK government's One You health campaign, to persuade people to cut down on cigarettes and alcohol.

In April 2016 it was reported that Aherne was battling throat cancer. On 2 July 2016 it was announced that she had died.


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