Caroline Aherne

Caroline Mary Aherne[1] (24 December 1963 – 2 July 2016) was an English actress, comedian and writer. She was best known for performing as the acerbic chat show host Mrs Merton, in various roles in The Fast Show, and as Denise in The Royle Family, a series which she co-wrote. She won BAFTA awards for her work on The Mrs Merton Show and The Royle Family.

Caroline Aherne
Caroline Aherne 2001.jpg
Aherne in 2001
Born(1963-12-24)24 December 1963
Ealing, London, England
Died2 July 2016(2016-07-02) (aged 52)
Alma materLiverpool Polytechnic
OccupationActress, comedian, writer
Years active1990–2016
Notable work
The Fast Show (1994–2014)
The Mrs Merton Show (1995–1998)
The Royle Family (1998–2000, 2006–2012)
Gogglebox (2013–2016)
(m. 1994; div. 1997)

Aherne narrated the Channel 4 reality television series Gogglebox from its inception in 2013 until 8 April 2016. She died of cancer at age 52.

Early lifeEdit

Aherne was born in Ealing, London, on 24 December 1963, the second child of Irish parents Bartholomew Edmond "Bert" Aherne, a railwayman with London Transport, and Mary Frances "Maureen" Aherne (née Regan).[2][3][4] From the age of two, Aherne was brought up in Wythenshawe, Manchester.[5] Like her brother, Patrick, Aherne had retinoblastoma in childhood, which left her partially sighted in one eye.[6]

She attended the Hollies Convent FCJ School in West Didsbury and then studied drama at Liverpool Polytechnic.[4]


Early careerEdit

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.[7] 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 as Mrs Merton in a semi-regular spot on the Granada TV discussion show Upfront in 1990. She had already recorded a pilot for Leeds-based Yorkshire TV of Mrs Murton's Nightcap,[8] but they had not pursued the concept. She made brief appearances in The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer in 1993 and alongside Steve Coogan and John Thomson in a Granada TV pilot entitled The Dead Good Shows.

She rose to prominence in 1994 as her created character Mrs Merton on the mock chat show The Mrs Merton Show under her married name of Caroline Hook.[9] The guests were real-life celebrities, not actors, who found themselves the subject of outrageous faux-naïf questions – in one memorable example the wife of magician Paul Daniels, Debbie McGee, was asked "So, what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?"[10]

Another episode featured comedian Bernard Manning and actor Richard Wilson. Manning clashed with Wilson and Aherne as she asked him about his racist attitudes at one point saying, “Who do you vote for now Hitler's dead?”, although he acknowledged that One Foot in the Grave was funny. The series ran in various formats from 1994 to 1997, winning a BAFTA for Best Chat Show in 1997.[11] The success of the show was partly attributed to the "round vowel sounds of the North West accent" which "naturally sound safe and unthreatening" and which allowed the character "to ask the most outrageous, below-the-belt questions of her guest stars".[12]

The Mrs Merton 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). This aspect of Malcolm's character was exaggerated to the point that many complained the series ridiculed those with learning difficulties.[13] Mrs Merton and Malcolm lasted one series, and was released on DVD in 2008.

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. Other characters included the endlessly chattering northern Renée, wife of submissive husband Roy and supermarket Checkout Girl who, by way of conversation, would comment nosily and judgementally on each item a customer had bought.

The Royle FamilyEdit

Aherne's most popular creation is the situation comedy The Royle Family, which she co-created and wrote with Cash, and directed in its third series. The programme ran for three series from 1998 to 2000. 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 with a total of 20 episodes as well as five one-offs made for showing at Christmas. 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. Aherne received BAFTAs for Best Sitcom in 2000 and 2007,[11] and she won the BAFTA for Best Comedy Performance in 2000. She was nominated for directing in 2001.[11]

Later careerEdit

Following a disagreement with Cash, Aherne moved to Australia, retreating from the press. She wrote Dossa and Joe which was screened on BBC Two 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, after which Cash wrote Early Doors with Phil Mealey – Aherne was listed in the credits in the "Thanks To" section.

After Dossa and Joe, Aherne avoided media attention. When The Fast Show was featured on the BBC One show Comedy 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 Royle Family: The Queen of Sheba was broadcast on 29 October 2006, to an audience of 7.8 million. Aherne subsequently made few TV appearances. On 14 October 2008 she appeared in the BBC comedy drama Sunshine, written by Cash and Phil Mealey, as a barmaid. 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 was broadcast in December 2009.

In November 2010, Aherne appeared 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 series Pound Shop Wars broadcast in November 2012.[14] She also appeared in The Fast Show internet specials, sponsored by the lager brand Fosters, which reunited most of the original principal cast; only Mark Williams was unable to participate.[15]

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

Aherne's final role was as narrator of the Channel 4 comedy reality series Gogglebox, reflecting her character in The Royle Family, who would frequently be watching TV and commenting on it. Cash filled in when she was unavailable and took over the role permanently in April 2016.

Aherne's final on screen appearance came in the Sky 1 show After Hours, where she was reunited with Cash who produced and directed the show. She played the role of Sheila.

Personal lifeEdit

Aherne was married to Peter Hook of the bands Joy Division and New Order from 1994 until 1997. During their marriage, he appeared in her TV series The Mrs Merton Show as leader of Hooky & the Boys, the show's house band.[6] After her death, Hook said that he was repeatedly physically abused by Aherne during their marriage.[16][17]


Aherne struggled with depression and alcoholism.[18] Before The Royle Family began, she suffered from depression and attempted suicide in July 1998 after the death of her former boyfriend, BBC technician Matt Bowers, from stomach cancer in 1997 and the end of a relationship with American actor, Alexis Denisof.[2][19] She checked in to the Priory, where she was diagnosed as a binge alcoholic.[20]

She suffered from bladder cancer and from a rare cancer of the retina.[21] In 2014, she embarked on a programme of treatment for lung cancer.[22] 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 had helped her cope with the disease.[23] 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.[24]


On the morning of 2 July 2016, Aherne died of lung cancer at her home in Timperley at the age of 52.[25][26] Aherne had told family and close friends in May that she was terminally ill.[27] Her private funeral took place on 14 July 2016.[28] Many friends and co-stars were also in attendance.[29]

In October 2016, Steve Coogan paid tribute to Aherne at the Stand Up to Cancer 2016 event, speaking about her before a video was played of her TV moments and then Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds performed The Royle Family theme tune "Half the World Away".


Year Title Actor Writer Acting role Additional information
Frank Sidebottom's Fantastic Shed Show
Yes No
Mrs Merton
3 episodes
The Dead Good Show
Yes Yes
Various characters
Unknown episode(s)
It's a Mad World, World, World, World
Yes No
Various characters
TV Special
Comic Timing
Yes Yes
Mrs Merton
1 episode
The Fast Show
Yes Yes
Various characters
25 episodes (acting)
10 episodes (writing)
The World of Lee Evans
Yes No
1 episode
The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer
Yes No
Woman with Dog / Flatulent Mother
2 episodes
The Mrs Merton Show
Yes Yes
Mrs Merton
Leading role – 4 series (29 episodes)
Auntie's All-Time Greats
Yes No
Mrs Merton
TV special
1998–2000, 2006–2012
The Royle Family
Yes Yes
Denise Royle
Leading role – 3 series & 7 specials (25 episodes)
11 episodes (director)
8 episodes (associate producer)
Mrs Merton and Malcolm
Yes Yes
Mrs Merton
1 series (6 episodes)
Additional served as associate producer
Dossa and Joe
No No N/A Director & executive producer (6 episodes)
Yes No
Miniseries (episode 2)
The Fattest Man in Britain
No Yes N/A Television film
The Security Men
No No N/A Television drama – executive producer
Strange Hill High
Yes No
2 series (26 episodes)
Additional voice roles
After Hours
Yes No
2 episodes


Year Award Category Work Result Ref.
1997 BAFTA Awards Best Chat Show The Mrs Merton Show Won [11]
British Comedy Awards Best BBC1 Personality Won [30]
Best Female Comedy Performer Won [31]
TRIC Awards New TV Talent of the Year Won [32]
1999 BAFTA Awards Best Comedy Series The Royle Family Nominated [33]
Best Comedy Performance Nominated [34]
British Comedy Awards Best TV Comedy Actress The Royle Family and Mrs Merton and Malcolm Won [35]
Broadcasting Press Guild Awards Writer's Award The Royle Family Won [36]
2000 BAFTA Awards Best Comedy Performance Won [11]
Best Situation Comedy Won [11]
Royal Television Society Awards Best Sitcom Nominated [37]
Best Writer Won
2001 BAFTA Awards Best Comedy Performance Nominated [38]
Best Situation Comedy Nominated
2007 Best Situation Comedy The Royle Family: "Queen of Sheba" Won [11]
Royal Television Society Awards Best Comedy Writer Won [39]


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  2. ^ a b Evans, Jeff (2020). "Aherne, Caroline Mary (1963–2016), comedian, actress, and writer". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/odnb/9780198614128.013.111392. ISBN 978-0-19-861412-8. Retrieved 2 August 2021.
  3. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 19 July 2020.
  4. ^ a b "Manchester Television Broadcasters and Film Actors including Caroline Aherne..." Archived from the original on 19 July 2013. Retrieved 27 June 2013.
  5. ^ Rinaldi, Graham. "Aherne, Caroline (1963–)". Retrieved on 25 August 2007.
  6. ^ a b "BFI Screenonline: Aherne, Caroline (1963–) Biography". 24 December 1963. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
  7. ^ Belcher, David (18 December 1999). "Behind the laughter lines". Herald Scotland. Herald & Times Group. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  8. ^ "Mrs Murton's Nightcap". 17 September 2016. Retrieved 26 February 2017
  9. ^ Kelner, Martin (8 February 1995). "A warm and gentle kicking". The Independent. Retrieved 27 September 2021.
  10. ^ "Entertainment | Kay dishes up best TV one-liner". BBC News. 13 August 2006. Retrieved 27 June 2013.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Batty, David; Johnston, Chris (2 July 2016). "Caroline Aherne, actor and comedian, dies aged 52". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
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  13. ^ "Obituary: Caroline Aherne". BBC. 2 July 2016. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  14. ^ "BBC One – Pound Shop Wars". 5 December 2012. Retrieved 27 June 2013.
  15. ^ "Foster's – The Fast Show". Archived from the original on 5 November 2011. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
  16. ^ "'She's Going to Stab Me': Peter Hook Reveals Details of Turbulent Marriage to Caroline Aherne". The Telegraph. 2 October 2016. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  17. ^ Halliday, Josh (3 October 2016). "Peter Hook says Caroline Aherne was physically abusive during marriage". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  18. ^ "Obituary: Caroline Aherne". BBC News. 2 July 2016. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  19. ^ MRS MERTON SUICIDE ATTEMPT; Caroline takes pills overdose, Daily Mirror, 7 July 1998
  20. ^ "Caroline Aherne, comedian – obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 2 July 2016. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  21. ^ Viner, Brian (18 December 1999). "Profile: Caroline Aherne, the queen of comedy". The Independent. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  22. ^ "Caroline Aherne, Royle Family star, has lung cancer". BBC News. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  23. ^ "Caroline Aherne: Humour helps deal with cancer". BBC News. 26 June 2014. Retrieved 27 September 2021.
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  25. ^ "Comedian Caroline Aherne dies at 52". BBC News. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  26. ^ "Caroline Aherne, comedian, actress and creator of The Royle Family, dies after 'brave' battle with cancer". The Daily Telegraph. 2 July 2016. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  27. ^ Lee, Ann (4 July 2016). Caroline Aherne was alone when she died at home. Metro.
  28. ^ Percival, Ash (15 July 2016). "Caroline Aherne Funeral: 'Royle Family' Actress Laid To Rest After Private Ceremony". Huffpost UK. Retrieved 16 August 2017.
  29. ^ "Friends and family gather for Caroline Aherne's funeral". 15 July 2016.
  30. ^ "Past winners 1996". British Comedy Awards. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  31. ^ "Past Winners 1997". British Comedy Awards. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  32. ^ Hughes, Chris (13 March 1997). "I'll never marry again but I hope Hooky and I can be friends one day; Mrs Merton exclusive". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  33. ^ "Television Comedy – Programme or Series in 1999". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  34. ^ "Television Comedy Performance in 1999". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  35. ^ "Past Winners 1999". British Comedy Awards. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  36. ^ "1999 Presented at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane". Broadcasting Press Guild. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  37. ^ "Dame Thora's awards double". BBC News. 22 March 2000. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  38. ^ "The Bafta TV nominations". BBC News. 16 April 2001. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  39. ^ "Royal Television Society Programme Award winners". Metro. 14 March 2007. Retrieved 2 July 2016.

External linksEdit