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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 performing as the acerbic chat show host Mrs Merton, various roles in The Fast Show, and as the lead role in The Royle Family, which she co-wrote. She narrated the Channel 4 reality television series Gogglebox from its inception in 2013 until April 2016.

Caroline Aherne
Born Caroline Mary Aherne[1]
(1963-12-24)24 December 1963
Ealing, London, England
Died 2 July 2016(2016-07-02) (aged 52)
Timperley, Greater Manchester, England
Cause of death Lung cancer
Alma mater Liverpool Polytechnic
Occupation Comedian, writer, actress
Years active 1990–2016
Notable work The Fast Show (1994–2014)
The Mrs Merton Show (1995–98)
The Royle Family (1998–2012)
Gogglebox (2013–2016)
Home town Wythenshawe, Manchester, England
Spouse(s) Peter Hook (m. 1994; div. 1997)

Contents

Early lifeEdit

Aherne was born in Ealing, London, to the family of an Irish railway worker,[2] and from the age of two was brought up in Wythenshawe, Manchester.[3] Like her brother, Patrick, Aherne suffered from retinoblastoma in childhood, which left her partially sighted in one eye.[4] She attended the Hollies Convent Grammar School in West Didsbury and then studied drama at Liverpool Polytechnic.[2]

CareerEdit

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.[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 as Mrs Merton in a semi-regular spot on the Granada TV discussion show "Upfront" in 1990. 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.[6] The guests were real-life celebrities, not actors, who found themselves the subject of outrageous faux naïve 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?"[7]

Another episode featured comedian Bernard Manning and actor Richard Wilson. Manning clashed with Wilson and Aherne, 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.[8] 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".[9]

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

The Royle FamilyEdit

Her 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 twenty 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,[8] and she won the BAFTA for Best Comedy Performance in 2000. She was nominated for directing in 2001.[8]

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 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, after which Cash wrote Early Doors with Phil Mealey.

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 was in the BBC comedy drama written by Cash and Phil Mealey, Sunshine 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.[11] 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.[12]

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 her old writing partner Craig 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.[4]

HealthEdit

Her private life was well publicised, especially her depressions and struggles with both alcohol and drugs during the 1990s. Before The Royle Family began, she suffered from depression and, when her former boyfriend, BBC technician Matt Bowers, succumbed to stomach cancer, it was the catalyst for her problems to manifest in a failed suicide attempt. The day after she checked into the Priory Hospital and was diagnosed as a binge alcoholic. It was after these events that she began The Royle Family. She suffered from bladder cancer and from a rare cancer of the retina.[13] In 2014 she embarked on a programme of treatment for lung cancer.[14]

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.[15] 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.[16]

DeathEdit

On 2 July 2016, Aherne died of cancer at her home in Timperley at the age of 52.[17][18] Aherne had told family and close friends in May that she was terminally ill.[19] Her private funeral took place on 14 July 2016.[20]

In October 2016, she was paid tribute to by Steve Coogan at the Stand Up to Cancer 2016 event, who spoke 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".

FilmographyEdit

Year Title Actor Writer Acting role Additional information
1992
Frank Sidebottom's Fantastic Shed Show
Yes No
Mrs. Merton
3 episodes
1992
The Dead Good Show
Yes Yes
Various characters
Unknown episode(s)
1993
It's a Mad World, World, World, World
Yes No
Various characters
TV Special
1993
Comic Timing
Yes Yes
Mrs. Merton
1 episode
1994–2014
The Fast Show
Yes Yes
Various characters
25 episodes (acting)
10 episodes (writing)
1995
The World of Lee Evans
Yes No
Daughter
1 episode
1995
The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer
Yes No
Woman with Dog / Flatulent Mother
2 episodes
1995–98
The Mrs Merton Show
Yes Yes
Mrs. Merton
Leading role – 4 series (29 episodes)
1996
Auntie's All-Time Greats
Yes No
Mrs. Merton
TV special
1998–2012
The Royle Family
Yes Yes
Denise Royle
Leading role – 3 series & 7 specials (25 episodes)
11 episodes (director)
8 episodes (associate producer)
1999
Mrs Merton and Malcolm
Yes Yes
Mrs. Merton
1 series (6 episodes)
Additional served as associate producer
2002
Dossa and Joe
No No N/A Director & executive producer (6 episodes)
2008
Sunshine
Yes No
Donna
Miniseries (episode 2)
2009
The Fattest Man in Britain
No Yes N/A Television film
2013
The Security Men
No No N/A Television drama – executive producer
2013–14
Strange Hill High
Yes No
Stephanie
2 series (26 episodes)
Additional voice roles
2015
After Hours
Yes No
Sheila
2 episodes

AwardsEdit

Year Award Category Work Result Ref.
1997 BAFTA Awards Best Chat Show The Mrs Merton Show Won [8]
British Comedy Awards Best BBC1 Personality Won [21]
Best Female Comedy Performer Won [22]
TRIC Awards New TV Talent of the Year Won [23]
1999 BAFTA Awards Best Comedy Series The Royle Family Nominated [24]
Best Comedy Performance Nominated [25]
British Comedy Awards Best TV Comedy Actress The Royle Family and Mrs Merton and Malcolm Won [26]
Broadcasting Press Guild Awards Writer's Award The Royle Family Won [27]
2000 BAFTA Awards Best Comedy Performance Won [8]
Best Situation Comedy Won [8]
Royal Television Society Awards Best Sitcom Nominated [28]
Best Writer Won
2001 BAFTA Awards Best Comedy Performance Nominated [29]
Best Situation Comedy Nominated
2007 Best Situation Comedy The Royle Family: "Queen of Sheba" Won [8]
Royal Television Society Awards Best Comedy Writer Won [30]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "findmypast.co.uk". 
  2. ^ a b "Manchester Television Broadcasters and Film Actors including Caroline Aherne...". Manchester2002-uk.com. Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  3. ^ Rinaldi, Graham. "Aherne, Caroline (1963–)". screenonline.org.uk. Retrieved on 25 August 2007.
  4. ^ a b "BFI Screenonline: Aherne, Caroline (1963–) Biography". Screenonline.org.uk. 24 December 1963. Retrieved 22 April 2013. 
  5. ^ Belcher, David (18 December 1999). "Behind the laughter lines". Herald Scotland. Herald & Times Group. Retrieved 27 January 2015. 
  6. ^ Kelner, Martin; "A warm and gentle kicking", The Independent, 8 February 1995. Retrieved 21 June 2014
  7. ^ "Entertainment | Kay dishes up best TV one-liner". BBC News. 13 August 2006. Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Batty, David; Johnston, Chris (2 July 2016). "Caroline Aherne, actor and comedian, dies aged 52". Retrieved 2 July 2016. 
  9. ^ "BBC Inside Out – North West comedy". bbc.co.uk. 17 January 2005. Retrieved 2 July 2016. 
  10. ^ "Obituary: Caroline Aherne". BBC. 2 July 2016. Retrieved 2 July 2016. 
  11. ^ "BBC One – Pound Shop Wars". BBC.co.uk. 5 December 2012. Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  12. ^ "Foster's – The Fast Show". Fosters.co.uk. Archived from the original on 5 November 2011. Retrieved 22 April 2013. 
  13. ^ Viner, Brian (18 December 1999). "Profile: Caroline Aherne, the queen of comedy". The Independent. Retrieved 13 May 2014. 
  14. ^ "Caroline Aherne, Royle Family star, has lung cancer". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 13 May 2014. 
  15. ^ "BBC News – Caroline Aherne: Humour helps deal with cancer". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 26 June 2014. 
  16. ^ Qureshi, Yakub (21 April 2016). "Caroline Aherne to voice new health campaign urging people to cut down on smoking and booze". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 22 April 2016. 
  17. ^ "Comedian Caroline Aherne dies at 52". BBC News. Retrieved 2 July 2016. 
  18. ^ "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. 
  19. ^ Lee, Ann (4 July 2016). "Caroline Aherne was alone when she died at home". Metro. DMG Media. 
  20. ^ Percival, Ash (15 July 2016). "Caroline Aherne Funeral: 'Royle Family' Actress Laid To Rest After Private Ceremony". Huffpost UK. Oath Inc. Retrieved 16 August 2017. 
  21. ^ "Past winners 1996". British Comedy Awards. Retrieved 2 July 2016. 
  22. ^ "Past Winners 1997". british Comedy Awards. Retrieved 2 July 2016. 
  23. ^ 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. 
  24. ^ "Television Comedy – Programme or Series in 1999". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved 2 July 2016. 
  25. ^ "Television Comedy Performance in 1999". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved 2 July 2016. 
  26. ^ "Past Winners 1999". British Comedy Awards. Retrieved 2 July 2016. 
  27. ^ "1999 Presented at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane". Broadcasting Press Guild. Retrieved 2 July 2016. 
  28. ^ "Dame Thora's awards double". BBC News. 22 March 2000. Retrieved 2 July 2016. 
  29. ^ "The Bafta TV nominations". BBC News. 16 April 2001. Retrieved 2 July 2016. 
  30. ^ "Royal Television Society Programme Award winners". Metro. 14 March 2007. Retrieved 2 July 2016. 

External linksEdit