Caroline Aherne

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Caroline Aherne
Born Caroline Mary Aherne
(1963-12-24) 24 December 1963 (age 52)
Ealing, London, England
Alma mater Liverpool John Moores University
Spouse(s) Peter Hook (1994 - 1997) (divorced)

Caroline Mary Aherne (born 24 December 1963)[1] is an English comedian and BAFTA-winning writer and actress, best known for Mrs Merton, The Fast Show and The Royle Family. She is also the narrator of the Channel 4 reality series Gogglebox.


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


Early career[edit]

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.[4] 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 Coogan and John Thomson in a Granada TV pilot entitled The Dead Good Shows, then appeared in and wrote for the BBC comedy series The Fast Show between 1994 and 1997.

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.[5] 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?"[6] 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.[7]

The Royle Family[edit]

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[edit]

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 has 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 episode, entitled The Royle Family: The Queen of Sheba, was broadcast on 29 October 2006, to an audience of 7.8 million. Aherne has since 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.[8]

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.

Since 2013, Caroline has narrated the Channel 4 programme Gogglebox.[9]

In 2014, Aherne narrated the four-part series Pound Shop Wars, which aired on BBC One.

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[edit]

Aherne was married to Peter Hook of the 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.[3]


During the 1990s Aherne suffered from depression and alcoholism. In 1998 she attempted suicide and was subsequently treated at The Priory.[10] She has previously suffered from bladder cancer and from a rare cancer of the retina. In 2014 she embarked on a programme of treatment for lung cancer.[10][11]

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.[12]


  1. ^ Rinaldi, Graham. "Aherne, Caroline (1963-)". Retrieved on 25 August 2007.
  2. ^ a b "Manchester Television Broadcasters and Film Actors including Caroline Aherne...". Retrieved 2013-06-27. 
  3. ^ a b "BFI Screenonline: Aherne, Caroline (1963-) Biography". 1963-12-24. Retrieved 2013-04-22. 
  4. ^ Belcher, David (18 December 1999). "Behind the laughter lines". Herald Scotland (Herald & Times Group). Retrieved 27 January 2015. 
  5. ^ Kelner, Martin; "A warm and gentle kicking", The Independent, 8 February 1995. Retrieved 21 June 2014
  6. ^ "Entertainment | Kay dishes up best TV one-liner". BBC News. 2006-08-13. Retrieved 2013-06-27. 
  7. ^ "Foster's - The Fast Show". Archived from the original on 21 June 2012. Retrieved 2013-04-22. 
  8. ^ "BBC One - Pound Shop Wars". 2012-12-05. Retrieved 2013-06-27. 
  9. ^ "Channel 4 - Gogglebox". 2014-03-15. Retrieved 2014-03-18. 
  10. ^ a b Viner, Brian (18 December 1999). "Profile: Caroline Aherne, the queen of comedy". The Independent. Retrieved 13 May 2014. 
  11. ^ "Caroline Aherne, Royle Family star, has lung cancer". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 13 May 2014. 
  12. ^ "BBC News - Caroline Aherne: Humour helps deal with cancer". Retrieved 2014-06-26. 

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