Who was Caroline Aherne?
Caroline Aherne was an English comedian, writer and actress best known for writing and acting in series’ such as The Royle Family and The Mrs Merton Show. Caroline was born to Irish immigrant parents into a lower-middle-class family in London. She suffered from retinal cancer as a kid and dealt with partial eyesight in one eye all her life. In her teen years, she became fascinated with performing arts and decided to become a writer. Following her high school graduation, she enrolled in Manchester Polytechnic and studied drama. After working in the Manchester Comedy Circuit initially, she became popular owing to her sketch comedy character named Mrs Merton, which was later on turned into a talk show titled The Mrs Merton Show. The character was later featured in an unsuccessful sitcom in the late 1990s. Caroline also wrote and starred in the sitcom titled The Royle Family, which catapulted her into nationwide fame. She also featured in several specials and spin-offs of the show. She has won many BAFTA Awards and British Comedy Awards for her performances as an actress as well as her writing in the comedy shows.
Childhood & Early Life
Caroline Aherne was born Caroline Mary Aherne, on December 24, 1963, in Ealing, London, England, to Bartholomew and Mary Aherne, into a lower-middle-class family of Irish immigrants. She grew up with an older brother named Patrick. Her father worked in London Transport as a labourer, while her mother worked as a dinner lady at a local school.
The family struggled financially and on the top of that, her father was an alcoholic. At the age of two, she moved to Wythenshawe, where she spent most of her growing up years. She suffered from the cancer of the retina, so did her brother. The cancer was cured but she was left with partial sight in one eye. The family did not have the money to pay for the children’s cancer treatments and the funds were arranged by a local catholic church.
What she lacked in vision, she gained in the talent for mimicry. As a child, she entertained her family mimicking television personalities such as Cilla Black and Marti Caine. She was the family joker, who exhibited great talent in acting. In addition, she was also a gifted student academically. She had scored 177 in an IQ test and received great grades while she attended the Hollies Convent Grammar School.
By the time she was 15 years old, she had decided to make a career in writing. Following her high school graduation, she enrolled in the Liverpool Polytechnic, from where she took drama classes.
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Following her education, Caroline Aherne landed her first job as the secretary to Janet Street Porter, who was working with BBC Manchester. Her love for performing on-stage had her becoming an integral part of the Manchester Comedy circuit. One of her earlier popular characters was named Mitzi Goldberg, a singer. She also played a nun named Sister Mary Immaculate.
In the late 1980s, she also worked as a receptionist at the Piccadilly Radio, where she met comedian Frank Sidebottom. Both of them collaborated on a radio show, where Caroline played a character named Mrs Merton. The character became popular with the listeners and she later reprised the character in a TV show titled Upfront.
Additionally, she also reprised the character in the pilot for the show titled Mrs Murton’s Nightcap. However, the show did not take off. In 1994, she appeared playing several characters in the comedy sketch show titled The Fast Show and also worked as a writer for much of the show.
By the early 1990s, Caroline Aherne had made some noticeable appearances in some local television shows. Her big breakthrough happened in 1994 when she starred as Mrs Merton on the mock talk show titled The Mrs Merton Show. Caroline turned Mrs Merton into an elderly lady, a decision she made when the show was previously rejected in its pilot stage. The trick worked and Caroline appeared playing the titular character on the show for four successful seasons and 29 episodes.
The show became huge success mostly owing to Caroline’s quirky questions asked to the real-life celebrities, such as actor Richard Wilson and comedian Bernard Manning. The show ended up winning a BAFTA Award in 1997 and was a huge international success.
The success of the talk show further paved way for a sitcom, titled Mrs Merton and Malcolm. The sitcom was aired in 1999 on BBC One and ran for six episodes. Despite the fact that the show earned huge audience ratings, it was critically thrashed, mostly owing to the character of Malcolm, a man-child. The bad critical reception had the writers stop writing further episodes and instead work on a fresh concept.
The show thus resulted was titled The Royle Family, in which Caroline starred as Denise. The show began airing in 1998 and ran for three seasons and was known for its simplistic portrayal of a middle-class family. Many special episodes of the show were further aired between 2006 and 2012.
Caroline Aherne was also associated with the show as a writer and took inspirations from her own real-life family to write many situations on the show. The show won many BAFTA Awards along with a place in British Film Institute’s list of 100 greatest British television programmes.
In 2002, she served as a writer on the comedy show titled Dossa and Joe. The series was aired on BBC Two and despite earning some good reviews initially, the show faced dipping ratings and was eventually cancelled. She further served as one of the writers on the sitcom titled Early Doors.
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It was announced in 2006 that Caroline Aherne was co-writing a special for The Royle Family, which was titled The Royle Family: The Queen of Sheba. The special episode was released in October 2006 with a viewership of 7.8 million, which indicated the show’s enormous success. The show also ended up winning a BAFTA Award for the Best Situation Comedy and a Royal Television Society Award for Best Comedy Writer for Caroline.
She further made appearances in many spin-offs of The Royle Family, such as The Royle Family, the New Sofa, which was released on Christmas 2008.
She was hired to write the comedy-drama series titled The Fattest Man In Britain, which was aired in 2009 to a moderate critical and commercial success.
Caroline Aherne also served as the main writer on the comedy show titled The Security Men, which was aired in April 2013. Only the pilot was aired and while the pilot episode received some encouraging reviews, the show did not materialize into more episodes, due to undisclosed reasons.
In 2013, she appeared playing several voice roles in the children’s puppet animated series titled Strange Hill High. In 2015, she appeared playing the character named Sheila in two episodes of the series titled After Hours.
Personal Life & Death
Caroline Aherne met English singer Peter Hook in the early 1990s and the couple got married in 1994. The couple remained married until 1997. Peter later described the marriage as abusive and violent. Caroline never remarried after her divorce.
During the 1990s, her personal life and her constant battle with depression and alcoholism found its way into the mainstream media many times. She famously attempted suicide when her former boyfriend Matt Bowers died from stomach cancer.
She was then admitted to a hospital, where she was diagnosed as an alcoholic. In 2014, she further took treatment for lung cancer.
In the mid-2010s, during her battle with cancer, she also began the “ One You” campaign that urged people to quit drinking and smoking.
On July 2, 2016, Caroline passed away from lung cancer. She was 52 years old at the time of her demise.