Caroline Aherne’s remarkable life – ‘genius’ IQ, violence and Royle Family fight

She was one of Britain’s most-loved comics, famed for asking Debbie McGee: “So what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?”

Now Caroline Aherne is being celebrated – in a new show airing on Monday March 8 on BBC One at 9pm – as part of the BBC’s Festival Of Funny.

Her Fast Show colleague John Thomson will present a series of clips from her work, including The Mrs Merton Show and The Royle Family, in the half-hour programme.

Caroline died of lung cancer at home in Timperley, Greater Manchester, aged 52, in 2016. NADINE LINGE looks at 10 facts about the talented star

1. Caroline was born on Christmas Eve in 1963 to a railway labourer and a school dinner lady in Ealing, west London. Days after her birth she was diagnosed with a rare eye cancer, also suffered by her older brother Patrick, which left her partially sighted in one eye. The family moved to Wythenshawe, Manchester, when she was two.

2. With an IQ of 176, Caroline got nine A grades at O level. She went on to study drama at Liverpool Polytechnic and her first job was as a BBC secretary for Janet Street-Porter.

3. At the same time she became a regular on the Manchester comedy circuit, trialling out her blue-rinsed pensioner Mrs Merton, and working with long-term comedy partner Craig Cash.

4. After a 1993 pilot, the Mrs Merton Show ran from 1995 to 1998 and featured celebrities including George Best and Dale Winton. She memorably asked heavy-drinking Best: “Did you ever think if you hadn’t done all that running around playing football, would you have been as thirsty?” and questioned whether Winton’s wife liked Supermarket Sweep.

5. But her most popular work was The Royle Family, which she co-created and wrote with Cash, who played her character’s dozy husband Dave, between 1998 and 2000.

6. Despite it becoming a hit, she thought the first episode was so bad, she wanted to buy the rights to it and have it binned. Luckily, the cost of almost £250,000 to do so foiled her.

7. Initially, TV executives wanted The Royle Family to have a studio audience or laughter track, and be set in different locations other than the living room. But Caroline staunchly rejected both and the suits backed down.

8. Caroline, who struggled with depression and alcoholism, was married to Peter Hook of the bands Joy Division and New Order from 1994 until 1997. After her death, Hook described the marriage as being turbulent, violent and abusive. She went on to date BBC technician Matt Bowers, who died from cancer in 1997 four months after their split, and Angel actor Alexis Denisof.

9. After The Royle Family finished in 2000, she announced she would not appear on TV again, although would continue to write. She was rarely seen afterwards and her last role was as the narrator on Gogglebox, which she continued to do until she became too ill and Craig Cash took over.

10. Caroline, who was also treated for bladder cancer, won an incredible haul of awards, including two BAFTAs and four British Comedy Awards for her work.

  • BBC
  • Gogglebox

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