Caroline Aherne Dead: 'The Royle Family', 'Mrs Merton' Star And Comedy Pioneer Dies, Aged 52

Caroline Aherne Dies, Aged 52

Caroline Aherne has died aged 52.

Her publicist confirmed the news of her death on Saturday (2 July) afternoon, following her lengthy battle with cancer.

Caroline Aherne has died at the age of 52

Neil Reading said in a statement: "Caroline Aherne has sadly passed away, after a brave battle with cancer.

"The BAFTA award-winning writer and comedy actor died earlier today at her home in Timperley, Greater Manchester. She was 52.

"The family ask for privacy at this very sad time."

The BAFTA-winning comedian and writer had been battling cancer since 2014, and one of her rare appearances in the last months of her life was at the launch of Manchester’s Macmillan Cancer Improvement Partnership. At the time, she spoke of how her sense of humour had helped her through her illness.

Caroline Aherne was one of the country’s most popular comedians, credited with helping bring to the screen a particular form of naturalist humour, poking fun at the ordinary stuff of everyday life. From her first appearances on 'The Fast Show' in 1994, which she also helped write, it was clear that she had a singular talent, honed on the high-quality Manchester comedy circuit of the 1990s.

For three years from 1994 to 1997, she was married to New Order’s bass player Peter Hook, and appeared under her married name.

Caroline Aherne made her name as Mrs Merton, the apparently innocent celebrity chat show interviewer

The same year as her 'Fast Show' debut, she made her first real mark as faux-naive celebrity interviewer Mrs Merton, a character she had previously debuted on Granada Television’s ‘Upfront’ programme. Long before Ali G fooled his subjects with his show of innocence, interviewer Mrs Merton was setting up her targets with apparent whimsy, famously asking Debbie McGee, “So, what first attracted you to the millionaire, Paul Daniels?” The show won Caroline Ahern a BAFTA in 1995.

Her most personal work - both poignant and sidesplittingly funny - came with ‘The Royle Family’ in 1998, which she co-penned with Craig Cash, and starred in herself as Ricky Tomlinson and Sue Johnston’s self-absorbed daughter Denise.

The show ran for three series, with the scenario a deceptively simple one - a family stuck in their living room, distracted only by personal comings and goings, various romantic intrigues of the younger folk and, of course, long before 'Gogglebox', whatever happened to be on TV.

Warm and witty, 'The Royle Family' thrilled audiences across the generations

With a fond but forensic eye that the pair might have inherited from Alan Bennett or Mike Leigh, Caroline and Craig captured a sense of sentimental nostalgia for working class habits and closeness, while inviting us to titter at their faux-pas. It was a comedy tightrope boldly walked, and credited for inspiring many comedians, such as Ricky Gervais, who often said that without 'The Royle Family', there would have never been 'The Office'.

Despite her huge success, Caroline sometimes struggled away from the screen. She suffered from both depression and alcoholism in the 1990s, and sought treatment at the Priory following a suicide attempt in 1998. She referred to this herself in a speech when she accepted an award for 'The Royle Family', telling her appreciative audience Ricky Tomlinson had told her not to mention it, and earning a round of applause.

Caroline Aherne was regarded by her screen peers as a pioneering talent of naturalistic comedy

Following the huge success of ‘The Royle Family’, Caroline revealed she would be concentrating on writing, not acting, in future. Only rare appearances have followed, including a one-off role as a barmaid in the BBC comedy ‘Sunshine’, and a few ‘Royle Family’ specials. Behind the scenes, she penned ‘Dossa and Joe’ for the BBC, ‘The Fattest Man in Britain’ and one-off sitcom ‘The Security Men’. Her last on-screen appearance came in 2015’s ‘After Hours’, directed by her old writing partner Craig Cash.

More recently, Caroline Aherne gave her unique voice to the narration of ‘Gogglebox’, the BAFTA-winning series that explored the everyday joy brought to ordinary people by their engagement with the TV set and its contents.

It was a fitting final gig for a very talented woman who had long mastered the art of celebrating the ordinary, and finding lots of special things in it for the rest of us to giggle about.

Caroline Aherne with her Fast Show castmates

Caroline Aherne: A Life In Pictures


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