It was announced yesterday that Caroline Aherne has passed away at the age of 52 after battling lung and throat cancer. Caroline was well known for her role as cheeky interviewer Mrs Merton, and for creating and starring in the well-loved 90s sitcom, The Royle Family.
You may recall her hilarious interview questions (“Were you breast-fed, Carol Thatcher?”) and her endless smoking as Denise Royle, but there are some things you may not know about this TV talent, who will be sorely missed.
1. Caroline thought the first episode of the first series of The Royle Family was so bad, she wanted to buy the rights to it and have it binned. Luckily, the large price-tag – almost a quarter of a million – made her realise she could live with it, although she said she’d have bought it if it had been any less.
2. She was born on Christmas Eve in 1963 to a railway labourer and a school dinner lady in Ealing, West London. When she was two years old, she moved to Wythenstawe, Manchester.
3. We all know Caroline was a TV genius, but she was also incredibly booksmart, achieving nine A-grades in her O-Levels. Her IQ was also a whopping 176, which is higher than famous scientist Stephen Hawking.
4. Initially, the TV executives wanted The Royle Family to have a studio audience or a laughter track, which was common for most sit-coms at this time. However, Caroline staunchly rejected it, setting the tone for many sit-coms in years to come.
5. Alongside her brother Patrick, Caroline was born with retinoblastoma, a rare cancer of the retina. As a result, she was partially sighted in one eye.
6. Caroline continued to narrate the hugely popular Channel 4 series, Gogglebox, up until very recently, despite suffering from lung cancer. However, she became too ill 2 months ago, so her closest friend and comedy writing partner Craig Cash took over.
7. Her gift for mimicry was discovered at a young age – she won a prize at Butlins for impersonating Cilla Black and Marti Caine.
8. Although her dream was never realised, Caroline had always wanted a family. Recently, her friend and Royle Family co-star Ricky Tomlinson recalled her crying real tears when they filmed the scenes in which Denise Royle went into labour in 1999. “I think it was so special to her because she didn’t have children”, Tomlinson reflected.