Entertainment & Arts

Caroline Aherne: Her best-loved characters

Caroline Aherne in The Royle Family

Caroline Aherne, who has died at the age of 52, created some of the best-loved comedy characters in recent years. We take a look back at some of her memorable moments.

Among Aherne's first characters on the Manchester stand-up comedy circuit were country singer Mitzi Goldberg and a nun called Sister Mary Immaculate, whose ambition was to kiss the Pope's ring.

"If on earth you're ugly, in heaven you'll be beautiful. So that's great news for the girl on the front row there!"

She found national fame with her spoof chat show The Mrs Merton Show in the mid 1990s.

The grey-haired, bespectacled Mrs Merton's seemingly innocent - but actually razor sharp - questions to celebrities of the day became the stuff of TV legend.

"What first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?"

(To Debbie McGee, wife of late magician Paul Daniels)

"Do you ever think, if you hadn't done all that running around playing football, you wouldn't have been so thirsty?"

(To legendary footballer and long-time alcoholic George Best)

"Does your wife like Supermarket Sweep, Dale Winton?"

Image caption Caroline Aherne (right) as Mrs Merton, with guests Debbie McGee and Kris Akabusi

"Were you breast-fed, Carol Thatcher?"

(To the daughter of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher)

"Do you have to plan your tactics before the race or do you just try and run faster than the other blokes?"

(To sprinter Kris Akabusi)

"That's what I love about you, you're one of us... You're like a big film star, but you're still common as muck!"

(To Carry On and EastEnders actress Barbara Windsor)

"Tell me, Germaine [Greer], what is the difference between being sexually liberated in the Sixties and an old slapper now?"

Image caption Poula Fisch, weather presenter, on The Fast Show

One of her most famous characters on The Fast Show was Poula Fisch, a weather presenter for the fictional Channel 9 where the weather was only ever 45 degrees and:

"Scorchio!"

Image copyright PA
Image caption As the chatty checkout girl on The Fast Show

She also starred as the checkout girl on the show, commenting on customers' purchases:

"Brown bread, very posh. Keeps you regular though, don't it? Beef, oh remember the beef crisis? Anti-dandruff shampoo, is that for you? It don't matter, nothing wrong with a scabby scalp."

And as chatterbox Renee alongside John Thompson, who played her long-suffering husband Roy:

Renee: "Roy tried his hand at karaoke. I said, 'You've got a good voice, but no co-ordination. What did I say, Roy?"

Roy: "You've got a good voice, but no co-ordination."

As Denise Royle, she spent much of her time engaged in bickering with - and talking about - the other members of the Royle family.

"I'm only not smoking in front of Baby David until he's old enough to get up and walk out of the room, then it's his choice."

But there were also many touching moments, as well as the day-to-day of family life - such as mum Barbara frequently asking what everyone has had for dinner.

Barbara: "What have you had for your tea, Denise?"

Denise: "Spaghetti"

Barbara: "Ooh, Bolognese?"

Denise: "Hoops"

Image caption Aherne speaking to chat show host Michael Parkinson in 1999

When she wasn't in character, Aherne spoke candidly about her life, and her struggles with depression and ill health.

At a speech at a conference to improve cancer care in Manchester, she said:

"My brother and I were born with cancer of the retina. My mum told us that only special people get cancer. I must be very special because I've had it in my lungs and my bladder as well."

She was less forthcoming about her father, an alcoholic, but did tell the Independent newspaper in 1999 that he was in part the inspiration for the character of Jim Royle, the dad in The Royle Family:

"My dad was always going on about the immersion and about lights being left on. 'It's like feckin' Blackpool illuminations,' he used to say."

In a behind-the-scenes documentary about The Royle Family, Aherne talked about her typical working day with co-writer Craig Cash.

"When we were writing early on, if we write a good line we have the day off then. Most days we find we have to watch Loose Women.

"It's just such a good quality, laziness. It's underestimated. You don't see enough of it on the telly."