Caroline Aherne – the queen of comedy we’ll miss forever

2016 has been a truly awful year and today it just got a whole lot worse with the dreadfully sad news that Caroline Aherne has died at the age of 52.

There will rightly be acres of tributes to a woman who can genuinely be called a comedy genius.

The Fast Show and Mrs Merton made her name, but it was The Royle Family – written with the equally brilliant Craig Cash – that cemented her reputation for comedic inventiveness and innovation.

A family of legendary sloth sit on their grotty couch in a smoke-filled living-room, watching crap telly shows and nipping at each other.

You couldn’t even really call it a sitcom because not much ever happened. And so no one quite knew what to make of it when it first turned up on our screens in 1998.

Plenty of folks hated it for what they perceived to be crudity, for its glorification of laziness, for its lack of action.

To me, they missed the point.

The Royle Family was nothing more than a joyful and affectionate tribute to the minituae of British working-class family life, already long gone by the time it first aired in the late 90s.

We laughed because we recognised ourselves and our loved ones in the characters, in their interactions with each other, in the tiny, daft frictions and affections of family life, in all their flawed and faltering attempts at getting on with things when dealt a pretty shit hand in life.

Caroline and Craig’s writing was always near the knuckle but never malicious; bitingly funny but never cruel; acerbic but always affectionate. These were her people, she came from them and she loved them – and by extension, she loved us. And we loved her back.

In my opinion, the 2006 episode The Queen of Sheba, in which Nana – played by the marvellous Liz Smith – dies is quite simply one of the finest pieces of British television writing, beautifully acted by everyone involved and reducing me to helpless tears every single time I watch it.

It dealt with loss in a way that was decidedly unsentimental but still managed to break the hearts of everyone who watched.

I never met Caroline Aherne, but I felt that I knew her because her writing was so honest and so from her heart that she made you feel as if she were writing those lines just for you.

Rest in peace, Caroline. You filled our viewing lives with joy.

May you always wear scarlet ribbons.

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