My Comedy Hero: Lucy Porter on Caroline Aherne

Comedian Lucy Porter shares some favourite memories of one of her biggest influences

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My Comedy Hero: Lucy Porter on Caroline Aherne

credit: Steve Ullathorne

Even though she’s predominantly known as a writer and actress, Caroline Aherne remains the funniest stand-up comedian I have ever seen. In the late 1990s I was living in Manchester, and Caroline was one of the leading lights of the city’s nascent comedy scene.

There was a club called Band on the Wall that hosted a new material night for comics on a Sunday, including regulars such as Steve Coogan, John Thompson, Henry Normal, Dave Gorman and Caroline Aherne. Caroline would sometimes do one of her characters, like the nun Sister Mary Immaculate (‘How many Protestants does it take to change a lightbulb? None, they live in eternal darkness’) or country singer Mitzi Goldberg.

My favourite nights though, were the ones where Caroline just came on as herself and told brilliant stories from her life. Whereas all the other acts had clearly crafted jokes, there was an apparent artlessness to what Caroline did. She’d launch into anecdotes which were just silly and hilarious: like her and her mate inviting a bloke they both fancied back to their flat, and being all competitive to impress him, but then deciding that neither of them really wanted to get off with him and the whole situation becoming really awkward.

Or taking her car to the mechanic because of a strange rattling sound that turned out to be a can of Lilt in the glove compartment. She’d tell spooky stories that were derailed by her attention to detail, or just describe how impressed her mum was the first time she saw an avocado.

I loved how natural she was on stage, and I feel privileged to have had an early glimpse of the warmth and optimism that people loved in Mrs Merton and The Royle Family.

As told to Brian Donaldson.

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