Alan Coren

Last updated

Alan Coren
Born(1938-06-27)27 June 1938
Died18 October 2007(2007-10-18) (aged 69)
North London, England
Education East Barnet Grammar School
Alma mater Wadham College, Oxford (First in English, 1960) and Masters degree [1] [2]
Yale University, doctorate in modern American literature
University of California, Berkeley. [1]
OccupationHumourist, writer, journalist
Spouse(s)Anne Kasriel (m. 1963–2007, his death)
Giles Coren (b. 1969);
Victoria Coren Mitchell (b. 1972)

Alan Coren (27 June 1938 – 18 October 2007) [1] was an English humourist, writer and satirist who was well known as a regular panellist on the BBC radio quiz The News Quiz and a team captain on BBC television's Call My Bluff . Coren was also a journalist, and for almost a decade was the editor of Punch magazine.


Early life

Alan Coren was born into an orthodox Jewish family in East Barnet, Herts, in 1938, [3] the son of builder and plumber Samuel Coren. [4] In the introduction to Chocolate and Cuckoo Clocks: The Essential Alan Coren, Giles and Victoria Coren conclude that "he was an odd job man really" and had also apparently been a debt collector. [5] And his wife Martha, a hairdresser. [6] [7]


Coren was educated at Osidge Primary School and East Barnet Grammar School, [7] followed by Wadham College at the University of Oxford to which he gained a scholarship, and where he got a first in English in 1960. After taking a master's degree [1] [2] he studied for a doctorate in modern American literature at Yale and the University of California, Berkeley. [1]

Life and career

Coren considered an academic career but instead decided to become a writer and journalist. [8] In his later life he distanced himself from his Jewish heritage, being 'slightly embarrassed' and stating in an interview with The Independent , 'I haven't been Jewish for years!'. [4]

He began this career by selling articles to Punch and was later offered a full-time job there. [2] At this time he also wrote for The New Yorker . [1]

Magazine editorships

In 1966, he became Punch's literary editor, becoming deputy editor in 1969 and editor in 1977. He remained as editor until 1987 when the circulation began to decline. [9]

During the week in which he took over the editorship, The Jewish Chronicle published a profile of him. His response was to rush around the office, waving a copy of the relevant edition, saying: "This is ridiculous – I haven't been Jewish for years!" [10]

When Coren left Punch in 1987, he became editor of The Listener , continuing in that role until 1989. [1]


From 1971 to 1978, Coren wrote a television review column for The Times .

From 1972 to 1976 he wrote a humour column for the Daily Mail . [8] He also wrote for The Observer , Tatler and The Times.

From 1984, Coren worked as a television critic for The Mail on Sunday until he moved as a humorous columnist to the Sunday Express , which he left in 1996. [1] [9] In 1989, he began to contribute a column in The Times, which continued for the rest of his life. [11]


Coren began his broadcasting career in 1977. He was invited to be one of the regular panellists on BBC Radio 4's new satirical quiz show, The News Quiz . [2] He continued on The News Quiz until the year he died.

From 1996 to 2004 he was one of two team captains on the UK panel game Call My Bluff .


In 1978 he wrote The Losers , an unsuccessful sitcom about a wrestling promoter starring Leonard Rossiter and Alfred Molina. [8]


Coren published about twenty books during his life, many of which were collections of his newspaper columns, [1] such as Golfing for Cats and The Cricklewood Diet.

From 1976 to 1983 he wrote the Arthur series of children's books. [1]

One of his most successful books, The Collected Bulletins of Idi Amin (a collection of his Punch articles about Amin) was rejected for publication in the United States on the grounds of racial sensitivity. [1] [2] These Bulletins were later made into a comedy album, The Collected Broadcasts of Idi Amin with the actor John Bird. After the Tanzanian capture of Kampala in 1979 the American journalist Art Barrett discovered a copy of Coren's book on Idi Amin's bedside table.[ citation needed ]

Coren's other books include The Dog It Was That Died (1965), The Sanity Inspector (1974), All Except The Bastard (1978), The Lady from Stalingrad Mansions (1978), Rhinestone as Big as the Ritz (1979), Tissues for Men (1981), Bumf (1984), Seems Like Old Times: a Year in the Life of Alan Coren (1989), More Like Old Times (1990), A Year in Cricklewood (1991), Toujours Cricklewood? (1993), Alan Coren's Sunday Best (1993), A Bit on the Side (1995), Alan Coren Omnibus (1996), The Cricklewood Dome (1998), The Cricklewood Tapestry (2002) and Waiting for Jeffrey (2002). [1] [8] [9] Coren's final book, 69 For One, was published late in 2007. [1]


The grave of Alan Coren, Hampstead Cemetery, London Alan Coren's Grave, Hampstead Cemetery - London. (15699842447).jpg
The grave of Alan Coren, Hampstead Cemetery, London

In 1973, Coren became the Rector of the University of St Andrews, after John Cleese. He held the position until 1976.

Later years

In May 2006, Coren was bitten by an insect that gave him septicaemia, which led to his developing necrotising fasciitis. [1] [12]


Coren died from the effects of cancer in 2007 at his home in north London. [11] [13]

He was survived by his wife Anne (née Kasriel), a consultant at Moorfields Eye Hospital, [14] whom he married in 1963, [8] [10] and their two children, Giles and Victoria, who are both journalists. [11] Victoria is married to comedian David Mitchell. Coren's cousin Michael Coren, who emigrated to Canada to become a journalist, credits him with much help. [15] His body was buried at Hampstead Cemetery in north London. [13]

An anthology of his writings, called The Essential Alan Coren – Chocolate and Cuckoo Clocks and edited by his children, was published on 2 October 2008. [16]

Related Research Articles

Idi Amin Third president and dictator of Uganda (1925–2003)

Idi Amin Dada Oumee was a Ugandan military officer who served as the President of Uganda from 1971 to 1979. Popularly known as the "Butcher of Uganda", he is considered one of the cruellest despots in world history.

John Bird is an English satirist, actor and comedian, best known for his work with John Fortune.

Humorist Intellectual who uses humor in writing or public speaking

A humorist or humourist is an intellectual who uses humor in writing or public speaking, but is not an artist who seeks only to elicit laughs. Humorists are distinct from comedians, who are show business entertainers whose business is to make an audience laugh. It is possible to play both roles in the course of a career.

The News Quiz is a British topical panel game broadcast on BBC Radio 4.

Simon Hoggart English journalist and broadcaster

Simon David Hoggart was an English journalist and broadcaster. He wrote on politics for The Guardian, and on wine for The Spectator. Until 2006 he presented The News Quiz on Radio 4. His journalism sketches have been published in a series of books.

John Diamond was an English journalist and broadcaster. In 1997 he was diagnosed with throat cancer, a subject he wrote about in his weekly column at The Times, as well as in two books. He was married to food writer and celebrity chef Nigella Lawson from 1992 until his death in 2001, and had two children.

Michael Coren Canadian columnist, author, public speaker, radio host and television talk show host

Michael Coren is a British-Canadian clergyman. He hosted the television talk show The Michael Coren Show on the Crossroads Television System from 1999 to 2011 when he moved to the Sun News Network to host an evening talk show, The Arena with Michael Coren, from 2011 until the channel's demise in early 2015. He has also been a long-time radio personality, particularly on Toronto talk radio station CFRB.

Harry Thompson English radio and television producer, comedy writer, novelist and biographer

Harry William Thompson was an English radio and television producer, comedy writer, novelist and biographer. He was the creator of the dark humour television series Monkey Dust, screened between 2003 and 2005.

Giles Robin Patrick Coren is a British food writer, and television and radio presenter. He has been a restaurant critic for The Times newspaper since 1993, and was named Food and Drink Writer of the Year at the British Press Awards in 2005. He has co-starred with comedian Sue Perkins in The Supersizers... series and with chef Monica Galetti in the Amazing Hotels – Life Beyond The Lobby series.

Victoria Elizabeth Coren Mitchell is an English writer, presenter and professional poker player. Coren Mitchell writes weekly columns for The Observer and has hosted the BBC television quiz show Only Connect since 2008.

Giles Foden is an English author, best known for his novel The Last King of Scotland (1998).

<i>The Last King of Scotland</i> (film) 2006 film

The Last King of Scotland is a 2006 historical drama film based on Giles Foden's novel The Last King of Scotland (1998), adapted by screenwriters Peter Morgan and Jeremy Brock, and directed by Kevin Macdonald. The film was a co-production between companies from the United Kingdom and Germany.

Hugo James Rifkind is a British journalist who has been, since 2005, a columnist for The Times. Since July 2020 he has presented a Saturday morning programme on Times Radio. He has been a regular guest on The News Quiz, on BBC Radio 4.

Robert Astles was a British soldier and colonial officer who lived in Uganda and became an associate of presidents Milton Obote and Idi Amin.

Elkan Allan was a British television producer and print journalist. Allan is best remembered for his creation of the pioneering 1960s TV rock/pop music show Ready Steady Go!. After 1968, he was for many years the television editor of The Sunday Times.

<i>The Collected Broadcasts of Idi Amin</i> 1975 studio album by John Bird

The Collected Broadcasts of Idi Amin is a British comedy album parodying Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, released in 1975 on Transatlantic Records. It was performed by John Bird and written by Alan Coren, based on columns he wrote for Punch magazine.

John Basil Boothroyd was an English humorous writer, best known for his long association with Punch. As a young man he worked for a bank, but began contributing articles to Punch, and became its assistant editor, a post in which he served for eighteen years. His career as a writer for Punch spanned the editorships of E. V. Knox to Alan Coren. Boothroyd’s chief literary work outside the comic essay was an official biography of Prince Philip undertaken at the request of its subject. Boothroyd also wrote for television and radio, and was a frequent broadcaster.

Christopher Matthew British writer and broadcaster

Christopher Charles Forrest Matthew is a British writer and broadcaster. He is the author of Now We Are Sixty, inspired by the poems of A. A. Milne in the book Now We Are Six, and the chronicler of the life and times of the hapless hero, Simon Crisp, in Diary of a Somebody.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 "Obituary – Alan Coren". The Daily Telegraph . 20 October 2007.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 "Obituary: Alan Coren". BBC. 19 October 2007.
  3. "Alan Coren". The Independent. 20 October 2007.
  4. 1 2 "Alan Coren". The Independent. 20 October 2007. Retrieved 19 December 2019.
  5. Chocolate and Cuckoo Clocks: The Essential Alan Coren, Canongate, 2008, p. 6
  6. "Coren, Alan (1938–2007), humorous writer | Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001 (inactive 12 September 2020).
  7. 1 2 Coren, Alan (2008). "Foreword by Giles and Victoria Coren". Chocolate and Cuckoo Clocks. Edinburgh. p. 6. ISBN   978-1-921520-65-5. Note that there is some uncertainty regarding the father's occupation: the source describes him as "A plumber?...That's what they said...He was an odd job man really."
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 "Obituary – Alan Coren". The Times . London. 20 October 2007.
  9. 1 2 3 Reynolds, Stanley (20 October 2007). "Obituary – Alan Coren". The Guardian .
  10. 1 2 Kington, Miles (20 October 2007). "Obituary – Alan Coren". The Independent . Archived from the original on 21 October 2007.
  11. 1 2 3 "Broadcaster Alan Coren dies at 69". BBC. 19 October 2007.
  12. Robertson, David (December 2006). "Notebook: Before I was so rudely interrupted". The Times . London.
  13. 1 2 Roche, Elisa (20 October 2007). "Brilliantly funny Alan Coren dies, aged 69". Daily Express.
  14. "Media families: 17. The Corens". The Independent. 9 June 1997.
  15. "I seldom hear about her [Heather Mallick], but did when she wrote an obsessively fawning piece after the British author and journalist Alan Coren died. The reason was that the noted editor and TV personality was my cousin, and a dear man who helped me more than I can say and whom I miss very much." Opinion column by Michael Coren, entitled "Canada: a rogue state? Hardly" Ottawa Sun 5 December 2013.
  16. "Meet at the Gate – Chocolate and Cuckoo Clocks". 2008. Archived from the original on 10 December 2008. Retrieved 29 December 2008.
Academic offices
Preceded by
John Cleese
Rector of the University of St Andrews
Succeeded by
Frank Muir