Kathy Burke

Katherine Lucy Bridget Burke (born 13 June 1964) is an English actress, comedian, writer, producer, and director. She achieved fame with her appearances on sketch shows such as French and Saunders (1988–1999) and her recurring role as Magda on the BBC sitcom Absolutely Fabulous (1992–1996), as well as her frequent collaborations with fellow comedian Harry Enfield. For her portrayal of Valerie in the 1997 film Nil by Mouth, she won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

Kathy Burke
Katherine Lucy Bridget Burke

(1964-06-13) 13 June 1964
Islington, London, England
ResidenceIslington, London, England
OccupationActress, comedian, writer, producer, director
Years active1982–present

Burke made her film debut in the 1982 drama Scrubbers, and played Queen Mary I in the award-winning biographical film Elizabeth (1998). Her other film appearances include Sid and Nancy (1986), Dancing at Lughnasa (1998), This Year's Love (1999), Kevin & Perry Go Large (2000), The Martins (2001), Anita and Me (2002), and Once Upon a Time in the Midlands (2002). From 1999 to 2001, she starred as Linda La Hughes on the BBC sitcom Gimme Gimme Gimme, for which she received a British Comedy Award and two BAFTA nominations. Having spent most of the 2000s concentrating on her work as a theatre director, she returned to film roles in the 2010s with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011), Pan (2015), and Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (2016).

Early life

Burke was born and raised in Islington, London. She has two elder brothers, John and Barry. Her mother, Bridget (Bridie),[2] died of cancer when she was 18 months old, and she was brought up by neighbours (the Galvin family) for the following few years. Subsequently, she returned to live with her Irish father, Patrick (Paddy), a builder who died of cancer in 1985. Burke attended the Maria Fidelis RC Convent School.[3][4] Burke then went on to study at the Anna Scher Theatre School.


Burke's first role was in the 1982 film Scrubbers, directed by Swedish actress Mai Zetterling and featuring Pam St. Clement, Robbie Coltrane, Miriam Margolyes, Honey Bane, Debby Bishop and Eva Mottley. The film was set in a young offenders' institute for girls and was seen as a female version of the film Scum.

Burke appeared in a non-speaking role in a 1985 public information film about heroin addiction.[5] The following year she appeared in a non-speaking role as 'witness in doorway' in an award-winning advert for The Guardian's' Points of View'.[6]

Burke first became familiar to television audiences as a player of minor roles in sketches by better-known performers such as Harry Enfield, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders. Early TV work included regular appearances on the chat show The Last Resort hosted by Jonathan Ross on UK Channel 4 in the mid-1980s, playing the characters 'Tina Bishop' and 'Perry the Pre-pubescent Schoolboy". Bishop was a continually pregnant "expert" offering advice on household chores, always with disastrous results. Along with French and Saunders, she has contributed to two Comic Relief charity singles. She first appeared as a member of Bananarama parody band Lananeeneenoonoo in 1989, and then as a member of Spice Girls' look-alike band the Sugar Lumps in 1997. In real life Burke is a big fan of Morrissey and appeared in the video for his 1989 single "Ouija Board, Ouija Board" and later in the 2002 Channel 4 documentary The Importance of Being Morrissey.

She quickly became successful in her own right and although mainly associated with comedy, she has played several serious roles including that of Queen Mary I of England in Elizabeth.

Burke was awarded the Royal Television Society Award for Best Actress, for her performance as the mute Martha in the 1993 BBC TV series Mr. Wroe's Virgins.

Burke won the Best Actress award at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival for her role in the gritty drama Nil by Mouth. Burke was so convinced she would not win that she made no plans to attend the ceremony; when told shortly beforehand she had won, she found her passport was out of date. The film also earned her a BAFTA nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role.[7] Since then she has appeared as Perry in Kevin & Perry Go Large, and as Linda La Hughes in Gimme Gimme Gimme (which she developed with writer Jonathan Harvey) where she was nominated for 3 British Comedy Awards (winning one), 2 BAFTA TV Awards and a National Television Award for her performance. In 2000, she appeared in the cult film Love Honour and Obey with Ray Burdis.

In 2003, she was listed in The Observer as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy.

Beginning in 2001, she refrained from acting and threw herself into theatre directing; something she considers to be one of her true passions.[8] She said in an interview with Dawn French in Dawn French's Girls Who do Comedy that she no longer felt the same creative energy associated with acting that she used to (she described it as a "feeling in my belly") and that this was the reason she had stopped acting. However, she has done some voiceover work in the past few years, including adverts for Ski yoghurt (in the UK) as well as Flushed Away (2006). She also appeared in the 2007 Christmas Special of The Catherine Tate Show as Nan's daughter.

In February 1990 she wrote and directed her first play, Mr Thomas, at the Old Red Lion Theatre. It was subsequently filmed and shown on Channel 4 the next year.

In 2007, Burke contracted Clostridium difficile while in hospital for an operation, resulting in her having to pass directing duties on Dying for It at the Almeida Theatre (which starred Charlie Condou and Sophie Stanton who she worked with on Gimme Gimme Gimme).[9]

In 2009, Burke made her television directorial debut with the BBC Three sketch show series Horne & Corden, starring Mathew Horne and James Corden.[10]

In 2010, Burke completed a short autobiographical film, "Better Than Christmas", for Little Crackers, a collection of comic shorts. Burke plays a nun. On 19 January 2012, it was announced that Burke's short for Little Crackers would be turned into a four-part series, "Walking and Talking", written by Burke. Burke appeared as a nun in each of the episodes. The series aired in the summer of 2012 on Sky Atlantic.[11]

In 2011, Burke played Connie Sachs in the film adaptation of the novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.[12] She was long-listed for a BAFTA nomination for her performance as Supporting Actress in 2012.[13]

Burke appeared in the 2015 Peter Pan prequel film, Pan, as Mother Barnabas.[14] In November 2015 Burke presented the BBC topical news panel show Have I Got News for You.[15]

In 2019, Burke starred in her own self-titled three part documentary, Kathy Burke’s All Woman. The programme aired on Channel 4 and focused on the stereotypes and expectations of modern women. Burke touched on subjects such as marriage, pregnancy and cosmetic surgery.


Year Programme Role
1983 Scrubbers Glennis
1986 A Very Peculiar Practice Alice
1986 Sid and Nancy Brenda Windzor
1987 Straight to Hell Sabrina
1987 Walker Annie Mae
1987 Two of Us Vera
1988 The Comic Strip Presents... Funseekers (as "Cathy Burke") Vera
1988–1999 French and Saunders Various
1989 Work Experience Sally
1990 Set of Six[16] Tarquin's girlfriend
1990–1992 Harry Enfield's Television Programme Various
1992 The Fat Slags[17] Sandra
1992–1996 Absolutely Fabulous Magda
1993 Mr. Wroe's Virgins Martha
1994–1998 Harry Enfield & Chums Various
1997 Nil by Mouth Valerie
1997 The History of Tom Jones: A Foundling Honour
1998 Elizabeth Mary I of England
1998 Rex the Runt Mrs Mandelbrotska
1998 Dancing at Lughnasa Maggie Mundy
1999–2001 Gimme Gimme Gimme Linda La Hughes
1999 Let Them Eat Cake Cecile
1999 This Year's Love Marey
2000 Love, Honour and Obey Kathy
2000 Kevin & Perry Go Large Perry
2001 The Martins Angie
2002 Anita and Me Deirdre Rutter
2002 Once Upon a Time in the Midlands Carol
2006 Dawn French's Girls Who Do Comedy Herself
2006 Flushed Away Voiceover
2007 The Catherine Tate Show Diane
2010 Little Crackers Writer and director
2011 Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Connie Sachs
2011 The Antics Roadshow Narrator
2012 Walking and Talking Nun
2012 Never Mind The Buzzcocks Guest Host
2012, 2013, 2015 Have I Got News for You Guest Host
2013 Psychobitches Mona Lisa, The Queen Mother
2014 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown Herself
2014 Celebrity Gogglebox Herself
2015 Pan Mother Barnabas
2016 Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Magda
2016 Crashing Aunt Gladys
2017–present School of Roars Ms. Grizzlesniff (voice)
2019 Kathy Burke's All Woman[18] Herself
2019 The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice Herself


As director


Year Award Category Work Result
1994 Royal Television Society Award Best Actress Mr Wroe's Virgins Won
1997 Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Nil By Mouth Won
1997 British Independent Film Award Best Actress Nil by Mouth Won
1998 Bafta Film Awards Best Actress Nil By Mouth Nominated
1998 Bafta TV Awards Best Actress Tom Jones Nominated
1998 Bafta TV Awards Best Light Entertainment Performance Harry Enfield & Chums Nominated
1999 BAFTA TV Awards Best Light Entertainment Performance Harry Enfield's Yule log Chums Nominated
2001 BAFTA TV Awards Best Comedy Performance Gimme Gimme Gimme Nominated
2002 BAFTA TV Awards Best Comedy Performance Gimme Gimme Gimme Nominated
2002 British Comedy Awards Best Comedy Actress Gimme Gimme Gimme Won


  1. "Kathy Burke". Desert Island Discs. 15 August 2010. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  2. Archived 27 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  3. "Biography". kathyburke.co.uk. Retrieved 10 April 2012.
  4. "Kathy Burke Biography (1964-)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
  5. Herring, Richard (8 February 2018). "Kathy Burke". Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Podcast. Episode 165. Event occurs at 08:30. YouTube. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  6. Herring, Richard (8 February 2018). "Kathy Burke". Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Podcast. Episode 165. Event occurs at 09:00. YouTube. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  7. "Festival de Cannes: Nil by Mouth". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 23 September 2009.
  8. "My acting days are over". The Daily Telegraph. London. 19 October 2004. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  9. "I almost died from superbug, says actress Kathy Burke". Daily Mail. London. 10 January 2008.
  10. "BBC - Press Office - Horne and Corden come up trumps for BBC Three". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  11. Powder Blue Internet Business Solutions. "Kathy Burke writes her first TV comedy". chortle.co.uk. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  12. Bamigboye, Baz (22 October 2010). "BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Why Kathy Burke is coming in from the cold". Daily Mail. London.
  13. "'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' and 'My Week With Marilyn' Top BAFTA Longlists". TheWrap. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  14. "PETER PAN Prequel, PAN, Adds Amanda Seyfried and More". Collider. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  15. "BBC One - Have I Got News for You, Series 50, Episode 6". Bbc.co.uk. 6 November 2015. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
  16. Rivron, Rowland. What the f*** did I do last night?: the memoir of an accidental comedian. Sidgwick & Jackson, 2011
  17. "Viz: Oh, Lordy! It's The Fat Slags [DVD]". amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  18. Mangan, Lucy (13 August 2019). "Kathy Burke's All Woman review – beauty tips from the nation's bluntest nana". The Guardian. Guardian News & Media Ltd. Retrieved 17 August 2019.
  19. "Nick Stafford". The Agency. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 5 April 2011.
  20. Gardner, Lyn (22 January 2018). "Lady Windermere's Fan review – Saunders simmers at Wilde's West End party". the Guardian. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
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