Alan Coren

Alan Coren (1938-2007)
Author of the Idi Amin Bulletins published in Punch in 1973

Alan Coren was born in Southgate, North London in 1938, the son of a plumber and a hairdresser, educated at Oxford, Yale and Berkley universities, winning employement as deputy editor of Punch, TV reviewer, and columnist for the Daily Mail.

An English humorist, 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 nine years was the editor of Punch magazine.

Coren was educated at East Barnet Grammar School, 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 he studied for a doctorate in modern American literature at Yale and the University of California, Berkeley.

Coren considered an academic career but decided instead to become a writer and journalist. He began this career by selling articles to Punch and was later offered a full-time job there. At this time he also wrote for The New Yorker.

In 1966, he became Punch's literary editor, and went on to become deputy editor in 1969 and editor in 1978. He remained as editor until 1987 when the circulation began to decline. Unsurprisingly, 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!"

From 1971 to 1978, Coren wrote a television review column for The Times and from 1972 to 1976 a humour column for the Daily Mail. In 1973 Coren became the Rector of the University of St Andrews, after John Cleese, an honorary position for that university in St Andrews, Fife on the East coast of Scotland. He held the position until 1976.

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

Known (if only to himself) as the "Sage of Cricklewood", where he lived, his columns always contained humour and criticism. From 1975 to 1982 Coren wrote comic essays, such as Golfing for Cats and The Cricklewood Diet and from 1976 to 1983 wrote the Arthur series of children's books.

In 1989 he started a column in The Times, which he continued for the rest of his life.

Coren began his broadcasting career in 1977, while writing for The Observer, Tatler and The Times. He was invited to be one of the regular panellists on BBC Radio 4's new satirical quiz show, The News Quiz. In 1978 he wrote The Losers, an unsuccessful sitcom about a wrestling promoter starring Leonard Rossiter and Alfred Molina. He continued on The News Quiz until the year he died. From 1996 to 2005 he was also one of two team captains on the UK panel game Call My Bluff.

Coren had published about twenty books during his life, many of which were collections of his newspaper columns. One of his most successful, The Collected Bulletins of Idi Amin was rejected for publication in the United States on the grounds of racial sensitivity. 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.

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). Coren's final book, 69 For One, was published late in 2007.

In May 2006, Coren was bitten by an insect that gave him septicaemia which led to his developing necrotising fasciitis. He died from cancer in 2007 at his home in North London. Survived by his wife Anne (née Kasriel), whom he married in 1963, and their two children, Giles and Victoria, who are both journalists, he was buried in Hampstead Cemetery. 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.