Kathy Burke
Katherine Lucy Bridget Burke

(1964-06-13) 13 June 1964 (age 59)
Occupation(s)Actress, comedian, writer, producer, director
Years active1982–present

Katherine Lucy Bridget Burke (born 13 June 1964)[2] is an English actress. She appeared in sketch shows such as French and Saunders (1988–1999), played a recurring role as Magda on the BBC sitcom Absolutely Fabulous (1992–2012), and performed frequent collaborations with fellow comedian Harry Enfield. 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.

Burke made her film debut in the 1982 drama Scrubbers. 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. Her other film appearances include Sid and Nancy (1986), Dancing at Lughnasa (1998), Elizabeth (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). 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). Starting from 2019, Burke fronted a series of documentaries for Channel 4: Kathy Burke's All Woman (2019), Kathy Burke: Money Talks (2021) and Kathy Burke: Growing Up (2023).

Early life

Burke was born at the Royal Free Hospital, London on 13 June 1964,[3] and was brought up in Islington, North London by her Irish Catholic parents Paddy and Bridget.[4] She has two elder brothers.[5] Her mother, known as Bridie, died of cancer when Burke was two years old. She lived with her father, a builder who was an alcoholic, and attended the Maria Fidelis Convent School, a secondary school in Euston, until she was 16 years old.[4] She then studied at the Anna Scher Theatre School in Islington.[3][6]


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.[7] 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.[8] 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'.[9]

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. Both Perry and Tina (renamed "Waynetta Slob") later re-appeared as recurring sketch characters in Harry Enfield programmes. 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 was 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.[citation needed] On the 07 November 2023 episode of her Where There's a Will There's a Wake podcast, with Dolly Alderton as her guest, Burke admitted "We don't like Morrissey anymore...because he's a racist wanker". Alderton shared Burke's disappointment with Morrissey's views with Burke adding "We idolise these people...but then people are three-dimensional and you get to know what they really think about life and it's just always a disappointment" [10]

She became successful in her own right and although mainly associated with comedy, she has played several serious roles including that of Queen Mary Tudor in the film Elizabeth, which was released in 1998.[11]

In 1994 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.[12] The series was directed by Danny Boyle and is based on Jane Rogers' book about John Wroe.[13]

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.[14] From 1999 to 2001 she appeared as Linda La Hughes in the BBC TV series Gimme Gimme Gimme (which she developed with writer Jonathan Harvey) where she was nominated for three British Comedy Awards (winning one), two BAFTA TV Awards and a National Television Award for her performance.[15] In 2000, she appeared in the cult film Love Honour and Obey with Ray Burdis,[16] and as Perry in the comedy film Kevin & Perry Go Large.[17]

In 2003, she was listed in The Observer as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy.[18]

Beginning in 2001, she refrained from acting and began theatre directing; something she considers to be one of her true passions.[19] 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 have (she described it as a "feeling in my belly") and that this was the reason she had stopped acting. However, since then, she has done some voiceover work, including UK TV adverts for Ski yoghurt (2005)[20] and the voice of Rita's mum in the computer-animated film Flushed Away (2006).[21] She also appeared in the 2007 Christmas Special of The Catherine Tate Show as Nan's daughter Diane.[22]

In February 1990, she wrote and directed Mr Thomas at the Old Red Lion Theatre. It was 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).[citation needed]

In 2009, Burke made her television directorial debut with the BBC Three sketch show series Horne & Corden, starring Mathew Horne and James Corden.[23]

Burke wrote and appeared as a nun in the short autobiographical film "Better Than Christmas" for Sky 1's Little Crackers, a collection of comic shorts that aired in December 2010. On 19 January 2012, it was announced that Burke had written her first TV series; her short for Little Crackers had led to the four-part series "Walking and Talking", based on her teenage years. Burke appeared as a nun in each episode of the series, which aired in the summer of 2012 on Sky Atlantic.[24]

In 2011, Burke played Connie Sachs in the film adaptation of the novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. She was long-listed for a BAFTA nomination for her performance as Supporting Actress in 2012.[25]

Burke appeared in the 2015 Peter Pan prequel film Pan,as Mother Barnabas.[26] In November 2015, Burke presented the BBC topical news panel show Have I Got News for You.[27]

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.[28]

In 2021, Burke appeared as a guest judge in series 3 of RuPaul's Drag Race UK.[29]

Burke directed ITV's four-part murder mystery series Holding, which premiered on 14 March 2022 and is based on Graham Norton's novel of the same name.[30]



Year Title Role Notes
1982 Scrubbers Glennis [7]
1986 Sid and Nancy Brenda Windzor
1987 Straight to Hell Sabrina
Walker Annie Mae
Two of Us Vera
1989 Work Experience Sally
1997 Nil by Mouth Valerie
1998 Elizabeth Queen Mary Tudor [11]
Dancing at Lughnasa Maggie Mundy
1999 This Year's Love Marey
2000 Love, Honour and Obey Kathy [16]
Kevin & Perry Go Large Perry [17]
2001 The Martins Angie
2002 Anita and Me Deirdre Rutter
Once Upon a Time in the Midlands Carol
2006 Flushed Away Rita's Mum Voice[21]
2011 Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Connie Sachs
The Antics Roadshow Narrator
2015 Pan Mother Barnabas
2016 Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Magda
2022 The Sea Beast Gwen Batterbie Voice[31]
TBA Blitz Filming


Year Title Role Notes
1986 A Very Peculiar Practice Alice
Ladies in Charge Daisy
1988 The Comic Strip Presents... Funseekers Vera Credited as Cathy Burke
1988–1999 French and Saunders Various
1990 Set of Six Tarquin's girlfriend [32]
1990–1992 Harry Enfield's Television Programme Various
1991 Casualty Lorraine Mccullier
1992 The Fat Slags Sandra [33]
1992–1996 Absolutely Fabulous Magda
1993 Mr. Wroe's Virgins Martha
1994–1998 Harry Enfield & Chums Various
1997 The History of Tom Jones: A Foundling Honour
1998 Rex the Runt Mrs Mandelbrotska
1999–2001 Gimme Gimme Gimme Linda La Hughes [15]
1999 Let Them Eat Cake Cecile
2006 Dawn French's Girls Who Do Comedy Herself
2007 The Catherine Tate Show Christmas Special Diane [22]
2009 Horne & Corden Director[23]
2010 Kathy Burke's Little Cracker: Better Than Christmas Nun Writer[34]
2012 Walking and Talking Nun Writer[24]
Never Mind The Buzzcocks Guest Host
2012, 2013, 2015 Have I Got News for You Herself
2013 Psychobitches Mona Lisa; The Queen Mother
2014 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown Herself
Celebrity Gogglebox
2016 Crashing Aunt Gladys
2017–present School of Roars Ms. Grizzlesniff Voice
2019 Kathy Burke's All Woman Herself [35]
The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice
Joe Lycett's Got Your Back
2021 RuPaul's Drag Race UK Herself; Guest judge Series 3, Episode 9[29]
Kathy Burke: Money Talks Herself; presenter 2-part Channel 4 documentary[36]
2022 Holding Director[30]
2023 Kathy Burke: Growing Up Herself; presenter 2-part Channel 4 special[37]


As actress

Year Title Role Venue
1989 Amongst Barbarians Lilli Royal Exchange, Manchester
1993 It's a Great Big Shame! Theatre Royal Stratford East

As director

Year Title Venue Notes Notes
1990 Mr Thomas by Kathy Burke Old Red Lion Also shown on Channel 4
1995 Boom Bang-a-Bang by Jonathan Harvey Bush Theatre
2001 Out in the Open by Jonathan Harvey Hampstead Theatre
2002 Betty by Karen McLachlan Vaudeville Theatre
Kosher Harry by Nick Grosso Royal Court Theatre
2003 Born Bad by Debbie Tucker Green Hampstead Theatre
2004 The Quare Fellow by Brendan Behan Oxford Stage Company
Love Me Tonight by Nick Stafford Hampstead Theatre [38]
2005 Blue/Orange by Joe Penhall Cambridge Arts Theatre
The God of Hell by Sam Shepard Donmar Warehouse
2006 Smaller by Carmel Morgan Lyric Theatre, London
2014 Once a Catholic by Mary O'Malley Tricycle Theatre
2018 Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde Vaudeville Theatre, West End, London [39]


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


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  2. ^ "Burke, Kathy (1964-)". Screenonline. BFI. Retrieved 23 August 2021.
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  4. ^ a b Galton, Bridget (21 November 2013). "Kathy Burke stages showdown with nuns in Once a Catholic". Islington Gazette.
  5. ^ [1] Archived 27 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Kathy Burke Biography (1964-)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
  7. ^ a b Scrubbers (1982) - Cast and Crew | AllMovie, retrieved 20 March 2022
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Here Lies Dolly Alderton, 7 November 2023, retrieved 8 November 2023
  11. ^ a b "Elizabeth (1998)". BFI. Archived from the original on 24 June 2016. Retrieved 24 March 2022.
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  13. ^ Mr. Wroe's Virgins (Drama, History), British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), 24 February 1993, retrieved 19 March 2022
  14. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Nil by Mouth". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 23 September 2009.
  15. ^ a b Gimme Gimme Gimme (Comedy), Tiger Aspect Productions, 8 January 1999, retrieved 25 March 2022
  16. ^ a b "Love, Honour and Obey (2000)". BFI. Archived from the original on 10 March 2017. Retrieved 25 March 2022.
  17. ^ a b "Kevin & Perry Go Large (2000)". BFI. Archived from the original on 3 July 2017. Retrieved 25 March 2022.
  18. ^ "The A-Z of laughter (part one)". The Observer. 7 December 2003. Retrieved 2 January 2020.
  19. ^ "My acting days are over". The Daily Telegraph. London. 19 October 2004. Archived from the original on 10 September 2006. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  20. ^ "Kathy Burke searches for something simple in Ski Yogurt relaunch ad". campaignlive.co.uk. Retrieved 25 March 2022.
  21. ^ a b "Flushed Away (2006)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 25 March 2022.
  22. ^ a b "The Catherine Tate Show" Christmas Special (TV Episode 2007) - IMDb, retrieved 24 March 2022
  23. ^ a b "BBC - Press Office - Horne and Corden come up trumps for BBC Three". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  24. ^ a b "Kathy Burke writes her first TV comedy". chortle.co.uk. 19 January 2012. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  25. ^ "'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' and 'My Week With Marilyn' Top BAFTA Longlists". TheWrap. 6 January 2012. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  26. ^ "PETER PAN Prequel, PAN, Adds Amanda Seyfried and More". Collider. 24 April 2014. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  27. ^ "BBC One - Have I Got News for You, Series 50, Episode 6". Bbc.co.uk. 6 November 2015. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
  28. ^ "Kathy Burke's All Woman - All 4". channel4.com. Retrieved 18 March 2022.
  29. ^ a b "BBC Three - RuPaul's Drag Race UK, Series 3, Episode 9". BBC. Retrieved 5 July 2022.
  30. ^ a b "Holding Is the 'Darkly Funny' New Drama From Graham Norton's Hit Book – Here's What You Need To Know". HuffPost UK. 13 March 2022. Retrieved 18 March 2022.
  31. ^ "Netflix's 'The Sea Beast' Rises from the Depths with Teaser, Cast & Date Reveal". Animation Magazine. 30 March 2022. Retrieved 30 March 2022.
  32. ^ Rivron, Rowland. What the f*** did I do last night?: the memoir of an accidental comedian. Sidgwick & Jackson, 2011
  33. ^ "Viz: Oh, Lordy! It's The Fat Slags [DVD]". amazon.co.uk. 29 November 2004. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  34. ^ "Little Crackers 2010, Episode 6 - Kathy Burke's Little Cracker". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 18 March 2022.
  35. ^ 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.
  36. ^ "Kathy Burke: Money Talks | All 4". channel4.com. Archived from the original on 7 July 2021. Retrieved 16 March 2023.
  37. ^ "Kathy Burke: Growing Up | All 4". channel4.com. Retrieved 16 March 2023.
  38. ^ "Nick Stafford". The Agency. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 11 March 2023.
  39. ^ Gardner, Lyn (22 January 2018). "Lady Windermere's Fan review – Saunders simmers at Wilde's West End party". the Guardian. Retrieved 23 January 2018.