Interview extra

Brendan O'Carroll, Mrs Brown's BoysFebruary 11, 2011

And now for something completely different on BBC1 — in Mrs Brown's Boys, Irish comic Brendan O’Carroll plays potty-mouthed ‘mammy’ Agnes Brown, who can’t help interfering in the lives of her grown-up children!

Mrs Brown's Boys is based on a sell-out stage show. How did it come about?
It started off as a radio show on the Irish network RTE back in 1990 and it got to the stage where Dublin stopped for five minutes every afternoon so that people could listen. Taxis parked up, hairdressers turned off the dryers and prisoners asked to be locked in their cells! It also went crazy nationwide and I had no idea it was such a phenomenon.

When did you launch Mrs Brown on stage?
After that first success on radio I started to feel invincible and to think I was bullet proof so I wrote a movie screenplay about a young Irish boxer. I thought I could walk on water, so I decided to make a film of it but it cost £2.2m, every penny of which I put in myself or borrowed. It was never released so it was a pretty rock bottom time for me. I was broke and I had no gigs. But the owner of the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin asked me to write a show, so I wrote a play based on Mrs Brown. It box-office records over here and Mrs Brown saved my bacon.

How did it get commissioned by the BBC?
We took the show to Liverpool and Glasgow, where we knew there were good Irish connections, and BBC producer Stephen McCrum walked into my dressing room and asked if I’d be interested in developing it for a sitcom. We were supposed to make the pilot just before the Jonathan Ross/Russell Brand incident, so we waited a year and it got the OK.

Your mother brought up a family and was also a politician — is she your inspiration?
Yes, my dad died when I was nine of asbestosis so I grew up with females. I didn’t have the traditional father/son relationship whereas with my mother there was absolute devotion form the earliest time I can remember. She would sit me on the table and tie my shoelaces and every day she’d say, ‘You can be anything you want to be.’ Tragically she died when I was 28 and from then on I started to fail at things.

It sounds as though you’ve learned by experience.
Every time I failed I learnt something new. I’m not a genius because if I was I wouldn’t have to work as hard as I do and everything has to be paid for. I’ve also learnt that you only need one person to believe in you to start believing in yourself, and that’s a great life lesson.

Mary Comerford

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