Bren­dan O’Car­roll shares the se­crets of Mrs Brown’s suc­cess.

Bren­dan O’Car­roll, bet­ter known as Mrs Brown, talks about his new show and ex­plains why he ig­nores the crit­ics. James Ramp­ton re­ports.

The TV Guide - - CONTENTS -

Eight years ago, top BBC pro­ducer Stephen McCrum was in­vited to go from London to Glasgow to watch a lit­tle-known stage show called Mrs Brown’s Boys – in which the Ir­ish per­former Bren­dan O’Car­roll plays the foul-mouthed ma­tri­arch of a chaotic Dublin fam­ily.

The mo­ment McCrum saw it, he im­me­di­ately re­alised that it could be a hit on tele­vi­sion.

O’Car­roll re­calls that, “Af­ter the show, Stephen came back to the dress­ing room and said, ‘We’d like to make a sit­com of this’. “I went, ‘Thanks very much’. “When he had gone, I said I had no idea who he was. ‘He’s prob­a­bly a jan­i­tor,’ I said.” Since that mo­ment in 2009, Mrs Brown’s Boys has become a global phe­nom­e­non.

It has spawned three se­ries, 12 spe­cials, many more live shows and even a movie.

Now, O’Car­roll, 61, has pro­duced a spin-off show, All Round To Mrs Brown’s, in which the in­domitable Dubliner wel­comes into her house a host of celebri­ties, in­clud­ing Pamela An­der­son, Judy Mur­ray, James Blunt, Sue Perkins, Peter An­dre, Holly Wil­loughby, Philip Schofield, Lulu and The Kaiser Chiefs.

This spoof chat show, now screen­ing on TVNZ 1, has given O’Car­roll yet an­other roar­ing suc­cess and it has al­ready been com­mis­sioned for a sec­ond se­ries.

The Mrs Brown en­sem­ble has al­ways been a fam­ily af­fair.

O’Car­roll’s real-life wife por­trays his TV daugh­ter, his ac­tual daugh­ter plays his TV son’s wife, and his older sis­ter takes the role of his neigh­bour and best friend.

The show has struck such a chord be­cause au­di­ences are drawn to the fun­da­men­tally warm fam­ily unit at the heart of the sit­com.

They also en­joy the sheer anar­chy that pre­vails at Agnes Brown’s.

“I’m re­ally sur­prised about how much peo­ple love the show. I’ve never felt that way about any pro­gramme in my life.” – Bren­dan O’Car­roll

As O’Car­roll puts it, “We are not the Wal­tons, that’s for sure”.

In the UK, Mrs Brown’s Boys and its talk-show spin-off reg­u­larly pull in au­di­ences of up to eight mil­lion peo­ple. O’Car­roll says he finds that fig­ure hard to take in.

“You don’t re­ally get a sense of what eight mil­lion peo­ple watch­ing feels like. It is twice the pop­u­la­tion of Ire­land, so I can’t even get a con­cept of that.”

The Dubliner has also been taken aback by the sheer af­fec­tion that has been di­rected at his show.

“We kind of know it is funny,” he says. “We’ve been do­ing this on the stage for a while, so we know there are gags that are go­ing to work.

“But I’m re­ally sur­prised about how much peo­ple love the show. I’ve never felt that way about any pro­gramme in my life.”

For all its pop­u­lar­ity, how­ever, the Mrs Brown shows have still been sub­ject to some sniffy re­views. But O’Car­roll re­mains glo­ri­ously un­af­fected by any neg­a­tive cri­tiques.

“I don’t know one re­viewer yet who has stopped peo­ple go­ing to a show or has made a show suc­cess­ful. It is down to the au­di­ence. Au­di­ences seem to vote with their feet and not with what they read.”

O’Car­roll re­veals that some­times the cast and he just “sit down and gig­gle” about the show’s tremen­dous global pro­file.

How­ever, he is well aware of the dan­gers of be­ing over­ex­posed.

“Mrs Brown has become a re­ally strong brand and we do not want to throw it away.

“I don’t care how funny you think you are, peo­ple are en­ti­tled to think, ‘Oh no, not him again’.”

The show’s cre­ator as­serts that the cast will never get com­pla­cent about its enor­mous suc­cess.

“I think it is be­cause we all had real jobs,” he re­flects. “Bugsy (O’Neill, who plays Gran­dad Brown) was a win­dow washer, Pepsi (Shields, who plays Mark, Mrs Brown’s old­est child) was a me­chanic, Rory (Cowan, who plays Rory, Mrs Brown’s third son) worked in EMI for many years, Jenny (Gib­ney, who plays Cathy, Mrs Brown’s only daugh­ter) worked in a bank, Eil­ish (who plays Win­nie, Mrs Brown’s neigh­bour and best friend) worked for Guinness, I was a waiter – ev­ery­body had real jobs.” O’Car­roll con­cludes that, “You are al­ways ter­ri­fied that one day they will find out you are a waiter and will want their money back. So I think we do ap­pre­ci­ate it more

than nor­mal.”

Above: Sue Perkins and Brendan O’Car­roll

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