It’s knees up Mrs Brown
Mrs Brown star Brendan O’Carroll tells MARION McMULLEN why his much-loved comedy character now has plenty to sing about
Is Mrs Brown putting on her dancing shoes for the new stage show?
(CHUCKLES) It’s Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Musical? And it’s the question mark in the title that’s significant.
It’s Mrs Brown’s Boys with songs and the whole time she is trying to put together a musical to pay legal fees in a battle against developers.
The closing scene of the show is really the opening of the musical. (Laughs) If anyone coming along is expecting Les Mis they are going to be disappointed.
Is this a new side to Mrs Brown?
MRS BROWN has been in every medium – radio, stage, books, films and she has had a record – everything except musicals and now we have Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Musical? It’s her time to shine.
It all started on radio and then went on to the stage and I love that interaction with audiences.
How long does it take to get into character?
I GET ready in 10 minutes. All I have to do is put on the wig and glasses and I look in the mirror and it’s ‘Hello, there she is’ and Agnes is away.
Her walk is key. She walks like she is expecting a hip operation any day now. All her dresses and aprons are identical, but her cardies change. If she goes out it’s ‘I’ll wear my good cardie’ and there is also a bed one and everyday ones.
How did your comedy career begin?
I WAS 25 years of age and had no ambition to do anything like this for a living. I had a partnership in a pub and my partner did a runner and left me in debt.
For the first time I owed more than I had in the bank and I started to do stand-up one or two nights a week.
After nine months, I thought ‘this could be a career if I do it right and knuckle down’.
How disciplined are you when it comes to writing?
(LAUGHS) A writer will rather do anything except write. Someone drops in and you are ‘Come on in, sit down, have a cup of tea’.
I’m sometimes up early in the morning to write for a few hours when the house is quiet, but if it’s not coming I’ll go out a walk or play a round of golf – anything rather than just stare at a blank page.
There is nothing so motivating for a writer, though, than a deadline. When I started off doing Mrs Brown on radio I would record five episodes every Monday morning to be broadcast over the week and on Sunday night I would be sitting there going ‘ You can’t go to bed before you write this. You have to write this for tomorrow’.
In the morning everyone would be saying ‘This is great. It’s even better than the last one’ and I would be ‘really, really?’
What was your own family like growing up?
I WAS the youngest of 11 children and my mother would introduce me saying ‘This is the baby Brendan’ and I would be ‘Mammy, please, stop. I’m f**king 30 for God’s sake’.
But when the family are all together I know where I am in the pecking order. (Laughs) I know my ranking in the family. It’s a very big family.
We never had to get a babysister because there was always someone in the house, within the family, to help.
I’ve 33 nephews and nieces now. The family just gets bigger and bigger.
My mother was a peculiar character in her own right and when people asked if Mrs Brown was based on her I would always say ‘no, no absolutely not’.
But I think Mrs Brown is my mother without the education my mother had.
What was it like seeing American film star Anjelica Huston playing the infamous Irish mammy in the 1999 movie Agnes Browne?
(LAUGHS) I had a phone call from someone who said they were from an American film company and I thought it was a friend of mine messing about and kidding with me and I hung up
My manager called me back saying ‘No, they really do want to talk about buying the film rights.’ Anjelica Huston, who was directing, had read my book and loved it.
Rosie O’Donnell was to play Agnes, but she was busy adopting her second child so Anjelica played the role instead.
What was it like working on the movie?
IT WAS weird to be working with Anjelica. In the book Agnes is a big fan of Cliff Richard and Anjelica was like ‘I don’t know if she’d be a fan of Cliff. I’d think she’s be more of a Tom Jones fan’.
And I was like ‘ Yes, maybe.’ She picked up the phone and said ‘Kirsten can you get Tom Jones on the phone?’ and 10 seconds later the phone rings and she is saying ‘you play yourself and these are the dates’ and she puts the phone down and says ‘Tom is in’.
I just thought ‘Holy f**k. We’re dealing with Hollywood royalty’.
The Mrs Brown Christmas Day TV specials on the BBC attract record audiences. Is there a lot of pressure involved in writing them?
I’D love to be able to say ‘no’, but you do feel the pressure. The second year I did a gimmick with a Christmas tree and it went well and then from January onwards I was thinking what will I do with the f**king tree this year. Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Musical? tours until December. Go to mrsbrowns.com for ticket and venue information.