While some sitcoms might revolve around an ensemble, there is no escaping Brendan O’Carroll’s importance to Mrs. Brown’s Boys.
Both on screen and off, the Irish-born comedian is the driving force of its success.
“Mrs. Brown does the heavy lifting of the show. I’m also the managing director of the company. I’m also the writer of the show. And that sounds like an awful lot of pressure, but the truth of it is I wouldn’t have it any other way. I absolutely love all that. I think it comes from being the youngest child of 11. I love being the centre of attention,” he admits.
“I might even have that Superman complex… the one who likes to save the day!”
Indeed, the global success of the show has seen him save his own career. O’Carroll’s upbringing is often referred to as a “rags to riches” tale.
“It is true. Having said that I wasn’t aware of the rags to riches element,” he suggests.
“We lived in a council house, any my mum had 11 kids. I was the youngest and we were probably poor, but I didn’t feel poor.
“I never imagined that we went without anything but we probably did. We got meat on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and the rest of the week we were baking. We didn’t realise it was fashionable at the time.
“When stand-up took off it took off big time and I thought I could walk on water like Jesus Christ. So I invested all my money in a movie and lost everything. So I was back to square one.
“Having said that because I started at square one I didn’t feel that much better, I just started again.”
“Australians are more similar to Irish than British in their humour.”
Mrs. Brown’s Boys may not have won over all the critics, but audiences can’t get enough of its working class comedy, with O’Carroll frocking up as Agnes “Mammy” Brown and many of his own family in supporting roles. The show has spawned a feature film, DVDs and Live Tours. The first tour in Australia in 2014 was a sellout success, with another due in 2018.
“Australians are more similar to Irish than British in their humour. They are more hard-hitting and they get irony more,” he explains.
“The promoters said ‘Wait until you get to Australia’ and I said ‘Sure, sure…’ but it really did catch me by surprise.
“Somebody in Hobart sent me an email saying they were devastated because the tickets went on sale at 9:00 but by 5 past 9 the tickets were sold out. So I got them tickets and they came to the show. But the reaction was amazing.
“If I go to Perth there are 50,000 people over the weekend. In Perth! I’d never even been to Perth! But they took to it and loved it, thank god.”
Despite being so hands-on with his material, or perhaps because of it, O’Carroll still gets a nervous excitement when a new script is about to go before his ensemble cast or before a Live audience.
“It doesn’t matter how many times you write a script, when it comes to the day of reading it with all the cast, I go in with butterflies in my stomach, thinking ‘Please god I hope this is funny!'” he continues.
“I think I’m addicted to adrenalin.”
“By the time they have finished reading and laughing you think, ‘Thank Jesus.’ Who wouldn’t give their left arm for a job like that?
“That first night in the theatre, after weeks of rehearsals, you let the adults in and you do it for real. You go out there and you come off…. the feeling of that night there is nothing that matches that. Not even stepping on the moon would match that, for me. It’s exhilarating.
“I think I’m addicted to adrenalin.”
But for his 2017 Christmas specials the role of son Rory Brown will see his son Eric O’Carroll replace outgoing actor Rory Cowan.
“Family is the most important thing. Nothing else is as important as that. He can’t be away for 6 weeks. He needs to be where his mum is and he wants to care for her.
“Luckily thanks to people in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada UK….. we’ve made enough money that he’s able to do that.
“To the show it’s no big deal, but to Rory and his mum it’s a really important deal.”
Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas Box Set, Specials & Really Big Box Set all released on DVD on Nov. 15.