Mincing around her kitchen, O’Carroll’s creation, the dowdy-looking but foul-mouthed and funny Agnes Brown, has the Brits tickled pink.
Mrs Brown’s Boys beat the likes of The Office, The Thick Of it and Peep Show to be named the best British sitcom of the 21st century last year. And just last week, O’Carroll picked up the gong at the National Television Awards in London for best comedy for his series, beating Orange Is The New Black, Benidorm and The Big Bang Theory. He won this category for the fourth time in five years.
And later this year, the Mrs Brown character, will have her very own entertainment show on BBC1 on Saturday nights.
Is RTÉ kicking itself for not coming up with such a programme starring one of its own? Well, O’Carroll is Irish alright. Early in his career, he came to Gay Byrne’s favourable attention, but he has the Brits to thank for putting him into the stratosphere.
Mrs Brown’s new show is scheduled for prime time viewing on a major TV channel, up against Ant And Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway. The new series, All Round to Mrs Brown’s, will take place in her home. Agnes Brown will invite celebrity guests over and there will be ‘shenanigans’ and ‘outrageous stunts’ in front of a live audience.
It must be a dream come true for this former outsider who is now the ultimate insider.
And yet, it’s hard to find anyone who likes O’Carroll’s creation. At least, in the circles I navigate, Mrs Brown’s Boys is something to be sneered at. It’s seen as extremely low-brow, a bit vulgar with a star that is common as muck.
The problem is there’s nothing ‘ironic’ about O’Carroll’s creation. There’s no clever sub-text although the live audience is sometimes directly addressed when Mrs Brown is beyond caring given some awful catastrophe her family has visited upon her.
But for the most part, Mrs Brown’s Boys is a cheap-looking affair, a sitcom full of double entendres, a matriarch who is prone to malapropisms, a revolting old man in a chair (or in a bed), a gay son, and a grandson wonderfully named Bono, to mention just some of the characters.
Mrs Brown’s Boys doesn’t have the genius of The Royle Family but I have a soft spot for it — which doesn’t go down well in the company I keep.
Once, to arty types, I admitted to finding the sitcom funny in a slapstick way. I was met with pitying looks.
But it’s not all about Beckett, you know. Sometimes you need fairly mindless light relief.
I loved the time that Mrs Brown, all geared up for an evening of ‘swinging’, lined up her swing music albums only to discover that wife-swapping was on the agenda.
Silly, yes, but the horror on the bewigged Mrs Brown’s face was a hoot.
When I interviewed Brendan O’Carroll about seven years ago, he had just finished paying off considerable debt accrued during the making of a film. A few days before shooting, he lost his distributor. That meant he lost his budget.
He told me he should have quit the project but said he had such arrogance, he was at the stage where “I thought I was Midas”. He spent money he didn’t have. He said he was the only person who had ever seen the movie.
During the worst period of this episode, O’Carroll took to the bed for two days, not answering the phone. But he had “a sort of epiphany”. He knelt down and prayed to his mammy, asking her what he should do. That night, he had a dream in which his mammy advised that if you want something bad enough, do it — NOW.
The next day, O’Carroll realised that he just had to keep working. With the film shelved, he got on with his other work.
So, you really can’t begrudge this guy his success. He’s a self-made man who left school at the age of twelve, gagging to get out into the work place.
He worked as a waiter and at the behest of his mother (who became a Labour Party TD) he got a qualification at Cathal Brugha Street catering college.
But silver service was never going to satisfy this born comedian. And thanks to his talent and persistence, he is comedy gold. Not in the sense of our other funny men exports such as Dara O Briain or witty chat show host, Graham Norton. Those lads are posh. O’Carroll is common — and there’s nothing wrong with that. Feck the begrudgers!