Digital Spy

Search Digital Spy
21

TV Interview

Brendan O'Carroll interview: 'We all want to be Joan Rivers'

By
Mrs Brown

© BBC Pictures

Brendan O'Carroll's Mrs Brown's Boys burst on to TV screens earlier this year, causing a bit of a stir. Outraging many critics, but pleasing many millions of viewers, it proved a ratings hit with its outrageous gags and gloriously rude language.

Busy working on a second series and Christmas special, Digital Spy caught up with O'Carroll to discuss the show's success.

The show arrived out of nowhere for many viewers, but you've been working on Mrs Brown for a number of years, haven't you?
"You're dead right. For many people Mrs Brown has come from the middle of nowhere. But Mrs Brown was first written for radio. I wrote it for a radio series in 1992. It was a five-minute piece for radio and it's been absolutely astonishing. Out of that five-minute radio piece have come four novels that have been in the Top 20 in 22 countries in seven languages, a film starring Angelica Houston, five stage plays and a TV series. All out of that five-minute series, who would have believed it? I always pretend that I had it all planned, but believe me, Alex, none of this was planned."

Has she changed at all over the past 20 years?
"No, not really. When I did the radio, she was a very Dublin woman and I thought it would work for a Dublin audience and that would be it. So it was exactly as you see her now. But she's just turned out to be a universal mother. I get letters from people in Alaska and China saying that they recognise the character that I've created. She's this universal mammy. The hand that rocks the cradle runs the world."

Did you enjoy the fact that people got a bit annoyed and had their noses put out of joint when the show first aired?
"I have to say, I did yes. [laughs] But listen, whenever you do comedy, it should be subversive. It should challenge the norms. I'm not a political comedian as such, but all comedy is subversive and there are comedians around the world in prison because of certain political regimes and indecency laws. It's nice to feel part of that and be on the edge and maybe upset a few people. But you know, she's not subversive in a huge way... the way Agnes speaks is just a rhythm. She has her own unique punctuation. If you took the word f**k out of it, I'd think it would be the same as taking every second word out of Wordsworth's poems and seeing if they read the same. It wouldn't be."

Are you someone who reads reviews?
"Not usually. Neither the good ones or the bad ones. The reviews that count are the ones that pay at the door. The ones that come in and sit down after opening their wallets. The old saying goes, 'You'll always have a donkey trying to tell a racehorse how to run a race'. And that seems to be the case. I think it's more the case nowadays than it used to be. Entertainment reviewing in a bygone age was much more involved and it seems to be that young first-time journalists with their foot in the door are now handed reviews.

"There isn't that full-time reviewer vibe anymore, which is a pity. Because these kids, God love them, they have no comparison. A great reviewer will look at your comedy in the contest of everything that's gone before from Ben Elton to Charlie Chaplin. So even if they don't like it, they can appreciate what the comedian is trying to do, That constructive approach doesn't happen in most reviews in papers. Please don't think I'm taking the piss out of you, Alex, because I'm not! I swear."

Watch a clip of Mrs Brown's Boys:



Is it right the show was delayed initially because of the Brand and Ross Sachsgate incident?
"That's kind of right. It was just that I worked with a producer who had worked at the BBC for a long time and knew all the politics. I'm not great on the politics and that sort of thing. We did have the pilot ready to go, but he called me and said, 'We'll hold it back for six months because of all the Brand and Ross stuff. Right now it's just too sensitive'. In the end, I think it was a good move.

"Looking back at all of that though, I think it's just like I was saying about reviewers missing the point. If you watch Mrs Brown and only hear the 'f**ks' then you're missing the joke and the whole point. It's like when you hear someone talking about a movie and they say that they love how it was shot or they think the sets were fantastic. You just know it was brilliantly s**t when someone says that. It was s**t, simple as that."

Do you ever worry about offending people?
"If you are writing comedy and try to please everybody, you'll please nobody. What I do, I just write things that I found funny. I go on what makes me laugh. I can't do anymore than that. You know, I'm no young buck. My influences would be Canon & Ball, Les Dawson, people who were in a very different comedy environment to the one we have now. I've always been the sort of person, who says what I think and I don't think I've ever really deliberately hurt anyone in my life. I don't see the point in doing that.

Mrs Brown
"I did a radio show once in Ireland and this guy phoned me up to say he didn't find a gay joke I did funny. I said, 'Can you tell me a gag that won't offend anyone?' He said, 'Two gay guys run into an old lady, one pins her down, the other does her hair'. I said, 'Well that's offensive. Not all gay people are hairdressers, not all hairdressers are gays and pinning an old lady to the floor is never funny'. If I wanted to, I could find something wrong and offensive in every gag. But then we'd have no comedy whatsoever. It would be bland."

Why do you think the show struck a chord with so many people?
"I don't know the secret of Mrs Brown, but what I do know is that there are things that Mrs Brown says and does that Brendan O'Carroll couldn't get away with. I think maybe it's a leniency that they're with an old woman. It's the old woman thing. I think secretly we all just want to be Joan Rivers. [laughs]"

What other sitcoms are you loving?
"I must say, I love Miranda. I thought that was creative and different and she's done great. But other than that, I think we're looking across the waters. I think with Modern Family, you'll struggle to find anything better. It's brilliantly, brilliantly written. You can see the money they've spent on it, but more importantly it's f**king funny. It makes me laugh. I think there are a shortage of good sitcoms though. We could do with some more right now."

Who were your comedy heroes?
"Yeah, the obvious ones. Morecambe and Wise, Tommy Cooper, Canon & Ball. Those old standup guys who did gags are coming back. You see it in Peter Kay and Michael McIntyre. It's a different shape, but it's there and I think audiences have changed back again. They don't want to be insulted or intellectualised anymore. For God's sake, just tell us a gag. I remember a survey about the funniest gag in the world and it turned out to be a very ordinary gag. You can't do much better than that. That's what I do. Dress up in drag and do gags."

Mrs Brown's Boy series one DVD is available to buy now

You May Like

Comments

Loading...