Brendan O’Carroll’s much-loved sitcom is about to hit the big screen. He talks to Jeananne Craig about the switch.
The display, at The Little Museum of Dublin, charts the comedian’s ascent from the youngest of 11 children to the Bafta-winning creator of one of TV’s most successful sitcoms.
“I looked around and thought, ‘My mother [Maureen, an Irish Labour Party politician who died in 1984] would just love this’,” the star says, looking wistful.
“Then I realised: ‘No she wouldn’t. She’d be 105. She wouldn’t even remember her name!”
It’s exactly the kind of ice-breaker you can imagine coming from O’Carroll’s comic creation Agnes Brown, the cardigan-loving matriarch who has proved a hit with audiences around the world.
With its bawdy humour and knowing winks to the camera, Mrs Brown’s Boys has attracted legions of fans from Iceland to Australia.
It has now spawned a film, Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie, which takes the action beyond the fruit and veg trader’s front porch, as she fights to save her market stall from a ruthless developer.
Bringing Mrs Brown to the big screen meant O’Carroll and the show’s crew – who record the TV version in Glasgow – had a bigger budget to work with, but they didn’t want to ‘go crazy’ and lose the essence of the beloved sitcom.
“I wanted to tell a story in the family’s comfort zone,” explains 58-year-old O’Carroll, whose own grandmother hailed from Dublin’s famous Moore Street market.
“We got to show the market, we got to show her at work, we got to show her interact with people. It made for a nice little story.”
Mrs Brown started life as a short sketch O’Carroll penned for Irish radio station RTE 2FM, and the Brown family went on to appear in a series of novels and stage plays before coming to the attention of BBC producer Stephen McCrum.
Mrs Brown’s Boys had its TV debut in 2011 and, after all these years cross-dressing for his crust, O’Carroll now has Agnes’ hair and make-up routine down to ‘about five minutes’.
“Maybe I’m halfway there to being an old woman, but it doesn’t take me that long,” he jokes.
“Bodysuit on, foundation on, colour in the mole and Bob’s your auntie, there’s Mrs Brown.”
Minus the wig and cardi, moustachioed O’Carroll rarely gets recognised by fans of the show. “I tend not to get that glance recognition, unless I’m with Jenny,” he explains.
Jenny is O’Carroll’s second wife, Jennifer Gibney, who also plays Mrs Brown’s daughter Cathy in the show.
If you think that’s confusing, O’Carroll’s son Danny plays Mrs Brown’s loveable rogue of a lad Buster, and his daughter Fiona, and Danny’s real-life wife Amanda, plays Agnes’ daughters-in-law.
Meanwhile, O’Carroll’s older sister Eilish plays Mrs Brown’s best friend, Winnie.
“There’s a great shorthand between [the family] and without getting too gushy about it, there’s a great love,” says O’Carroll, who admits that it’s ‘very hard to throw a stone without hitting a relative’.
The success of the show has baffled some critics, who see it as lacking in sophistication and comic subtlety.
But O’Carroll insists: “The recognition I set out for was the recognition of the viewers, the people who pay the bills and wages, or in the case of the live show, the people who go to the trouble of buying tickets a year in advance.”
When O’Carroll and Gibney aren’t working, they are based in Florida, where they golf, swim, read and lead what sounds like an idyllic existence.
He admits that most of his neighbours aren’t sure what he does for a living.
“I think some of them think I’m a drug dealer. I go away for three months, I come back and I’ve got a new Jaguar... Americans are much too polite to ask.”