AT a recent exhibition launch, Mrs Brown’s Boys star Brendan O’Carroll had the chance to reflect on his success.
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 and she wouldn’t know where she f***in’ lived!’
“She wouldn’t even remember her name!”
It’s exactly the kind of four-lettered ice-breaker you can imagine coming from the mouth of 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 worldwide. Its most recent festive special racked up 9.4 million viewers, beating Downton Abbey and Call The Midwife to the Christmas Day top spot.
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 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 O’Carroll now has Agnes’ hair and make-up routine down to “about five minutes”.
He jokes, “Maybe I’m halfway there to being an old woman, but it doesn’t take me that long. Bodysuit on, foundation on, colour in the mole and Bob’s your auntie, there’s Mrs Brown.”
Minus the wig, moustachioed O’Carroll rarely gets recognised by fans - “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.”
He adds, “There will always be critics, there will always be donkeys telling the racehorse how he should have run the race, always.”
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.”
His fellow Dubliners, on the other hand, seem to have no problem quizzing O’Carroll on what he’s up to.
“About two weeks after we finished the movie, I was filming Who Do You Think You Are? for the BBC and one of the scenes was in Moore Street,” he recalls with a smile.
“One of the old dears said to me, ‘What are you making Brendan?’ I said, ‘It’s a programme for BBC called Who Do You Think You Are?’
“Another woman came up to see what we were doing and asked what I was doing. She told her, ‘It’s a programme called Who The F*** Do You Think You Are?’
“And I just thought, ‘You know what? I love being home’.”
Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie is in cinemas tomorow