Sunday 23 October 2016

Ian O'Doherty: It's not begrudgery – we just don't like it

Published 26/06/2014 | 02:30

Brendan O'Carroll as Mrs Brown
Brendan O'Carroll as Mrs Brown
Interview: Gary Oldman

I've interviewed Brendan O'Carroll on several occasions and he's always an interesting and spiky subject. For example, he once asked me if I knew a particular journalist who had just given his stage show a complete shellacking.

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He insisted that he wasn't upset about the bad review – although he obviously was – but was furious when, the next day at the box office, he discovered an envelope with the reviewer's tickets still inside.

Maybe the hack did skip the show and slammed it anyway, which is unethical, unfair and stupid. On the other hand, the reviewer could have simply gone to the show with another hack and didn't need to pick up his own tickets.

That episode seemed to fuel his already simmering contempt for critics and proved, if correct, that just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get out you.

But while his anger at such treatment is obviously understandable, the release of Mrs Brown D'Movie seems to have dragged up some weird form of class warfare. It's a strange cultural inversion which sees predominantly middle-class defenders of Mrs Brown accuse his detractors of being too middle-class to understand the show.

According to this rather skewed argument, the only people who loath his creation are university-educated snobs who look down on popular entertainment, while 'ordinary' punters are more attuned to his earthy wit and familiar storylines.

Just the other day, one commentator lauded: "The obstinate refusal of the paying public to heed their betters on the matter of Mrs Brown ... and being Irish, in a country where begrudgery is a national sport, doesn't endear him to the naysayers, either."

There's just one teeny, weeny problem with this theory – it's completely and demonstrably wrong.

Disliking Mrs Brown has nothing to do with begrudgery, but it has everything to do with personal taste. And Mrs Brown is most definitely not to everyone's taste. The comedian, and his supporters, have been employing the old Millwall mentality of "nobody likes us and we don't care", a tactic that places them on the side of the ordinary, trustworthy people.

Meanwhile, anyone who doesn't buy into the myth is portrayed as some anally retentive, Oxbridge-educated smartass who only likes Eddie Izzard. And even then only when he performs in French.

The truth is rather more mundane – for example, two of his most vocal critics in the Irish media are from Dublin's south-inner city, so they can hardly be accused of being elitist snobs. And as much as they can't stand his creation, both of them wish O'Carroll all the personal success in the world.

Only a fool would fail to be impressed by O'Carroll's stubbornness and his perseverance when the creditors were at his door and he faced the prospect of losing everything. He bounced back then, as he always does, and for that he deserves our respect and admiration. Indeed, I am happy to go on the record and say that I am genuinely fond of the man and his sidekick, Rory Cowan, and I'd be delighted if they all walk away from this movie several million euros richer than when they started shooting. But that doesn't change the fact that Mrs Brown is as funny as a cancer diagnosis.

Is that begrudgery? Elitism? Cultural fascism? Is wishing someone well, but thinking their product is a load of recycled rubbish, a sign of 'the Irish disease', as some of his supporters claim?

To use the language he converses in, I absolutely laugh my hole off every time he wins an award at some swanky British awards show. But that's a lot more than I've ever done while watching his TV show or live gigs.

Maybe that's the thing that frightens him most – most of the dreaded media are actually quite happy to see Brendan O'Carroll do well for himself, we just think his show is crap.

Oh, one final note to all those people who think it's great that he hates critics and who laugh at the myth that he won't even let them see his movie.

Well, the press screening is on at 10 o'clock this morning. Seems he doesn't hate them that much, after all.


Like many people, I was rather shocked to see Gary Oldman's controversial interview in the current issue of Playboy. I thought magazine had quietly expired some time ago.

Resurrecting the great tradition of slebs shooting their mouth off when talking to Hugh Heffner's organ, he railed against the pieties of political correctness and how intolerant liberal Hollywood really is.

He defended Mel Gibson, thought people were too quick to condemn Alec Baldwin and, generally, was a breath of fresh air in an industry where opinions tend to be stale and rancid.

So, having made some interesting points, such as claiming that the Jews run Hollywood, he faced the usual witch hunt from the likes of the overly zealous Anti-Defamation League. Sadly, but inevitably, he has apologised and now seems to be focussed on saving his career from going down the toilet.

In his apology, Oldman admits that he had recently been reading Neal Gabler's An Empire of Their Own: How The Jews Invented Hollywood.

Should that classic text be banned as well?

Still, it could have been worse. After all, anyone who ever saw the fascinating behind-the-scenes documentary series, The Larry Sanders Show, would know one dire warning: "It's not the Jews – it's the gay Jews."

At least Oldman didn't annoy them, I suppose.

Oh really, O'Reilly?

So our increasingly hapless Minister for Health continues his war on easy targets by announcing plans to ban cigarette machines from pubs.

Well, minister, here's a newsflash: I occasionally frequent a bar where we can smoke openly, like civilised people, and they responded to this news of the latest ban with the promise that they will now sell cigarettes under the counter.

I'd offer to bring the minister there for a pint but I'd hate to be barred for bringing in someone who would lower the tone of the place.

Ian O'Doherty

Irish Independent

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