O'Carroll says his show's Bafta success is down to the recession
'Mrs Brown' helps us switch off, says creator
BRITAIN'S new king of comedy, Bafta-winning comic Brendan O'Carroll, is convinced his audience is desperately laughing through the tears in the teeth of the recession.
Giving new meaning to the phrase 'comic timing', he has credited the recession as the secret ingredient behind the runaway success of his hit show Mrs Brown's Boys.
The Finglas-born comic described how terrified ordinary people on both sides of the Irish Sea feel a complete lack of control over their future and are grabbing the opportunity to switch off and allow themselves to laugh amid the stress of their daily lives.
"When a recession gets as deep as this, the average person feels that they just have no control over what's going to happen tomorrow, and you get terrified and you get scared and when that happens, people get nostalgic.
"People start thinking about when the summers were longer and Christmases were brighter and times weren't as tough. And I think Mrs Brown, luckily enough, ticks those boxes.
"It hankers back to the days when things were a lot simpler and you just know that. If you watch it you are guaranteed to have 20 or 30 laughs.
"I think it's a relief for people. It's a switch off."
Last Sunday morning, O'Carroll's wife, Jenny, gingerly cleared a space on the window sill for the latest addition to the Dubliner's growing collection of awards -- despite her husband's objections not to jinx their night.
Hours later he was lifting the most prestigious prize in British television -- after attracting an audience of 8.3 million viewers for the show and expanding worldwide to Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, South Africa, Turkey, Slovakia and Romania.
"It's mad," he said simply.
Yet despite the astonishing global success of the show, the 56-year-old admitted that the jibes of critics -- particularly in Ireland -- still cut him to the bone.
"I can learn from some of them but, truthfully, they also hurt. God, they are just like somebody taking a hot rod and sticking it in the middle of your back. It's a terrible, horrible feeling.
"Anyone would tell you -- it doesn't matter how big the ratings are, it doesn't matter if you get 200 magnificent critiques. When you get one bad one, that's the one that puts a knot in your stomach and just twists it.
"It's the one bad one that always sticks in your mind.
"I haven't read them in ages and that doesn't make a difference because there is always someone willing to tell you about it."
But he said "at the end of the day, I don't do this for them. They're the only ones who don't pay for a f**king ticket. They get in for free."
With sell-out shows to 5,000-seater stadiums each night, O'Carroll said he is very mindful that people get their money's worth.
"I'm very conscious that it's not just about buying a €25 ticket, it's getting your suit dry-cleaned, your hair done, the baby-sitter in, a few drinks beforehand. I don't want my bit to be the bit that lets that night down.
"In the early days we used to be performing to 28 or 30 people in a theatre that holds 500. The others would be a bit down and I'd say 'hey, it's not their fault that nobody else is here. They paid for their ticket, now let's get out there and give them the best show of their lives."
The comic, who is a member of Mensa with an IQ of 156, which puts him in the top two per cent in Ireland, is adamant that the show's success won't change his lifestyle.
"It took three years for Stephen (the producer) to convince me to do the series because I was saying, 'Stephen I like my life, I already have everything I ever want'."
Speaking about his family's involvement in the show he said: "Fiona married my producer Martin who plays Trevor also. They had two kids and are doing very well. Danny married one of the actresses in the show they are doing well. We had the kids on the road with us with two nannies and life was really good and this was all before we had any TV series so to be quite honest with you before the TV series ever came along we were all really happy."
And on his first wife Doreen's reaction to the win, he says:
"Herself and her partner Tommy, who is one of the nicest people in the world, they've always celebrated our success because Doreen's three children are also working with the show, she's not just celebrating my achievement she's celebrating the achievement of her children."
Twelve years ago O'Carroll and his wife made a decision never to work when their children were off school and still stick to their routine of 26 weeks holidays every year.
"It's not about money in the bank.
"The only thing money can do for you is buy you time and that's the time off to spend with people you want to spend it with."
The shrewd comedian, who inherited the nickname 'Can-Do Kid' as a child in Finglas, is set to become a very rich man (over €10m) after holding on to the rights of the BAFTA- winning show.
"I'm a bit long in the tooth to be giving everything away, but I also know at some stage I'm not going to be here and I'd like to leave something to my children and to my grandchildren. Hopefully this will do that -- between the royalties coming in off the books, the royalties coming in off the TV series, the royalties coming in off the animation series and the royalties coming in off the rights that we sell worldwide... well, no matter what happens to me, my grandchildren will be alright.
"And I'm old enough to know that me going out and getting a Maserati or a Ferrari is just not on.
"Not at all -- I'd look like a wart on a frog's arse."
He's may be joking about the royalties -- but every word is true.
O'Connor is about to start filming the third series, but already the first two series are being repeated on TV stations from Australia to South Africa, and O'Carroll gets paid everytime the show is shown.
And DVD sales of the series has overtaken hit shows like The Office and Little Britain.
He is also embarking on an arena tour that takes them to Bournemouth, London, Nottingham and Newcastle before they return to Ireland at the end of June.
But his ambitions don't end there. He revealed last week in a radio interview with Highland Radio that he is edging closer to the world of politics and has not ruled out running for a seat in the Dail.
His mother Maureen was a TD in Dublin for the Labour Party.
But he said he would only ever run for the Dail if he could manage to not be reliant on a TD's salary.
"I always said that I wouldn't run until such time as I didn't need the money.
"I didn't want to be in a position where I needed to stay elected to get the money, because I don't think your thinking would be the same."
He said: "I'm getting closer and closer to that stage ... I'd love to serve my country, love to."
The best thing, he said, is what money can't buy -- making people laugh.
"When that first laugh comes from those 5,000 people, it's actually so loud it moves your clothes -- you can actually feel your clothes vibrating."
Does it beat sex?
"Ah no, let's not exaggerate. The only difference is that usually at the end of the show I get a round of applause."