Brendan O’Carroll: I get goosebumps that Mrs Brown has become part of Christmas

 Mrs Brown’s Boys’ creator Brendan O’Carroll tells Rachael Davis about his festive family traditions and the ‘buzz’ of the sitcom’s Christmas specials.

Just like for the Brown family, Christmas for Brendan O’Carroll means family antics full of hilarity. Pictures: PA Photo/BBC/Alan Peebles

For many families across Ireland, the UK and beyond, Mrs Brown’s Boys is as much a part of Christmas as a stuffed turkey, crackers and a cheeky morning glass of bubbly.

Comedian Brendan O’Carroll, who created the sitcom and stars as Agnes Brown, says it “really is a buzz” that Mrs Brown’s Boys has become such a Christmas staple, particularly as the programme returns to BBC One for its typical two-episode bumper festive specials.

“I absolutely love it – I get goosebumps that Mrs Brown has become part of Christmas,” says the 67-year-old.

“That’s what people who come to the show say – ‘Ah, it wouldn’t be Christmas without Mrs Brown’. You’re kinda going ‘Oh my God, we established that’.

“Because in my day that was Morecambe and Wise. It wasn’t Christmas without Morecambe and Wise. So it’s a buzz.” 

Mrs Brown with Bono, played by Eric O'Carroll

Just like for the Brown family, Christmas for O’Carroll – who is the youngest of 11 siblings – means family antics full of hilarity.

“It’s usually a time when the whole family gather, even though the family are away,” he says.

“My memories of Christmas… I’m the youngest of 11. So by the time I came into my formative years, most of the family had either emigrated or got married. And at Christmas, on Christmas Day and Christmas Eve, they’d all come home.

“I spend my Christmas week in the airport crying with joy as my sister or brother would walk through the arrivals gate. And then of course, I’d spend the new year crying at the same gate because they were going.

“Christmas was family.” 

“We try and keep it that way as well,” adds O’Carroll, who has been married to his Mrs Brown’s Boys co-star Jennifer Gibney since 2005.

Several of his children and grandchildren also appear in the show – so a family Christmas really is a Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas.

“Even now, Christmas morning, we’d have all the kids and the grandkids together for breakfast. They have to go their own way and do their own Christmas dinner because they’ve got to make their own Christmas too, but breakfast at Granny and Grandad’s is very much part of their Christmas.

“They start arriving at about 7.30 in the morning, so the joy of them all coming is fantastic. But it’s only matched by the f****** joy of them all going! Because the place is in bedlam.

“And then you spend your late Christmas morning tidying up, and then of course it’s Christmas dinner time. I’ve always cooked Christmas dinner for the family. So I get my turkey ready and get my spread ready.

“And then Christmas night, we have a pyjama party. So everybody comes, the cast, some of the crew. Everybody comes to our house in their pyjamas. And we have a few drinks and we all watch the Christmas episode (of Mrs Brown’s Boys) together – we all watch it for the first time, we haven’t seen it before.

“It’s a buzz. It’s great. We look at each other and we go ‘No, you were great!’ ‘No, no, you were great!’” 

This year’s Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas special is set to be as much of an event as ever, with the usual japes, laughs and festive cheer.

The Christmas episode centres around Buster’s “magic Christmas tree”, which he claims is only visible to those who are pure of heart, and who believe in Santa Claus – “which Agnes thinks is bull****”, says O’Carroll.

Sure enough, after Agnes puts up the Christmas tree, it starts to vanish and reappear – and the common denominator is that every time Cathy’s boyfriend arrives at the house, the tree disappears.

“So Buster thinks it’s because her boyfriend is a vampire, Agnes thinks it may be just because he doesn’t believe in Christmas, he doesn’t believe in Santa – we don’t find out till the New Year episode exactly why it is, or what it was,” says O’Carroll.

Mrs Brown’s Boys is always recorded in front of a live studio audience, which O’Carroll says totally brings the show to life.

Boris' Daughters 'The Creepy Twins'. 

The cast and crew will rehearse for 12 hours a day for three days, but O’Carroll won’t ever get dressed up as Mrs Brown – he’ll keep his jeans, T-shirt and moustache (“You know, I often thought about leaving the ‘stache on so I’d look like my mother!” he jokes) until it’s time to record.

“When you finish your last rehearsal, Jenny and I’d go back to the apartment and have a cup of coffee, and I’d say ‘You know what? It’s ready. It’s nearly cooked. All it needs now is Mrs Brown, and an audience’. It really does need a live audience,” says the comic.

“They were phenomenal this year, I’m really proud. The BBC tell me that they had the tickets available online for 15 minutes, and there were 35,000 requests for tickets. They can only take 300 in the audience.

“You just go ‘My God almighty, 35,000 people already, in October, want to celebrate Christmas with Mrs Brown’. And that’s lovely.” 

Last year, the live audience had to adhere to strict Covid regulations, which O’Carroll says wasn’t quite the same, but 2022 saw the fun back in full force.

“When you walk on to the floor, the audience are there going ‘Just give me the slightest excuse and I will laugh, because I haven’t laughed for two-and-a-half years. So please just give me a tiny excuse’,” he says.

“The enthusiasm was absolutely amazing. We always finish the Christmas episode with a song – this year’s song, we did We Are Family, because it’s very much about family time. We couldn’t stop the audience singing!

“It was an incredible buzz, it really was. It was like a first free Christmas, like we’d all just gone to prison and we were having a Christmas. I suppose that’s really what it was.” 

Mrs Brown’s Boys returns this Christmas and New Year.

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