THAT his mother died when he was just 28 did Brendan O’Carroll a favour, he says. It’s a surprisingly dark moment in an otherwise bright chat with the comedy star, who is taking a break at his holiday home in Florida when we catch up.
“I never failed when she was alive,” says the 55-year-old Dubliner, the youngest of 11 children.
“And to learn you need to fail. Between the age of 28 and 35 everything I touched turned to cr*p. I failed a lot and I learned a lot. So, as much as I loved her and I adored the ground she walked on, probably the best thing she ever did for me was to die.”
He believes she would have enjoyed his success.
“I was a waiter when she died. She would have absolutely loved this.”
It was more than 20 years ago that his comedy career turned around, when Irish radio station RTE commissioned him to write a series of short stories based on his character, Agnes Brown, the loud-mouthed widow, whose favourite pastime is meddling in the lives of her six children.
The series ran for three years. O’Carroll followed that with a series of bestselling Mrs Brown books, sell-out stage tours, nine DVDs and even a movie, starring Angelica Huston, called Agnes Brown.
But he’s only really become a household name in Britain in the past few months with the BBC TV series Mrs Brown’s Boys.
It’s riddled with expletives, so did he have trouble getting them past BBC censors.
“I expected them to say there’d be none but they took the opposite view,” he says. “Bizarrely, the first script meeting I had with them, they said ‘We want you to do the show exactly as you would on stage, then all we have to think about is what time we put it on at’.”
He adds: “I don’t know if you noticed but as the series went on I cut them down. That first episode had 34 effs in it and I thought that’s too many. So if there was any editing it was done by me, not them.”
Mrs Brown was a success for O’Carroll, whose wife Jenny plays Cathy in the series, long before he reached British TV, to the extent that he’s able to work for only six months of the year.
“The BBC get six weeks of my time and that leaves me 20 weeks to tour, which I spend across the United States, Ireland and the UK. And then I take off on holiday for 26 weeks.”
“Way back, when I’d only been doing stand-up for a year or so, I got a call from a guy who wanted me to do a date. I’d already booked a caravan holiday, so I said ‘Sorry, I can’t’. He said ‘OK, I’ll give you £500’. I said ‘No, I’m actually not working that weekend.’ He rang me back later: ‘£750 and that’s me last offer.’ I said ‘look, I’m not working’ and he said ‘You’ve some cheek.... £1,500 and that’s it.’”
He laughs: “I said ‘What date did you want me to do? I’ll be there!’. I learnt a lesson. The scarcer you are, the more valuable you are.”
As well as his home in Dublin, he has another in Orlando where he spends a lot of the winter. It’s where he’s been holed up ahead of next month’s UK tour of Good Mourning Mrs Brown.
“It’s 84 degrees and glorious. It’s only now that I realise what people mean by seasonally affected disorder. The feeling of getting up in the morning to a blue sky is amazing. It really does cheers you up.”
He adds: “The BBC are under the impression that I’m actually writing the next series for them but I haven’t a clue what to write. We start recording in September. And there’s a possibility of us doing a Christmas special.”
Before that he’ll shoot new ITV sitcom The Security Men, written by Caroline Aherne.
“It’s set in a shopping centre and I’m working opposite Bobby Ball, which I’ve wanted to do for years. I’m looking forward to that because it’s not my script. I just do my piece then go.”
O’Carroll spent his teenage years doing odd jobs as a waiter, milkman, pirate radio DJ and painter and decorator, even running his own bar and cabaret lounge.
“I still have to pinch myself,” he admits.
He’ll be bringing his show to Nottingham for the first time, with six dates from June 28.
“I have never set foot in Nottingham in my life and I am so looking forward to it because I was a Nottingham Forest fan during the Cloughie years and I loved that man. I thought he was so brash.
“He was the Mrs Brown of football. He said what he liked and he was prepared to accept the consequences.”
Good Mourning Mrs Brown at the Royal Concert Hall, June 28-July 3. Tickets £19.50-£27.50, 0115 989 5555, www.gigsandtours.com