Comedian Brendan O’Carroll is in high spirits when he calls us to chat about Mrs Brown’s spooktacular Halloween special. In his native Ireland Samhain - meaning 'Summer’s end' - is one of the biggest festivals of the year, celebrated with trick or treating, fireworks, dressing up, and parties.
So it’s no surprise that mischievous matriarch Mrs Brown and her coven are planning a fang-tastic live [yes really!] outing on Friday, Oct. 29 on BBC1.
Here the wickedly funny Brendan O’Carroll, 66, creator and star of Mrs Brown's Boys, tells us more…
Brendan O’Carroll, what makes Halloween a special time for you?
Brendan O’Carroll: "Halloween is a big time for us. A lot of people don’t know that we, the Irish, started that. I love when the winter nights come in and it starts to get dark early. For me this time of year was always a rush to the holidays. You’d go back to school in September and the first festive celebration would be Halloween. You’d know that you’d only have your Halloween mask off and Santa would be on your back straight away!"
Did you have a job selling a live outing of 'Mrs Brown’s Boys' to the BBC?
BOC: "We didn’t really! They wanted to do something for our 10 year anniversary. We initially planned on doing a Paddy’s Day special on the 17th of March, but we couldn’t have an audience in the studio. We can’t do live comedy without an audience, so I said, why don't we do a Halloween special, there has to be a loosening of restrictions by then. And I’m delighted that we did!"
Given Mrs Brown’s naughty reputation the BBC are very brave!
BOC: "Brave is one word. Foolhardy is another! I can't tell you how honoured I am that they’ve put this trust in us. When I asked if there will be a 20 second delay, they said, 'no'. They're really trusting us!"
Can you reveal what Agnes and her family get up to on the night?
BOC: "A soul comes back from the dead to haunt Agnes. She’s the only one that can see him. The family keeps walking in on her when she's having a conversation with an empty chair or the press on the wall. Eventually she convinces them that the ghost is there and they have an exorcism in the house."
It sounds ripe for laughs!
BOC: "Father Damien (Doctor Who star Conor Moloney) does the exorcism, but anybody who hasn’t been to communion recently has to leave, no virgins can be there, because they attract evil spirits, and nobody who’s attended a satanic rite can stay, so Winnie [played by Brendan’s sister, Eilish O’Carroll] has to go!
"There’s a very funny line in it that I loved writing when Winnie says: 'I needed the money and they told me I could keep the chicken when it was over!' It ends up with just Agnes, the priest, granddad and the ghost!"
Did you enjoy trick or treating when you were growing up in Dublin?
BOC: [Laughing] "Yes - it was the ideal time to break in… I mean, to knock on doors!
"I remember when we were kids, one of the guys said that someone had put a big basket of fruit and nuts on the front doorstep and a sign pinned to the door saying 'help yourself'. I said, 'I bet it didn’t last long' and he said, 'I don’t know but I took the doorknob and the knocker!'"
What about dressing up - were you a fan?
BOC: "It was always last minute when you’d go to your Mam and say, 'I know I said I didn’t want to dress up, but I do, I do!' She’d just stick a cap on you, your big brother’s shirt, put her hand into the fireplace, rub a bit of soot on your face and say - 'you’re a chimney sweep!'
"It was a luxurious time because, for the entire year, we wouldn’t have seen a walnut or a Brazil nut. I remember the first time I saw a mandarin and thinking - it’s an orange that nearly peels itself!"
Now that you live in Florida, do you still celebrate?
BOC: "Well, Jenny [Brendan’s wife Jennifer Gibney, who plays Mrs Brown’s daughter Cathy] dresses up in this nurse's outfit and… oh wait, wait a minute, that’s not Halloween."
WTW: "Brendan, this is a family publication!"
BOC: [Laughing] "It’s really big in Florida. We put on a bit of a scary outfit to answer the door to the kids and give them a bit of an 'Argghh!'
"In Ireland we’d wait until it was dark before going trick or treating, but in America it starts about midday. They drop into shops at the mall and get candy, then they finish by knocking on the doors of their own street with their parents. There’s a great thing they do here that makes sense - if you leave a pumpkin on the curb outside your house they know that it’s okay to call in."
Who in the 'Mrs Brown’s Boys' cast is most likely to play a Halloween prank?
BOC: "Definitely Danny [Brendan’s son, Danny O’Carroll, who plays Buster Brady]. He’s a brat! He spends his whole time trying to frighten Paddy Houlihan, who plays [Mrs Brown’s son] Dermot. And Paddy falls for it every time!"
And who do you think would cope best in a Haunted House?
BOC: "Not Jenny. She wouldn’t go in! I don’t think any of them would volunteer to go into a Haunted House. I think I’d do okay. If I had to live in a Haunted House I think I’d be alright; I’d just just brush it off."
Do you believe in ghosts?
BOC: "Honestly, I don't know. I've had a couple of experiences that I couldn't explain. Jenny falling for me - that’s weird!"
What spooks you the most?
BOC: "I used to be terrified of the Banshee. Terrified! Have you ever heard a cat at night when they’re looking for a mate? I used to think that was a Banshee. I know it's not true, but in the back of the mind it is true. I’d wet the bed, and I was 25 at the time!"
Finally back recording our Christmas specials, so good to be back in front of a live audience ♥️@bbccomedy @RTEOne pic.twitter.com/hcvu4iHN0qOctober 7, 2021
You mentioned Christmas earlier, will Mrs Brown be back with more festive fun?
BOC: "Yes, Christmas Day and New Year's Day. We’ve recorded the first of our two Christmas specials and started rehearsals for New Year’s. It’s amazing to be back in front of an audience! They roared and cheered and cackled, it was like they’d been let off the leash. It was a buzz!"
Mrs Brown's Boys Live airs on BBC1 on Friday 29 October 2021 at 9.30pm.
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With twenty years of experience as an entertainment journalist, Elaine writes for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and www.whattowatch.com covering a variety of programs from gardening and wildlife to documentaries and drama.
As well as active involvement in the WTW family’s social media accounts, she has been known to get chatty on the red carpet and wander into the odd podcast.
After a day of previewing TV, writing about TV and interviewing TV stars, Elaine likes nothing than to relax… by watching TV.