YOU won’t catch Brendan O’Carroll apologising to critics of his hit sitcom.
While Mrs Brown’s Boys has long been a ratings winner, the show has many detractors — including some who accuse it of racism and homophobia.
Yet the TV favourite has never been reined in by BBC bosses for its handling of sex, gender and racial politics.
Brendan, who created the show and stars as formidable Irish housewife Agnes Brown, has a simple message for those who don’t like it: “Just change the f***ing channel.
He adds: “Honestly, I put on my dress and my t**s and go out and make people laugh and I come off, take off my dress, take off my t**s, get into the shower, come out and as soon as I come out of the theatre, I don’t even think about the show.
“The evidence of four NTA awards means people are not just liking it — they’re actually prepared to stand up and shout it.
“Radio Times named us ‘Sitcom of the Century’. We can only hope nothing good happens in the next eight decades to upset that.”
Brendan’s wife Jennifer Gibney, who plays Agnes’s on-screen daughter Cathy, says: “I don’t understand how anybody could get that annoyed.
“There’s some telly I don’t like but I’d never be full of vitriol.”
A recent health scare has helped Brendan put all the criticism into perspective.
Last year, he underwent a major heart op after surgeons discovered a blockage in one of his arteries.
Doctors later told the 64-year-old funnyman he was just a month away from a heart attack.
The surgery came about following an intervention from his friend Alan Byrne, a doctor with the Republic of Ireland football team.
Dr Byrne noticed irregularity in Brendan’s breathing while watching him appear on television.
Previously the actor had complained of fatigue in his legs and had been booked in for a check-up.
Brendan says: “The doctor who made the appointment for me rang the surgeons and said, ‘Brendan wants to have a look at his legs — but f*** his legs, look at his heart.
“ ‘I saw him doing an interview on TV and his breathing was way off’.
“He was with the Irish team for an away game and was watching me online on a laptop. I don’t remember being out of breath.
“I just remember being annoyed because Nigel Farage was on!”
Brendan had a stent fitted to fix his heart problem but was told it could have been far worse.
The surgeon expected to see a number of blocked arteries because of his decades of smoking.
Brendan says he took up the habit aged “ten-ish, or a bit earlier”.
Turning to Brendan, Jenny, 55, says: “You have six grandsons under the age of 13. You can’t say you smoked before ten, seriously.”
The star has cut back from a “packet and a quarter” a day but refuses to quit completely.
He says: “Don’t get me wrong — smoking is a dirty, filthy habit. I understand that.
“It’s unhealthy for the people around you. But it is 100 per cent legal.
“If they put as much pressure and as many warnings on a bottle of whisky as they do on cigarettes, I’d be happy.
“Nobody ever smokes too much and goes home and beats their wife, or smokes too much and drives their car into a wall.”
Jennifer adds: “One of the saddest things about the smoking ban in public places is that in Ireland, and for elderly people especially, the pub is their social life.
“It’s the only place of interaction. They go there, know their seat.
“They’d sit at the bar with a drink and a cigarette. Now you’re asking that elderly person go out and stand in the cold.
“So now they don’t go out. They don’t have that social interaction.”
When they are not working in the UK, Brendan and Jennifer — who married in 2005 — live in Florida.
Next door is a golf course, where they play nearly every day. They can drive directly on to the course from their garage in a buggy.
So is it a swanky sort of place? “Of course it’s not,” Brendan says. “We’re members.”
Brendan’s sons Eric and Danny live next door, while his daughter Fiona has a home further down the same street.
They can go about their business undisturbed, because the locals do not have a clue who they are, with only holidaying Brits ever recognising them.
Brendan says: “When you’re getting your groceries, you get the odd person asking for a photo and you can see the shopping assistant thinking, ‘What the f*** is going on here? Who are they?’”
The Mrs Brown’s Boys cast is made up primarily of Brendan’s real-life family, who will be at their home in Ireland on Christmas Day to watch the festive special together.
They will then head back to Florida for New Year’s Eve.
Jennifer says of the O’Carrolls’ family Christmases: “We have a big breakfast. Everybody comes round then they all go off and do their visiting for the day.
“Then they all congregate round our house in their pyjamas.
“We all have festive matching pyjamas. There’ll be around 18 of us watching.” Brendan adds: “I cook fried Christmas pudding in butter with some streaky rashers and sausages. It’s beautiful.”
Mrs Brown’s Boys began as radio and stage plays before moving to TV in 2011.
Its success has led to chat-show spins-off, money-spinning stage tours and, in 2014, a movie.
The show has a loyal army of fans and Mrs Brown herself has some unlikely admirers.
Brendan says: “We’ve had one or two elderly men turn up with flowers asking if she would like to go to dinner. They didn’t realise she was a man (dressed up).
“We would say, ‘She doesn’t do that sort of thing but thank you very much for asking, she’s gone straight home’.”
Jennifer says: “It’s actually really sweet. That’s why you don’t want to offend them.”
The actress boasts one of the most unusual roles in television, playing the on-screen daughter of her real-life husband.
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So she treats Brendan as Mrs Brown when he is in character.
Jennifer says: “I’ve never spoken to him as Brendan when he’s in character.
“I can’t even give him a kiss when he’s like that. It’s too weird.”
- The Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas Special airs on BBC1 at 10.30pm on Christmas Day.
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