Mrs Brown's Boys: I love the lines that are not in the script

Writer and Actor

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Welcome to the world of Agnes Brown. It's a world where family comes first, authority is to be challenged, and everything always works out in the end.

What began in 1999 as a five minute comedy series for RTÉ 2fm (Ireland's equivalent of Radio 2), and then became a five-part stage trilogy, has at last reached BBC TV screens all over the United Kingdom.

Thanks to the team the producer Stephen McCrum has put around me, I am involved in every aspect of the TV show.

As well as being the writer, and playing the lead female role of Mrs Brown, Stephen allows me to have an opinion on the overall look and feel of the show.

The series, which is set in Dublin, features Agnes Brown, a widow since 1986, and her family.

The family is made up of Agnes' sons Mark, Rory, Dermot, Trevor and her only daughter, the ever-suffering Cathy.

All of Agnes' children are in their early 30s, but to Agnes they will always be five years old.

As the family live their day to day lives, we see how Agnes attempts to solve all of their problems - especially the ones she has created for them.

Agnes is a complete contradiction of herself, for instance chastising her children for the slightest use of strong language, but having a fishwife's tongue herself.

With Agnes it's very much a case of "don't do what I do, do what I say."

Do you know, when people asked if Agnes was influenced by my own mother, I used to answer "no" and let me explain why.

My mother was quite an extraordinary woman. She began as a nun with a Bachelor Of Arts degree from Galway University, left the Order, married my Dad and had 11 children.

She was also the first woman elected to the Irish parliament for the Labour party and, indeed in that year, the only woman in parliament.

However, as I have gone on with Agnes Brown's life, I am beginning to realise that the only difference between the two is that my mother had an education.

So I suppose Agnes is my mother - with all of her wisdom, but not her education. And, as my mother would say, don't confuse education with intelligence.

And she was so right. I am a member of Mensa but I left school at 12 years of age, and I am dyslexic.

If ever there was anyone that was not going to be a writer or performer it was me.

I didn't do my first stand-up gig until I was 35 years old. For the 22 years before that, I was a waiter (five times Waiter Of The Year, I might add).

I swear to you that I still wake up every morning thinking, "This is the day they will find out I am really a waiter and not a writer, and they'll want their money back."

But I think people confuse being a writer with things like using the correct tense or being able to spell properly, and it has nothing to do with that.

Those are all things you can learn. Being a writer is about being able to tell a story - that's it, nothing else - and you can't learn that.

I'm very lucky in that I have always had a wonderful memory, particularly for dialogue, but I have absolutely no idea how the jokes come to me.

I hear things, I see things and they make me laugh. Somehow my brain stores them away and just when I need them they pop out. Does that make any sense?

Filming in front of a live audience was a condition I insisted upon when Stephen and I began developing the series.

We both agreed that we wanted as close a representation of the stage show as possible, and obviously a live audience is one of the key ingredients of that.

Also I knew that myself and the actors who would be transferring their performances from the stage to the screen depended on the live audience for the rhythm of our performances, so it would keep that element for us.

The upside for me as a comedy writer is that television allows me to include more slapstick stuff than the early radio series did.

I'm a sucker for good old-fashioned fall-about comedy, and I don't care if it's old fashioned, it makes me laugh.

I have convinced myself that I always write better when I am under pressure, which is just a cover-up for leaving everything to the last minute.

I have always written alone but I have no discipline whatsoever.

My wife Jenny (Agnes' daughter Cathy in the series) is the one that drives me, as well as being an exceptional muse. Without her I would sit and read all day.

Sometimes it comes really easy, just flows. But then there are those horrible, horrible times when it is just word by word and wonder why you ever told anybody you were a writer, because you just write shite.

On the series, Stephen, realising my inexperience in writing for television, brought in a script editor to work alongside me - Paul Mayhew-Archer.

I was nervous at first of having someone kind of looking over my shoulder, so to speak. I need not have been. The man is genius.

Ever so gently, and with great encouragement, Paul eased me over the line, making a writer out of me in the process.

If this series is a success, I'm sure I will get great recognition, but truthfully, without Stephen and Paul there would be no series.

I love the lines that come to me when we are filming, that are not in the script - and, thanks to the director Ben Kellett letting me have the room to do this, there are lots and lots of them.

See if you can spot them. Hint: Watch the face of the cast when they happen - it's either a look of terror or restrained laughter.

Brendan O'Carroll is the writer of Mrs Brown's Boys and plays Agnes Brown in the show.

Mrs Brown's Boys continues on BBC One and BBC One HD on Mondays. For national variations on times, please see the upcoming episodes page.

Episode One is now available in iPlayer until Tuesday, 5 April.

You can ask Mrs Brown to solve your problems - find out how at the BBC Comedy blog.

Also producer Stephen McCrum tells the story of how he first discovered Mrs Brown on the BBC Comedy blog.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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