BBC comedy boss issues awkward response as he faces grilling on Mrs Brown's Boys 'humour' amid backlash

Mrs Brown's Boys

BBC chief refused to answer if he found the series funny

Lauren Williams

By Lauren Williams

Published: 20/06/2024

- 10:01

Mrs Brown's Boys originally aired from 2011 to 2013 before moving to annual specials being released

Mrs Brown's Boys is based on the titular Irish matriarch, played by Brendan O'Carroll, who has a tendency to meddle in the lives of her six children.

While recorded in front of a live studio audience with laughs aplenty, the show has often come under fire for its humour - with many calling for it to end.

Since airing in 2011, the show has often been blasted by audiences for the continued "painful" jokes that they don't find funny or relate to - despite the series pulling in millions of viewers.

The series has been a mainstay on the broadcaster for more than a decade, with annual Christmas episodes being released and the occasional Summer special and Halloween edition.

With every new announcement from the broadcaster about the series, thousands flock to their social media accounts and beg for the show to be axed - with many highlighting how much they don't find it funny.

During a recent Q&A for the BBC Comedy Showcase at Soho House, comedy director Petri refused to respond when asked if Mrs Brown's Boys is "actually funny".

Jon Petrie

Jon Petrie awkwardly stayed silent when asked if he found Mrs Brown's Boys funny


"Can I ask as comedy chief, do you actually find Mrs Brown’s Boys funny? And would you watch it if you didn’t have to?" he was asked leaving him to sit awkwardly and giggle.

Q&A host Michelle de Swarte jumped in and saved him by declaring: "It’s a trap. It’s a trap. Look at me. That’s a trap. Next question."

Earlier in the session Petrie stated: "People want jokes, they want shows that make them laugh and the ones that they are re-watching again and again are Ghosts, Motherland, Not Going Out and Mrs Brown’s Boys.

"They still get huge numbers for us. Brendan has created an iconic comedy character in Agnes Brown. Mrs Brown’s Boys is a BAFTA winning comedy show and one of the BBC’s most watched comedies ever.

Mrs Brown's Boys

After the series ended in 2013, new episodes are only shown during the Christmas period


"It’s made me laugh many times and seeing Mrs Brown’s Boys live is an unforgettable experience.

"I feel very lucky that I’ve had the chance to witness it and I’m proud to have it in the BBC Comedy stable."

Those who work on the series are used to being questioned about the backlash, as O'Carroll previously shrugged off the show’s negative reviews and stated that comedy is "very subjective".

He told BBC Radio Sounds: "What some people like, other people just detest. So I don’t take it too seriously. When we started… by about the fourth or fifth episode, we got a couple of letters from people who had autistic children.

"It started as a couple of letters and it’s now been over 3,000. And they said that their kids watched Mrs Brown and they heard them laugh in context for the very first time.

"One woman said she was in the ­kitchen and heard her son laughing for the very first time. So when you get a ­letter like that, I don’t care what the critics say. That’ll do me."

Mrs Brown's Boys

Brendan O'Carroll previously hit back at the backlash the show had received


Despite the divided reception to the BBC series, there seemed to be a large enough audience to rely on as O'Carroll revealed in March 2023 that they had been working on a mini-series - which dropped in September 2023.

He explained: "This mini-series was actually planned for 2021. Having been thwarted twice, firstly by COVID-19 and then by a post-Covid shortage of studios, it’s fantastic to, at last, have the chance to make it happen.’

"Fasten your seatbelts and hold on to your hats!".

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