QI Panellist

We were more than a little pleased to discover that Brendan O’Carroll was a huge QI fan and had always wanted to appear on the show. He made his debut on the K series Christmas Special, alongside Phill Jupitus and Jo Brand, each of them sporting some of the worst knitwear ever to find its way onto prime time television.
His enthusiasm for QI shouldn’t have come a surprise. Although best known for creating a great modern comedy character in Agnes Brown, his foul-mouthed Dublin ‘mammy’, Brendan is a seriously smart actor and writer, who believes comedy should always be subversive. In 1984, he spent four days working as Mrs Thatcher’s butler when she was attending an EU summit in Dublin. Her request for ‘hot milk with pepper’ one evening gave Brendan the name for his own comedy quiz show, which became a huge hit in Ireland in the late 1990s.
But you can’t write much about Brendan without returning to his most famous creation. Agnes Brown was born in a five minute radio sketch in 1992. Out of this have come three TV series, five stage plays, four internationally bestselling novels and a 1999 film starring Anjelica Huston. In 2012, the first series won the BAFTA for best sitcom. Although it harks back to a much older style of comedy – Brendan cites Cannon & Ball and Les Dawson as influences – Mrs Brown is truly original, with the cast mostly being played by O’Carroll’s family and friends. This improvised feel – and Agnes’s direct monologues to the viewer helps to give it the anarchic energy that modern audiences all over world adore.
There’s a generosity in Brendan O’Carroll’s humour that is clearly evident on his QI debut. He recently told Digital Spy that he thinks audiences are tired of being insulted or made to feel stupid. They want laughter and that’s what he and his brilliant creation provide: ‘I remember a survey about the funniest gag in the world and it turned out to be a very ordinary gag. You can't do much better than that. That's what I do. Dress up in drag and do gags.'

Brendan O'Carroll