Mrs Brown’s Boys ‘was getting like the civil service’

Actor Rory Cowan is happy with his decision to quit hugely successful comedy show

Rory Cowan with his mother, Esther, in 2012. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Rory Cowan with his mother, Esther, in 2012. Photograph: Dave Meehan


Not many actors get to walk away from a globally successful show on their own terms, but Rory Cowan has done just that.

Last month the 58-year-old actor walked away from the phenomenally successful Mrs Brown’s Boys, and the character of Agnes Brown’s son, also called Rory.

Mr Cowan said being in Mrs Brown’s Boys was “getting like the civil service” and he had enough of the relentless touring.

The 58-year-old actor said he has seen enough hotel rooms and large arenas and does not need the money any more.

Instead he intends to devote his time to looking after his 84-year-old mother Esther, who has dementia.

Speaking at the launch of Suicide or Survive’s National Tea Break campaign, Mr Cowan said the decision by the show’s creator, Brendan O’Carroll, to tour Australia for the third time in four years was the final straw.

“I thought, ‘This is a waste of time. We’re just doing the same things again and again. It is exactly the same tour as we did two years ago. It’s the exact same tour that we are going to do in two years’ time.’

“I know that if I stayed with Mrs Brown’s Boys, looking at the calendar, I would know where I would be in 2022. There’s no enjoyment in that any more.”

Mr Cowan added that when he quit Mrs Brown’s Boys, there was no bad feeling between himself and Brendan O’Carroll .

“I adore the man. He is the funniest comedian I have ever seen. There was no falling out with Brendan,” he said. “It was a simple choice. My mother has dementia and she is here in Ireland dying. When she does go, I want to have no regrets. It is more important that I’m here.”

Early retirement?

He said O’Carroll had paid him and other performers so well that he could afford to retire if he wanted to.

“I take up gigs that are not paying massive money,” he explained. “I know nothing I do is ever going to be as big as Mrs Brown’s Boys. I have the luxury of being able to do what I want to do now and that’s all down to Brendan.”

Mr Cowan said he was happy to oblige the Suicide or Survive campaign. Although he does not suffer from depression himself, he has known people who did.

“It is things like this that are going to break the stigma of mental health,” he said. “When I was a teenager there were four people I knew who had taken their own lives, two brothers from one family and two brothers from another. Nobody ever spoke about mental health at that time.

“At that time any mental health problem was known as ‘nerves’. It wasn’t discussed.”

Suicide or Survive, founded by Caroline McGuigan in 2003, provides wellness workshops for those struggling with their mental health and mentoring services for those who are suicidal.

She said there remains a marked reluctance on the part of individuals to speak about their mental health.

McGuigan, who had tried to take her own life when she was 29, said society had come a long way in breaking down the stigma of mental illness, but that openness did not extend to people talking about their own experiences.