Rory Cowan credits Brendan O'Carroll for breaking 'taboo' of homosexuality in Irish entertainment

Cowan praises the funnyman for showing gay characters in a positive light at a time when being gay was still a criminal offence.

Rory Cowan, Brendan O'Carroll and Jennifer Gibney pose beside a vegetable stall

Funnyman Rory Cowan has praised Brendan O’Carroll, the creator of the smash hit Mrs Brown’s Boys for making a huge difference in how gay characters were presented in Irish entertainment.

In his new memoir, Mrs Cowan’s Boy, he wrote, “When Mrs Brown’s Boys started on RTE 2fm in 1992 as a radio soap, you could be sent to jail if you were convicted of having sex with another man. In most TV shows, gay characters were figures of fun, or had tragic lives. In the Mrs Brown’s Boys radio series, Brendan wrote in two gay characters, Rory and Dino, who were in a relationship.

“This was a year before gay sex was decriminalised. Brendan broke a taboo. He wrote two characters into a prime time radio show and he made those characters likeable and just the same as everybody else. And I was there when he was doing this. I played Rory in the radio soap opera. I knew something big was happening.”

Rory Cowan initially worked as a PR person for O’Carroll before making the move into the show. He also explained how it was his sexuality which convinced O’Carroll to hire him for the job.

During the interview in 1991, Cowan said, “I made my pitch for the position and told him what I thought I could bring to his organisation… After I made my pitch, Brendan’s business partner said he had just one question. I had a feeling what was coming but I was going to wait to be asked.

“He was getting flustered, trying to ask the question in a roundabout way while I just stood there looking at him saying nothing. Eventually Brendan said, ‘What he wants to know is if you’re gay?’ ‘Yes,’ I said, knowing I could be talking myself out of a job. ‘You’ve got the job,’ he said.

“Are you giving me the job because I’m gay?,’ I asked with a hint of confusion in my voice. ‘Yes I am,’ Brendan replied with a big smile on his face. He explained: ‘I’ve heard that gay people are very creative so that’s a plus. But you’ve also told the truth when we asked you the question. We can trust you, that’s the most important thing. Welcome on board.’”

Rory’s book is now available.

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