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Mo the Comedian: the one-man show using social media to make us laugh

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If you don’t know Mo Gilligan by name, there’s a big chance that’ll change soon, as he continues to dominate social media feeds and prepares to embark on his nationwide tour. Though he considers himself a stand-up comic first, his boom in public profile over the last year is propelled by his streak of hilarious sketch videos showing well-known situations and interactions with impeccable accuracy. (For a start, look for ‘Different Types of Girls in a Nightclub’ or ‘Days in the Life of a Geezer’ to see what all the fuss is about – we challenge you to stop at just one clip!)

Entertainment and Features Editor Nicole Vassell sat down with him to hear about his journey from being a stand-up comedian working retail on the side, to being quoted by Drake and selling out venues all over the country. 

I first realised I was funny when I was still in school. I was a bit of a class clown, always being disruptive but making the teachers laugh. But it wasn’t until years later that I even gave comedy, or stand-up, a thought; my friend asked me to do some comedy at his wedding, and I thought, ‘I don’t see how it could go wrong!’ And it didn’t. 

I had no idea what I was supposed to do at first. I had this small notepad and Google, and that was it. So I just treated it like performing arts at school: write some stuff, try memorizing it. I started going to open mics just to try stuff out, like beatboxing (even though I can’t beatbox), using props, music…I watched a lot of comedy growing up, like Def Jam, but that’s not exactly a how-to guide – I had to learn for myself. Dave Chappelle said once: ‘It doesn’t matter how funny you are, it’s all about timing.’ And that stuck with me. I used to write down little tips here and there to help me get better and discover who I am as a comedian and it takes a long time, it took me four or five years. 

The idea of posting funny videos came by accident. I used to just mess around a lot of the time on Snapchat because I was bored, and I like being silly. So one night, I just put out the video called ‘Different types of MCs’, then put my phone on airplane mode because I was going to the cinema. When I came out of the film and looked at my phone, my notifications went wild – people had reposted it on Twitter and Instagram, as well as some popular content sharing pages. And the next day it just continued, and I realised ‘wow, everybody likes this!’ From there, I did a part two, then a part three, four and five – and soon I had a small audience.

Pride’s Nicole Vassell meets Mo the Comedian

 

I’m a one-man team. I write, film, edit and put it out by myself. Sometimes I can have an idea and I can do it in the space of one to three hours; others can take about a week, because I’m sitting there thinking, ‘that didn’t work, do it again, I look too tired…’ I’m highly critical of my work. Sometimes, I’ll look at a finished video and just scrap it if it’s not funny enough.

I think my favourite character is ‘The Roadman’. A lot of people might expect me to say ‘The Geezer’, but I like ‘The Roadman’ because he reminds me of some of my friends. He’s the character who says it how it is; he doesn’t hold anything back. I make sure never to make that character look stupid, and I always love using unexpected vocabulary like ‘facetious’ – just because you’re a roadman, doesn’t mean you’re not educated! Being someone who has grown up in London, I try to portray people as complex as I can, and not how the media might portray them. I love twisting people’s perceptions. 

My life’s changed in a weird way. Not in a bad way, but weird. You don’t realize the reach of your videos can go when you first put them out. My friends were telling me that they were on a flight and heard someone saying, ‘Let’s get a coupla cans in,’ like ‘The Geezer’ – or someone will come up to me at lunch and say ‘my daughter shows me your videos.’ I got invited to the BET awards, where Stevie Wonder was in front of me… and Drake quoted me on his Instagram! Now I’m headlining shows, with people saying that they came out just for me – and it means a lot. 

I want young people to know that there’s no shame in struggling for your dream. I always try to inspire a lot of creatives, young ones especially, to know that they can make it if they want to. ‘It takes a lot of time, but you can do this.’ I studied performing arts at university, left uni expecting to get a job in that industry, and I ended up signing on [receiving jobseekers’ allowance]. Then I’d work retail jobs that I wasn’t passionate about, but it was sustaining my comedy, where I really wanted to be. I only started doing this full time in March [2017]! If success happens quickly for you, just ride the wave and enjoy – but if not, there’s nothing wrong with you. Be persistent in your craft and the right thing will come.

Be the first to see Mo’s latest sketches by following him on Twitter and Instagram: @mothecomedian

Profile photo of Nicole Vassell

Nicole is Pride's Entertainment and Features Editor; favourite topics include Beyoncé, where to get dinner, and musical theatre.

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