Q Awards 2018 – London
Q Awards 2018 – London

Mo Gilligan on The Lateish Show, #MerkyBooks and the power of comedy

Mo Gilligan has become one of the nation’s favourite comedians. He chats to Georgia Humphreys about his biggest career milestones so far.

Georgia Humphreys
Tuesday 13 July 2021 15:00

There was a time when Mo Gilligan did not know if he was good enough to have his own show. But, after years of uploading clips of his comedy online, the 33-year-old Londoner started finding more mainstream success – and has since forged himself a hugely successful TV career.

A judge on The Masked Singer and The Masked Dancer he can currently be seen on the sofa alongside actor and comedian Babatunde Aleshe on Celebrity Gogglebox and, most importantly, a show with his name on it is about to return for a second series on Channel 4 – The Lateish Show with Mo Gilligan.

“My market is observational comedy – but not observational at anyone’s expense,” says the funnyman, also known for his work on The Big Narstie Show. Comedy has most probably been the one thing that’s helped a lot of people through this pandemic. For myself, I’ve just used my characters and my observations to make people laugh, as opposed to talking on real world subjects. The first thing I want to do if I’m going to make comedy is do something which is completely opposite to what we’re all talking about.”

He says we can expect some really good guests on The Lateish Show – including Jack Whitehall, Nathalie Emmanuel, Lily Allen and Anne-Marie – “because if there’s one thing to come out of this lockdown situation, it’s that everyone’s available”.

The reason so many comics are thriving with their own TV shows right now, Gilligan suggests, is because “you can really put your own stamp on it and your own personality, whether it’s Romesh [Ranganathan] and Rob Beckett, or myself and Big Narstie. It can cater to an audience, but also include a new audience who would never normally watch this specific type of comedy.”

There is a lot of discussion at the moment around the possible privatisation of Channel 4. Gilligan says they were the first people to give him a platform, noting: “They let me express myself and really show who I am and what I’m about, and they really backed me from the very beginning.”

“Being able to do a documentary like Black, British and Funny, they let me really do that and just said, ‘Hey man, we’re willing to back you’. That really meant a lot to me and it always will,” he adds.

Gilligan himself has also been in the news recently, as it was revealed he has featured in Superheroes – the first children’s book by Stormzy’s imprint, #Merky Books, to be released in September. The TV personality is one of the 50 British figures chosen by Stormzy and the #Merky Books team to inspire, encourage and empower children. How did it feel to be asked to be part of the project? “I had to sign an NDA and I was like, ‘What the hell is this about?’ And then when I found out what it was about, I was like ‘100%, most definitely’.

“I was honoured. Some of the people that are mentioned in that book are people I’ve grown up watching or admired, or that I’m friends with. And I just think the beautiful thing about books is that no-one ever really throws a book in the bin, you don’t ever do that with a book. You just pass it down to generations, and other people read it. You don’t know how far a book can go and who is reading it.

“It’s so cool that literature is really becoming a mainstream thing within this young generation. It’s really good to see.”

“In terms of representation, just the things that Merky are doing, and #Merky Books, it’s really important the stories get told, and they’re not just folklore,” adds Gilligan. “The beautiful thing that I used to love about books, is where it can take you on your journey for more information. And a book like this, it’s giving people their flowers while they’re still around. That’s really important.

“A lot of people in my community, we don’t get to be in the same book and tell our own stories,” he says. “It’s nice I’m in a book with [pundit and former footballer] Ian Wright. He’s one of my idols.”

The Lateish Show with Mo Gilligan returns to Channel 4 on Friday, July 23.

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