"It's everything I was trying to do on Instagram Live but in a TV format for a bigger audience."
In 2018, comedian Mo Gilligan came to prominence co-hosting The Big Narstie Show on Channel 4, a year later he was also hosting his own primetime TV show The Lateish Show, had his own Netflix special Momentum and had announced a world tour.
With everyone now in lockdown and Mo's tour currently on hold, he's hoping to cheer up the nation every Monday night with Mo Gilligan's All Star Happy Hour, where there'll be sketches, musical performances and a one-of-a-kind prize giveaway!
I caught up with Mo to discuss the logistics of filming a show in lockdown, how Mo Gilligan's All Star Happy Hour came about in the first place and what he's doing to say thank you to NHS staff and key workers.
First things first, how are you coping with lockdown?
It's OK. I'm quite fortunate that I've been able to create stuff in my house so I've been making videos and cooking and eating. I'm just using this time to stay creative. I'm still making sure that I'm posting videos and doing the content people like and enjoy.
You've always posted brilliantly funny videos online, something many comedians are now doing. Who's keeping you entertained?
I've just been going on TikTok and seeing everyone's creativity. I couldn't pinpoint a particular person. To be honest, on TikTok I don't know who to follow or how to follow it, so I feel like quite a dinosaur when I'm on there. There's some really good stuff on there, really funny as well.
Last time we spoke you were just about to host the first episode of The Lateish Show, now that series is finished. How did you think it went?
It was really good! What was really cool about that show and what I enjoyed about it is the most was that it felt like each episode was getting better than the last, in terms of guests and people felt more familiar with the show.
Just as it was finishing people were like "Make sure it comes back!" or "Why's it finishing?" so it felt like it did what it needed to do in terms of having a show out there, forming an identity and people looking forward to the next one. To have my own show was really fun!
Nursery Grimes in particular performed really well online. Did that take you by surprise?
Coming from social media, I always knew that if you had a TV show, you had to make sure you had strands that do well after the show and outside of the show - which can be easily shared and then take people back to the TV show.
Jessie J's Nursery Grimes for example went down really well and I think that's because it gave celebrities a chance to show a side of them but people don't normally get to see.
You then released your comedy special Momentum on Netflix, what was it like to suddenly have a global audience overnight?
I remember the day it came out being quite overwhelming because for the first six weeks that it was out, every day I'd be getting non-stop messages from people all around the world that had watched Momentum.
Your socials are going up, people are messaging you asking you to come to Brazil to perform, or Sweden to perform. I obviously understood the huge reach of Netflix but the reaction was so overwhelming, as you say on a global level.
It went viral in China because they don't have Netflix there, so someone had clipped the Rastafarian nursery rhymes bit from the special, changed the subtitles to Chinese and on Chinese social networks it went viral. I remember finding out about it and it was so surreal.
You're continuing to work through lockdown. You've got your new show launching on Monday. How did All Star Happy Hour come about?
The idea was there around a month ago and like anything it all started with a conversation. I was doing Quarantine Games on my Instagram which went mad, it started trending, got a little feature on BBC Breakfast news, so I had this format, presented it to Channel 4 and they said "Yeah, let's do it next month if you want?"
And I was like "OK, cool. I better get to work!"
Explain the format and the decision to make it live.
What was so good about Quarantine Games on Instagram was doing a live gameshow that was very much in the moment and homemade. It was a game that anyone could play and anyone could recreate. That's how the game came about so we were like let's put this on TV. The show is definitely centred around the gameshow element.
We're all indoors, we don't need a big glossy studio. Let's just do the same thing I'm doing on Instagram, but for TV and add celebrities into the mix, up the prizes and. have some sketches in there. that people want to see. Some comedy, some interviews and some music, it's everything I was trying to do on Instagram Live but in a TV format for a bigger audience.
And members of the public can take part?
Yeah absolutely. If people want to play, they just have to apply. It'll be on my socials how to apply. In terms of the process of selecting people, it becomes much harder on TV as opposed to Instagram Live where I'm just selecting people there and then.
With TV you want to make sure you're doing it properly!
Technically, how is the show going to work?
The show's going to be filmed in my living room with one cameraman. I have a spare room which is going to be turned into a gallery with one person in it. So there's technically only two people on the ground, and they're wearing protective clothing, gloves, masks and adhering to all the guidelines of social distancing.
Everything else will be worked remotely. There'll be people in different locations doing all the TV stuff... but I don't know what that stuff is! (Laughs) I just know that I'm the face of it!
We've been testing it, but like anything you can test something a thousand times and on the day it can always go wrong. It's live TV. But that's the cool thing, people know it's live and it's in my house, so we could have technical glitches but that's what also makes it fun and exciting.
We're in the midst of a pandemic. If I could make it in a glossy studio, I would, but instead we've got to make it in my house.
What's it like working from home? How do you switch off and separate your personal life and your professional life?
It's weird because everything's much more relaxed because you wake up, have a shower, eat some breakfast and then go on a Zoom call for two or three hours. Normally I'd have to wake up two hours before, get on a train, go to a meeting, then to another one, so the whole concept of how it would normally work is completely different.
It's more relaxed, but the danger is getting too comfortable because you're having a meeting in your front room. You have to make sure you're on it. Yesterday I was working from 12 until maybe 11 o'Clock because I still have to record bits for the show and have Zoom meetings.
It's all for the greater good of the show and I'm lucky to be doing it.
You've named the show Mo Gilligan's All Star Happy Hour, is that really want you want this show to be? An hour of fun and escapism?
Yeah! It's just a quick hour of TV where we forget what's going on and have. bit of a laugh. The name of the show came through my Mum because she was watching my Quarantine Games online and said "I make sure I get my drink and my crisps and my snacks and watch you" - so I went "Oh. It's like a happy hour innit?" and that's how the name came!
And then to get people's attentions we added All Star in there so that we could get celebrities involved and make it sound more glossy than Happy Hour.
Episode one you're going to be joined by Sharon Osbourne, Jesse Lingard and Shaggy. Not a bad line-up...
I know! Shaggy is actually going to be performing one of his famous tracks. Sharon Osbourne will be playing a game and to have the original reality TV celebrity taking part, is mad! But why not?
Jesse Lingard is a mate of one who I wanted on The Lateish Show. He couldn't do it because he was on pre-season but we've worked together on a Lynx campaign and have always kept in contact. And the good thing about now, is that people are available!
Are you watching much TV during lockdown?
I want to get on to Gangs of London, that sounds good. I've been watching a lot of documentaries on Netflix. I was watching The Innocent Files, obviously Joe Exotic in Tiger King and also Too Hot To Handle which I can't stop watching. The thing is, because of where we are, we get a kind of Love Island type show for a little bit.
If anything I've been watching a lot of old films actually, a lot of nighties films like Ferris Bueller's Day Off and stuff like that.
You were meant to be in America this month on your world tour, but understandably that's now on hold. How are you feeling about the future of live comedy post Covid-19?
At the moment, people's health is much more important. With the tour, all it means is that we'll postpone it and do it a later date. Yes this has happened, but I feel that once this is behind us, people will start to go out more than ever.
I don't feel like comedy or the live scene in particular is in danger. I feel like there'll be a huge boom because people will want to start trekking outside and watching comedy or theatre or going to the cinema. We've all been spoilt at having things at our disposal whenever we want but now that's temporarily been taken away from us, I feel like people will make more of an effort to go to live events when they can.
You recently announced a free gig for NHS staff and key workers in November. How can those workers get tickets and what made you want to do it?
The thing is I've got family that work for the NHS, and whilst everyone's saying how they're done such a good job now, I don't want that to stop once the pandemic is over - so I thought why not put on a free show for NHS staff and key workers to give back for all the hard work they've been doing.
If you go to the Live Nation website there'll be a list there of what the government class as NHS staff and key workers and you literally apply for free tickets and that's that.
When I announced it, people were like "Do one in Manchester. Do one here." - but truthfully we had a gap in that period of the tour so that's why I asked if I could fill it with a free gig for everyone who's working so hard and luckily we were able to add it in. I would love to do loads more, but I don't want to be in a position where I can't fulfil demand.
These people are working really hard, it's a little later on in the year so at least if they want to come they have something to look forward to once this is all over.
Mo Gilligan's All Star Happy Hour starts Monday 4th May at 10pm on Channel 4