'It Stresses Me Every Day' – Mo Gilligan on His Biggest Teenage Mistake

The BAFTA-winning comedian talks first snogs, worst nights out and encounters with Drake in our latest "Share Location" interview.
Mo Gilligan
Photo: PR.
"Share Location" is an interview series in which we speak to British musicians, actors and public figures about their younger years and formative experiences.

Mo Gilligan’s been playing some big rooms lately.

You’d think they’d be more impersonal, but whoever was on the lights the other night whacked them way up and made things quite intense.

“I kid you not, I could see every single person, I can see everyone's face,” he tells VICE over Zoom. “I can see the person on their phone, I can see the person going the toilet, I can see the person sleeping, the person who's having the time of their life.” He laughs. “It was so hard to concentrate.”


Mostly, though, the “There’s Mo To Life” tour’s been a buzz after a year and a half off stage – and in the middle of the run, on the 8th of December, is a date at the O2 for “Mo Gilligan and Friends: The Black British Takeover”. When he used to get asked about playing arenas, Gilligan says, he’d play it cool. “I'd been like, ‘Nah, not bothered.’ But secretly I was.”

He’s put together a bill of top Black comedians including Slim, Thanyia Moore, Babatunde Aleshe and Eddie Kadi. “At this point in my career, you know, all the focus is on me,” he says. “And when the light's on you, you've got to put it on other people and share the spotlight a little bit.”

VICE spoke to him for Share Location, our interview series about growing up in the UK.

VICE: Where did you have your first snog?
Mo Gilligan:
I was thinking about this the other day. I actually don't even know. I do remember being at a party when I was like 11 years old and we started playing Spin the Bottle, and everyone was kissing. And I was like, here we go, it's my turn. They spin the bottle. And then it was like, “so, Mo, I dare you to kiss the floor”. And I was like, what? Everyone's sitting there fucking kissing, and you lot want me to kiss the floor? I went downstairs and snitched and I said, "Yeah, everyone's kissing upstairs," and the party got locked off. Not a chance, mate. Not a chance. You lot ain't setting me up to kiss the floor while you all carry on snogging each other.


What’s the worst night out you’ve had in the UK?
Oh my gosh, I remember this so vividly. So basically me and my friend Zak were trying to go out in the West End. No clubs were letting us go in; it was like, “No no no, you need girls.” And we were young, we was both in uni as well. We were just like, “Aw, we just want to go out, man”. We kept going back to the door: “No, you need girls to go in.” So then this fucking idiot guy outside was like, “mate, just get a bit of thing on your hand and make out you've already been in the club”.

Bear in mind it’s pissing it down. So we've gone to this girl: "Excuse me, have you got a marker pen?" She's like, “I've got some lipstick.” We walk up to the door, everyone's walking in and the boys [are] like, “Quick quick quick, just walk in with us.” But they've already been in the club. We tried to walk in, the bouncer's like, “No no no, come here.” He just smudged my hand, wiped off the lipstick. He says, “If I ever see you doing this again, you're never going to get into this club for the rest of your life.” I was like, “Fair enough.” [I] just walked home. The worst. The worst, man.


What was the biggest mistake of your teenage years?
I'll tell you this one for free mate: not buying Bitcoin when it was $1 a coin. Oh my gosh. I knew about Bitcoin, you know? And it stresses me every day. I knew about Bitcoin when I was like 17, 18 and I knew about it because when you go on CEX you could sell things, and they could give you Bitcoin [for your items]. And I thought, ‘What the hell is this Bitcoin? Who wants that? I want cash!’ And now a coin is like 45 grand. And it's probably the regret of my life. It's definitely up there, man.

I remember meeting this guy at a comedy show. And he was like, “Yeah, man, I'm investing everything I make just in Bitcoin.” And I was like, “Alright man, like, good for you. How much you invest?” He's like, “Everything I make, I put it in that. I've been getting credit cards out, I'm in debt.” And I was like, “Wow, man, you seem like you're in a bit of a problem. That's not a good thing.” I don't know where he is in life. It was weird, because I remember it [Bitcoin] just took a huge dip, and I was thinking about this guy. And I was like, I wonder where that guy is… Maybe he's doing well. Maybe he's just an absolute billionaire. But it's definitely one of the things that I sit there and think, well, I could have got, like, two coins. You know?


Where was the first time you got in somewhere for free, or got given something for free because of your newfound fame?
It might have been Wireless Festival. When I started doing tours and shows and stuff I got invited. They gave me a triple-A pass, so I was able to go everywhere. That was a big deal. I think I met Drake at that show. He'd followed some of my stuff. I tried to get through to the VIP area but they'd closed part of it off. They said, “Nah, you can't come, someone big's coming out.” I was like, “Yeah, sure, can I quickly...? My friend's on the other side.” They said “Yeah, quickly go.” This is the VIP area for actual artists, but they closed it off because he wanted to walk from his part to the Nando's.

And as he sees me, I see him and he's with his whole entourage. And I'm with my two mates. And he's like, “What's up?” and he comes over to me. And we start talking, man! Lovely guy! Very, very genuine. And he's like, “So how you been? How's things?” And it's so funny, I've got one of my friends next to me – my friend's nodding, like he's involved in the conversation. My friend's like, “Yeah man, yeah, I've been good too.” Ha! Lovely, lovely, genuine guy.


Do you remember your first physical fight?
Basically, in my school, if you didn't do French, or any of the languages, they had this class called International Studies. All the kids that just didn't care about languages would go to International Studies. You got the class clowns, you've got the strongest kid in the class, you've got the kid who don't care. You just put them in this class.

Me and my friend would like doing this thing where we would get stickers and chase each other – we'd put the sticker on each other, and then the other person would get the sticker and stick it [back] on. So [you're] running through the concourse, while your friend's trying to stick the sticker on your back of your head. So we go into International Studies, I'm chasing my friends. Then one other guy who's in my year, he gets involved. So I'm like, “Bruv get off me – why you getting involved?” And he's like, “What? No one talks to me like that. What d'you say?” I said "Get off me. Why are you getting involved?"

He's like, “What?” He grabs me by my throat. He held me down on the table. And I was like, oh my gosh. His fist was ready to come down on me. I'll never forget this. And then one of my friends at the time was like, “Nah, man, nah nah nah!”, grabs his fist. I got a cheeky jab in while I'm on the table, went bang! Everyone's like, “Oh my gosh, he just hit one of the strongest people in our year.” He's going mad, like, “get off me, hold me back”. I'm just saying, “See, told you, man.” And I'll be honest, it was a cheeky shot. I was looking over my shoulder for like the next three weeks, but we had squash the next day. And we're still friends now actually – still friends to this day. 

Who’s the worst living Briton?
Whoever decided to put spikes on bits of wall that homeless people can't even sit on. Homelessness is a big problem around the world, especially in the UK. It's just like: Look, man, why would you do that? I think that's so cruel. 

Mo Gilligan is on tour around the UK until 18 December.