You’ve got your own series! How does that feel?
Amazing. I guess it’s been two years in the works, so the fact that it’s just a couple of weeks away, it now feels like “Yeah, this is really happening!” Doing photo shoots and stuff. It’s really happening. It feels amazing, I’m just really looking forward to it. I’d go to the studio and do it tomorrow if I could.
A little bit – I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t. Of course there are – it’s going out at 10 o’clock on Channel 4 – that’s a big deal. So there are definitely going to be some nerves there. But I think, as a comic, you always have nerves, whether you’re performing to big crowds or small crowds, you’re always a bit nervous. But I think nerves are a good thing. If I wasn’t nervous I’d be worried!
Explain a bit about the show – what have we got in store?
We’ve got some great guests, we’ve already got Steve Coogan and Jessie J confirmed, and Asim Chaudhry for the first episode. There’s another big guest, I don’t think I’m allowed to say who it is, but I’m looking forward to it being a big announcement. So we’ve got some really good guests, we’ve got games, prizes to give away to the audience – the audience is a big deal on my show – they’ll get treated like they are celebrity guests – of course the people watching at home. A lot of the shows I watched as a kid, like TFI Friday, as a kid I thought “That looks so fun!” at the time when Britpop was at its height, so for me to be a young black guy who’s got his own show, it’s amazing. We’ll be tapping into what Grime is, and UK music, there’s young people who are becoming stars. This is testament to what’s happening in British culture at the moment as well.
If you could hand-pick any guest in the world, who would it be?
Okay, I reckon I’d have Adele, because Adele seems so down-to-earth. I’ve never met her, but she seems great, so I’d definitely have her. Maybe Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. The child in me who used to jump on my mum’s sofa pretending I was a wrestler would love that. Having those two would be great. They don’t even need to be on the same sofa, but if I had those guests I’d turn into a proper bad boy!
You’ve been a big part of the Big Narstie Show before this. How would you say your presenting style compares to his?
I was never really a presenter before I did The Big Narstie Show, I was always a stand-up comic. So I’ve had to learn to be a presenter a little bit. I’m a stand-up comic, so if it gets a bit deep, at times you have to lighten the moment, make it a bit funnier, find ways to move on, which is all skills that I guess I’ve learned from The Big Narstie Show.
Is there anyone whose shows you have watched for tips?
I’ve always really liked Jonathan Ross’s interviews, the way he talks to people. He’s always really fun, and happy to take the mick out of himself. And he’s really charming as well. So I’ve watched him a lot – even as a kid I watched him on the BBC – the way he can get really deep, but also have a bit of fun and take the piss out of himself. And I remember meeting him, and he lived up to the dream, he was such a nice guy. He was actually the cool guy I always thought he would be. I really like some of the Americans as well, people like Jimmy Kimmel. He’s a really fun guy. I really appreciate what some of the Americans do on their chat shows. They make people look cool, they can have a laugh with them and play games. So there’s a lot of American chat shows that I’ve been watching recently.
The show is full of games, VTs, lots of random stuff – how involved are you in things like inventing the games?
Oh yeah, they’re mainly my ideas. And if they’re ideas that I’m not too sure about, I’ll always say, as opposed to doing something that I don’t want to do. I don’t want people watching it on TV and going “Oh, he looks a bit miserable.” And it’s a co-production, I’m doing it with Expectation and my production company Momo G are helping make it. I’m an associate producer and creator as well as a writer and the presenter, so I’m really involved in everything, from the small things through to the big stuff, like the band, the audience coming in. Even making sure it’s not too hot or too cold. I do these things as a stand-up comic in my shows, you need to make sure that when people are coming, we keep our standards high.
Will there still be some of your character stuff in there?
Of course, man. I couldn’t abandon what got me here! We’ll still have a lot of the characters that people love. But I guess what you’ve got to remember is I’m used to doing my characters in my bedroom with my smartphone. This is a chance for me to take them out of the bedroom now and do them on a scale with resources that I never previously had available to me. But we also have to make sure that we introduce the characters to the public – there’s people who know the characters, but there’s an audience who have never seen any of them, so we have to introduce them in the right way. So it feels for me a bit like we’re starting again with the characters, which is really fun, actually.
The guests have to be pretty up for it. Am I right that you’re not just going to let them sit on the sofa and tell a couple of stories?
Oh yeah, of course. But at the same time, we don’t want to force anyone into doing anything they don’t want to do. I respect that. Sometimes I do TV stuff and they’re like “So, we’re going to get you guys to balance jelly on your head,” and I’m like “I don’t know if I wanna do that.” But a lot of the games we have are fun, and my ethos is to make the guests look cooler than they already are. I don’t wanna make you look silly.
When you look back at how quickly you’ve gone from working at Levis to having your own show, does it feel a bit surreal?
Yeah. I remember when I came in to Channel 4 and they said, “we’d love to give you your own show,” it weirdly didn’t sink in. I remember I went walking around central London for about two or three hours, because it just wouldn’t sink in. And it has been in the works for about two years – and obviously during that time I’ve done The Big Narstie Show. If I look at my journey, where I started from, it is a moment.
Has fame and success been everything you expected it to be?
Yeah! With success, it comes with hard work as well. You’re recording, you’re working hard, it takes a long time, you put in the groundwork. But then you get to go to things like the BAFTAs and all of those really cool things. If you work hard for it, success will follow. It has lived up to what I thought it would be, but I guess success is what you make it. I’m always still striving to become better in what I do. It’s a new chapter of my journey, and it’s really exciting.
Back in the day, you could film something, post it on social media and get feedback instantly. Now, this show’s been in the pipeline for two years. Do you find that frustrating?
A little bit. But I guess throughout that time I’ve been on other shows and I’ve learned a lot. I respect the patience involved, because with the time it’s taken, we’ve been able to produce a show that’s a lot different than it would have been a year ago. It feels like that makes sense. When I first started talking about this I was like “Come on, let’s do it next week!” But I’ve realised that the patience is a better thing, there are reasons why these things take a while. It means that we’re making the right show, and not a show we’re just rushing.
On the first night, when the show goes out, who will you watch it with?
Just my family. For these sorts of moments, we normally go round to mine, get a little Chinese, or maybe an Indian. My sisters, my mum, my girlfriend, my two nephews – we’ll just watch it at mine. I like doing it that way, it feels more organic. All those big moments I’ve had, it’s been me with my family, so I think that’s what I’ll do. I could invite maybe a few additional friends, possibly, but it’s got to be with the family.
You’ve got your own show now. What’s your next big ambition?
There’s so many! At the moment it’s just focussing on the show. There are so many things I’d love to do in the future, though – whether it was tapping in to acting more. I started off as an actor, and I always feel like I started something and never got to finish it off.
Would that necessarily be comedy acting?
I think I’d be open to whatever. When I started, I did performing arts at uni, whether it was serious or funny. Sometimes as a comic you do like to do something a bit more serious, because you get typecast to do comic stuff all the time. So acting is something I’d kind of like to delve into. But I’d want to do it properly, and not just do a cameo. I want to get the part because I’m a good actor, not because I’m a name to help sell tickets.
The Lateish Show with Mo Gilligan is on Channel 4 on Fridays at 10pm from 19th July.