Mo Gilligan review – expert social anthropology from the boy next door

Hammersmith Apollo, London
Gilligan’s cartoonish parade of misunderstandings and manipulations have perspective and heart

When you get rich and famous for your relatable comedy, how do you stay relatable? It’s a perennial problem, but Mo Gilligan dodges it, at least for now, in There’s Mo to Life. That’s because this megastar-cum-lately, playing a whopping 10 nights at this venue as part of a UK tour, draws substantially for laughs on his life pre-fame. It’s also because that fame is still fresh – and his boy-next-door bulletins from inside the celebrity bubble have perspective and heart.

It helps that Gilligan has a gimlet eye for everyday behaviour: being broke, geezers on the town, boyfriend-girlfriend push and pull. It’s a brand of comedy that can feel unadventurous: these are well-worn standup subjects. But seldom – at least since Lee Evans packed it in – are they zeroed in on like Gilligan does here, nor animated with such unassuming insight and performing flair.

The opening section contracts Gilligan then and now. We meet childhood Mo, so giddy when his mum tells him to “keep the change”, he forgets what he’s meant to be buying. We meet hustler Mo, struggling to keep it real and keep his job in a perfume shop; then celebrity Mo, learning how to push back when posh-boy producers ask him to don a chicken suit on live TV. Some sketches get their own soundtrack, like the slo-mo dumbshow of young Gilligan checking in at the ATM on payday.

The second half pitches us back in the territory of Gilligan’s “different types of guy in a nightclub” videos, as he traces one everyman’s experience of moving in with his partner, negotiating interior decor, and – once permission is secured – going on a lads’ night out. The generalisations, in this world of sheepish men and strong women, may be broad, but there’s zest, and no little truth, to Gilligan’s anthropology. We’ll all find something to recognise in this parade of misunderstandings, manipulations and social rituals. And if not, we’ll be laughing anyway, as this fine caricaturist brings another twerking girlfriend or boozy bloke cartoonishly to life. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s expertly – and seemingly effortlessly – done.

On tour until 18 December


Brian Logan

The GuardianTramp

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