Mo Gilligan performed no fewer than 10 nights at the 3,000-seat Hammersmith Apollo last autumn, a run now captured for posterity by this second Netflix special. In the UK, Gilligan’s star just keeps rising. Whether the rest of the world will fall for his tales of Magnum ice-creams, Shepherd’s Bush shopping centres and geezers down the pub remains to be seen. You wouldn’t bet against it. Beyond its local colour, Gilligan’s anthropological comedy – on being skint, being in relationships, and being out on the town – can probably be enjoyed by anyone.
Then there’s the 34-year-old’s performing talent, which I enjoyed in close-up here having peered at it from Row ZZZ last October. There’s no point pretending the Camberwell man is blazing new trails in comedy. From the opening, fish-out-of-water tale of newfound celebrity to his material on childhood, the pre-fame hustle and social rituals across the gender divide, he’s swimming in the same sea as countless comics before him. But Gilligan is terrifically adept at bringing the material to life. There’s the act-out that finds his mother menacing boyhood Mo (head shaking, lower lip loose, whimpering “I don’t know where’s the change”) when a shopping errand goes wrong. Or the tense dialogue between young Mo, working the shopfloor at Jo Malone, and an unwelcome customer.
That routine turns on the “code-switching” Gilligan must do to hold down a job in retail. What’s remarkable about his standup is how little code-switching is required to keep his several audiences onside. Some of the material is explicitly black British, one routine anatomises white Brits on the booze, and the closing section – on group social behaviour across the sexes – aims, with its broad but recognisable generalisations, to apply to everyone. And all the while, Gilligan is only ever his cheerful, warm-hearted self, as amused by the memory of life without a penny to his name as by his recent adventures in showbiz.
Not everything takes wing: the call-and-response section was so-so in the room and is weaker still onscreen. But this remains a confident and likable hour by an act whose common touch seems proof, for now at least, against superstardom.