30 Jul 2017 How Mo The Comedian turned millions of views into a nationwide ‘Coupla Cans’ tour
‘Get a coupla cans in’ has gone from an improvised one-liner to becoming the basis of a 15-date nationwide stand-up tour for Mo Gilligan aka Mo The Comedian. A modest following now features a growing list of celebrity fans. A career that once seemed stagnant is now trailblazing to new heights.
Mo Gilligan, better known as Mo The Comedian, has created an army of hilarious characters that between them have racked up views at a rapid pace. On his Instagram and Facebook page alone, he has raked in over 21.5 million views in just 2017, satisfying his combined 310,000+ followers with an ongoing stream of hilarious content. But this has been a journey years in the making.
“I’ve done stand-up for about eight years, that’s the main thing that I do. I only started doing videos in December last year, but I’d always say I’m a comedian above all,” explains Mo.
“As a fan, when I was 14, my sister’s friend used to sell the pirate DVDs back in the day, and they had all the Def Jams. I think they were selling them for £2 and bought about five. When I was 14, that was when I watched it and thought I’d love to do that because I was always a bit of class clown and joker in school, but it wasn’t until I got older that I got into it, as I was a bit hesitant to do comedy.
“Then in 2009 I was going to a few open-mics and went on from there. I’m a heavy believer in the law of attraction. If you want something, you gotta believe in it and put it out there.”
A year ago, Mo Gilligan was handing out CVs to keep his scant hopes of succeeding as a comedian alive. There was no tour, millions of views or fans from all corners of the entertainment industry. There was, however, many mundane jobs and a stint which saw him signing on to stay afloat.
“I’ve worked in so many places in retail, but I’ve only done those jobs to fund my dream and what I really want to do. When people say they hate this part-time job, it’s almost like that’s a good thing, because you want to hate it. The moment you get comfortable and get money and everything’s all cool, you’ll end up staying there and put the dream further back.
“I remember I used to sign-on a couple of years ago. I left uni and didn’t have a job and realised I needed an income but was still trying with comedy. A lot of people say ‘I hate going to the jobcentre, the people are so rude’, but you think, they kinda have to be, because if they weren’t, you’d be there all the time like ‘yeah they’re cool man, I’ll get a job when I can’.
“You look at those struggles and think sometimes you have to do that 9-5 job that you hate, because that’s what is with a job, it’s a job, not your career. There are struggles you have where things don’t work, but that’s part of moulding you and preparing you for the next stage” recalls Mo of his earlier endeavours.
Chris Rock once said this: “When I was young, I didn’t think comedy was a job. Then I saw Eddie Murphy on Saturday Night Live and it changed everything”. Those sketches Eddie Murphy brought to SNL helped revitalise the show in the 1980s, adding to his decorated career in stand-up and acting, one of three comedians Mo pays homage to:
“I’ve always been a big fan of Dave Chappelle. I’ll be honest, when I first used to watch, he wasn’t always my favourite, but as I got older, I’ve always viewed him as one of the masters of it. Eddie Murphy is another. He was doing arena tours at 21, that for me, is wicked. In the UK, I’ve always liked Lee Evans. I’ve just found him so funny and his type of comedy is so abstract. I like watching comedians for different things, as opposed to them all being the same. For me, that’s my top three. I wanna get to the heights of Eddie Murphy but still be able to tell a joke like Dave Chappelle and have a joke that is so simple like Lee Evans”
In December 2016, the onslaught of short comedy videos began, and since then, Mo The Comedian has uploaded 82 different videos to Instagram, raking in 10.1 million views along the way, whilst on Facebook, 43 uploads have been viewed 11.4m times.
When you consider the views accumulated through re-posts from platforms like Link Up TV, GRM Daily, ImJustBait and Hackney’s Finest, it would be reasonable to assume that Mo has raked in close to 50m views in this half of 2017 alone. A year ago, those numbers would’ve been laughable, so what’s changed?
“I used to mess around doing videos on Snapchat and stuff, then I’d upload them on my Instagram. I think it was more like December, I did the different types of MC’s. That was the one that everyone started sharing. I remember Link Up TV shared it on their Facebook and in 48 hours it hit a million views. I was like ‘rah, a million views?!’ It was one of those moments that encouraged me a lot,” explains Mo.
That aforementioned different types of MC’s upload was followed by 81 more videos and many more millions, a quarter of which have come from his geezer creation. The well-known advocate of ‘Babaydus’ has featured in 14 videos on Instagram and 10 on Facebook, accumulating 5.6m views, with the character’s catchphrases becoming so popular they are now common sayings. But to say all Mo has done is create a geezer character with a few popular catch-phrases would criminally overlook the creativity on display.
The impression of Tinie Tempah was so accurate that Tinie himself showed the video huge support. The two-part ‘roadman in a shirt’ saga has close to 700,000 views on his social networks alone. The garage DJ who warns of stop-checks on London Bridge, the gym guy who’s ‘tryna be like you’ and the driller who takes us behind the scenes of a music video, a few of a long list of examples, are all a reflection of Mo’s ability to create content that is relevant, accurate and funny.
As recently as February 2017, Mo’s following on Instagram was 20,000. It is now nine times bigger than it was at 170,000 followers, with 85,000-page likes on Facebook and 45,000 followers on Twitter. What advice can Mo offer to other content creators trying to build up their following on social media?
“It’s just down to consistency and believing in your brand. For me, I’ve always just had the content and put it out there because I believe it’s good. You gotta find the balance between being consistent and not doing too much. There’s a thin line because you can easily oversaturate something, and easily not put out enough.
“You’ll know in terms of building your page, what’s working and what isn’t. That’s what it comes down to. I got some friends that are artists and helps them to always be putting out paintings and getting stuff out there, with my videos, I might get one video that gets a really good reaction, I’m not then gonna post another geezer video, because that doesn’t make sense. But then there are times when I might do that. Trusting your gut, consistency and believing in your brand are the three massive things to pass on in terms of building a successful page. It’s gonna take time. You gotta have patience.”
Beyond impressive online stats, Mo’s brand of comedy has also taken off massively in the offline world to:
“Some people tell me they were in Thailand or Zante and heard people saying ‘it’s like Babaydus’. Some of the guys from GRM Daily were telling me on a plane they heard people say ‘get a couple cans in’ on the plane. I didn’t know the impact would be that great.
“UB40 invited to me one of their gigs, that was mad, I remember being little and listening to their music, and they were said I can come to any gig in the UK. I was like ‘a whole UB40 you know, a whole red wine’, so those kinda things are amazing.
“Going to the BETs was amazing as well, to see how what I do on social media took me to another country. I remember the press carpet, everybody was pushing to get on there and it was a bit cattle-farmish at that time. I was sitting there, being so polite and English, and I looked around like ‘rah, I’m in LA’. French Montana is there, Fat Joe is there and I’m actually meant to be there.”
The bigger play here is a career in stand-up. That’s what Mo is first and foremost, a comedian, and thanks to a huge following, he now has a 15-date nationwide stand-up tour to look forward to later in 2017. ‘Coupla Cans’ could’ve easily been one or two dates, but instead is a nationwide tour, beginning as nine but later expanding to 15 dates due to demand. I asked Mo to explain the process behind boldly announcing a tour, as opposed to a one or two date offering:
“I wanted to make it accessible to everyone that wants to come and see it. I didn’t want to limit it to three dates, Birmingham, Manchester and London. I wanted to go places like Hull, Liverpool, do I have a fan base there, I don’t know, but we’ll see, and that’s kinda where it stemmed from.
“I want everyone who’s seen my stuff to be able to come, and even if you haven’t seen my stuff, I still want you to come. Part of it is getting it to who wouldn’t normally go stand up. Obviously trying to make it 16+, instead of 18. I really want younger people to be able to see it. If I was 17 and taking my time to invest and watch this comedian regularly, I’d love to be able to come to a show,” explains Mo.
The name of the tour, ‘Coupla Cans’, is a fitting play on words that marks how that saying went from a viral internet saying to the name of a nationwide tour: “I didn’t want to do a play on my name, like ‘mo money mo problems or mo-mentum’. I just ‘nah’. ‘Coupla Cans’ says it in the title. ‘This seems like cool, you going to that tour, yeah? Let’s get a coupla cans in’. That’s kinda what I wanted, an easy play on words rather than some random name that’s a bit abstract like… ‘The Roadman Tour: Mo The Comedian’. Na man, let’s call it ‘Coupla Cans’.”
Many of Mo’s fans might not be familiar with his stand-up work, so what is exactly is in store when ‘Coupla Cans’ visits a city near you in October and November?
“This is where I can’t give too much away. I don’t even wanna sound like one of those guys who’s like ‘you’ll have to come and see on the night… alright bruv’. I do stand-up first, so it’s about mixing the comedy, the sketches and creating a good live experience. It’s about creating a live experience so you still get that feeling from a video, but live, and someone can say ‘yeah that was good live’. If you look at the venues we chose, 90% of them are mainly music venues, as opposed to comedy clubs or art centres. I chose those venues because I want that kinda acoustic in the room. So, it’s about mixing that live experience with comedy,” says Mo.
The first London date of the ‘Coupla Cans’ tour sold out in just four minutes, and if the past few months have been anything to go by, things only look set to get bigger and better, but how far can he take his growing brand of authentic comedy that resonates with so many?
“Performing at the 02 Arena. Whether it’s just one night or four nights. I don’t know, but I would like to play there in any capacity. Sometimes you get a roster of comedians and to even be part of that would still be a dream. I’ve seen a lot of my favourite artists there like I wanna see Kanye, I wanna see Jay Z, then I see them, and it lived up to everything I wanted it to be.
“I believe heavily in the law of attraction, so I’m like that’s gonna happen because I believe it’ll happen, but if people asked what my goal was, then it’s the 02. I’ve heard mixed reviews about performing there. Some people have said there’s a delay in laughter, but I’d like to find that out for myself one day.”