“It’s A Big Deal!” Mo Gilligan’s Guide To Hosting The BRIT Awards

The comedian looks ahead to this year's event...

Hosting the BRITs can make or break you. For recent hosts such as James Corden and Jack Whitehall, it put booster rockets under their careers, blasting them to greater and greater heights. For Sam Fox and Mick Fleetwood, well… perhaps that one exploded on launch.

Mo Gilligan stepped in to host the BRIT Awards last year, and – in our opinion – he smashed it. The South London comedian is used to breaking the glass ceiling, but this was something else – he injected a different type of flavour to the BRITs, reaching out to different audiences in the process. Indeed, he was so successful that the powers-that-be who organised the ceremony had a shortlist of one for this year’s event.

Returning as host for the BRIT Awards 2023, Mo Gilligan has been working for months on his script. Facing up to yet another challenge, he’s building on the incredible momentum that fuelled his rise, culminating in last year’s Black British Takeover at The O2 Arena in London.

Chatting to Clash over Zoom, Mo Gilligan reveals a few secrets about British music’s most high-profile event.

Congrats on returning at host of the BRITs – I thought last year was fantastic!

Thanks a lot, man! It was my first time doing the BRITs – doing it in front of 20,000 people, and another two million sat at home. So getting to do that all over again is a great opportunity. It’s a big deal. And I’ll be the first person to host it on a Saturday night!

Did you feel nervous before walking out last year?

At first, walking out, I didn’t feel that nervous. We did a dress rehearsal on the day, and I was probably more nervous for that! So it started, the camera panned round, and I had to introduce Ed Sheeran… and I was like: let me just get this beginning bit right, yeah? I was more nervous of messing up my first link. I eased into it, and got more comfortable as the night wore on.

When I do TV, the more chaos that happens the more relaxed I feel. It’s like: the kitchen is on fire, what else can I do…? I’ve got a cup of water?! (laughs) It’s fun if it gets quite chaotic. But equally, you’re seeing people win awards, and it’s their moment. One thing I took from the BRITs is seeing people having their moment. Seeing Simz – and her mum – going up, that was such a wholesome moment. It’s like, wow, that’s what it’s all about.

Do you have many memories of the BRITs growing up? Did any performances stick out, in your mind?

Yeah a tonne of performances, man! Obviously, the iconic Spice Girls performances. I remember looking at clips – especially last year – and I caught Jamiroquai performing, and the floor was moving! Now, I’m a bit Jamiroquai fan, so that’s a big deal. Seeing Kanye West onstage with Stormzy and Skepta and all those talented artists. The funny thing is, you can see Lionel Ritchie looking at it like, what… is going on? (laughs)

But yeah, growing up… seeing So Solid Crew winning awards, all while wearing white suits. That was iconic. I was a big fan of UKG and grime growing up. 

I’ve read that your first proper gig was  at the O2 Arena – Kanye and Jay-Z on their Watch The Throne tour.

Yeah it was! This huge show at the O2 Arena. And it was surreal, because we sold it out last year and had close to 18,000 people there. And I’ve seen so many iconic people there – Beyonce, Drake… I saw Kendrick Lamar there recently. I don’t get the chance to go to many concerts, but that Kendrick Lamar concert for me was… goosebumps. A goosebumps moment. It was really, really, really good! I kept saying to my friends: this is a really good concert, y’know?! And they were like: yeah… you’ve said that six times!

The BRITs will take place in a matter of weeks, how far in advance do you prep for something like that?

We actually start in December, just before Christmas. January is full-on. The line up for the BRITs is ever-changing, so we keep writing up until the last moment – until the dress rehearsal, even! I don’t want to pre-prep too much stuff because then it feels too rehearsed. It has to feel like it’s in the moment, and it’s happening. The team write until the last moment, and since I like to improv some things I just say on the day! Try it and see if it works!

You took the Black British Takeover there recently, and sold it out… which must have felt incredible!

It really did. That was iconic for… so many reasons. To sell out the O2 twice is a big deal. And to do it with people I’ve worked with for years on the Black British comedy circuit, whether it’s my peers or the new generations, it means a lot. Seeing 18,000 people out there is still a surreal moment. That’s comedy at an arean stage. It’s a pinch-me moment. We had 18,000 people who wanted to laugh… during a winter world cup!

It must feel like your front room now?

Oh, I know my way around! But I don’t take it for granted. I don’t want to normalise these achievements.

People watch the BRITs in different ways now, don’t they? Platforms like Twitter or TikTok or YouTube are pretty integral.

They are, yeah. That’s how TV is moving. But for, I always write in the present. I’m aware of it, but it doesn’t change how I write. For musicians, that performance is how they want to be represented in the future, and you have to respect that. People right now watch the BRITs before they even start – watching it on TikTok for the red carpet. Some people don’t watch the actual show, they just follow it through clips! Or they catch up afterwards. I did that with Stormzy’s Glastonbury performance – I was busy, so I caught it afterwards! Things live for longer now. But for me, I work in the present. You don’t know what will be funny in two years time!

You can never tell which jokes will last, and which won’t.

Completely. Like when I did an impression of Liam Gallagher last year, who was performing. I put on the glasses and wore the hat. Now, a lot of people don’t know that the slot was only going to be 10 seconds, and then we’d go for a break. But we finished early, and it had to be a minute! I just had to keep going! But he liked it. I read this article afterwards, and he liked it… which is cool, man! He’s iconic. And I guess that pays homage to how iconic you are that someone can do an impression of you and people immediately get it.

Can watching people win these awards, and live out their dreams, get quite emotional for you as a host?

It can. I mean, it’s their moment. But to see someone come up is always amazing. And I’ve been there too, in different circumstances. I always say, though, that winning an award is a bonus in anyone’s career. You’ve won already by getting to the position you’re in. The margins of getting from where you’ve started, to where you are now… it’s still so slim. You’ve already win. Picking up some iconic thing – be it a BRIT or a BAFTA – that’s a bonus. But yeah, there is a sense of this being a big deal for people. And you can see them on tables, face-timing their friends. They stop being this artist, and you see them as people. Whether it’s their first time or their tenth time!

Did you get to go out afterwards?

I did go out. And it’s carnage! There are so many parties going on. And it’s mad because you’re getting invited by so many people… and you don’t want to miss out! It’s like FOMO. Me and my friends did go out, and we needed it… because it was a big gig. But I don’t know if I’ll go out this year, as I have other projects to be doing. I say that now, but you’ll probably catch me somewhere, cocktail in hand raving to something!

BRIT Awards 2023 takes place on February 11th, live on ITV from 8pm.

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