IF YOU were to ask the average British person on the street to name five well-known black British comedians, they would struggle to give you an answer.
It’s an honour to be working on this film with Mo and pay homage to this rich and vibrant scene that has thrived for many years
Vanessa Van-Yeboah, Director
But last year a new stand-up burst onto the scene with his own unique brand of comedy.
He is black and he is British… enter Mo Gilligan, the first black comedian to front a prime time show in 20 years.
Mo Gilligan’s first big break came from the black British comedy circuit; a thriving yet little known about stand up scene which has been packing out theatres up and down the country for the last 30 years, with its stars selling out major venues like the O2 and Hackney Empire.
Now Mo wants to celebrate the icons who paved the way for artists like him and shine a light on the new wave of acts coming through.
He’ll look back at the history of the black comedy circuit, asking why this scene has remained hidden in plain sight and, importantly, question why he is one of the few comedians from the scene who have crossed over and ‘made it’, enjoying mainstream success.
In this documentary Mo will embark on a personal, celebratory and sometimes bittersweet journey of discovery, exploring his own background and delving into the black comedy circuit.
Mo will meet icons from the late eighties. He will spend time with some of the most famous people you have never heard of.
Super stars on the scene like Slim who Mo first encountered when he was making his own tentative steps into stand-up and who ultimately inspired him to become a comedian.
Mo will question what happened in the Noughties, which saw a period in the wilderness for black British comedy in the mainstream.
Mo will also meet the new rebellious breed of comedians who are not waiting to get a seat at the television table but rather building their own on social media.
So, do the general public just not find black British comedians funny? Why are hardly any fronting their own TV shows or appearing regularly on panel shows?
The film will explore if there is a systemic racism that blocks the opportunities of black comedians from entering a highly competitive industry.
Mo Gilligan commented: “My first big break came from the black British comedy circuit.
“It’s an incredible scene packed full of outstanding artists. I am so proud and truly honoured to give it the attention it deserves through our film with Channel 4.”
Fozia Khan, Commissioning Editor added: “We are over the moon to be working with Mo in documentaries to bring this personal and important film to our audience.”
Vanessa Van-Yeboah, Director said: “Growing up I attended black comedy shows on the circuit and always wondered why more of the comedians weren’t represented on mainstream TV.
“It’s an honour to be working on this film with Mo and pay homage to this rich and vibrant scene that has thrived for many years producing and nurturing amazingly talented comedians, writers and actors.”
Mo Gilligan: Black, British and Funny will air as part of a series of special commissions for Black History Month.