Did you know that Alexi Sayle, one of the most in your face of the original new wave of “alternative” comedians, has a connection to bingo? Well-known for haranguing, confusing and sometimes bewildering his audiences in his too small shell suit, Alexi had a Bingo feature in his 1980’s comedy routine. He used to give out a single Bingo cards to everyone the audience for a pound each, and then conduct Bingo in the usual way. The prize was the total amount of money collected (in other words the number of people in the audience). What people in the audience didn’t know was that each and every card had the same numbers on them (although spaced out differently). The number calling was legitimate, but of course everyone was marking off the same numbers on the cards when they were called, and the climax was when the entire audience yelled “Bingo!” That was the cue for much laughter, some confusion, and one or two severely ticked off punters. The prize money was divided out among the winners... so that everyone got their one pound back. I have to say I’m not sure it’s really comedy, but it must have been funny to see the whole audience getting Bingo at the same time!
There’s a pub in South East London, The Montague Arms, that combines comedy and Bingo once a month. By all accounts it works very well, and a lot of hard-core Bingo players are having their first taste of Edinburgh fringe comedy, while comedy fans are being subjected to the delights of Bing. Fusion crossover culture man, innit?! I know someone who has been, and they said it is a really great relaxed atmosphere, and a fine evening’s entertainment. The only minor problem being that it can be sometimes difficult to get people to settle and be quiet for the Bingo, after a particularly raucous and rabble-rousing comedy act!
But the mix isn’t new or restricted to Britain. There’s the San Manuel Bingo, Casino and Comedy Club in Highland, California. Also the Potawatomi Bingo Casino club in Milwaukee, United States, where they combine comedy Calling and Bingo so as to get maximum interaction between comedians and the audience. In fact there are venues world-wide that are now combining having a laugh with having a flutter- comedy and Bingo going hand-in-hand. I think it may be one of the things that can revive land-based Bingo and have it chasing hard on the heels of online Bingo... or am I just ‘aving a laugh?!