Jonny Bongo: The alternative art of bingo calling
So, bingo. It conjures up images of rows of seats in windowless, retro halls with a bingo caller flirting with the older ladies. Apart from a few people we know who have hit the halls in an ironic sort of way, there aren’t many people we know who would put bingo high up on their evening entertainment options.
However, say bingo in Liverpool and people are likely to exclaim Bongo back at you in glee. Have they lost their marbles? Well quite possibly but Bongo’s Bingo is a phenomenon bringing the retro game a new lease of life, selling out its 700 capacity venue on a weekly basis. Manchester has recently had its fill at The Albert Hall and now it’s our turn to get our eyes down for a full house.
This chaotic version of the game stereo-typically played by the blue rinse brigade is all hosted by Jonny Bongo, a rather brash Irishman who proudly holds the world record for the biggest ever pub quiz.
We caught up with him ahead of his bingo debut at Canal Mills to discuss the art of bingo calling.
Set the scene for us. Why this is different to your average game of bingo?
I’d say the addition of smoke machines, lasers and donk music makes it slightly different. Fundamentally it is still bingo and I do still flirt with the older ladies.
How do you differ from the person you normally see calling numbers down the bingo hall?
To be honest I wouldn’t say I’m any different, I get really drunk and can get quite obnoxious
How on earth did you even get into bingo calling?
I’ve been running a quiz in Liverpool for five years which is a bit off the wall but I’ve always wanted to put on a bingo night, and the fact that the words bongo and bingo are so similar made sense.
What are the most important things you need to know/do when being a bingo caller?
There’s only one rule, always keep your eyes on the balls.
What’s your favourite number and why?
As I am from Northern Ireland, eighty eight sounds good in my accent. Also everyone loves “a meal for two with a beautiful view 69”
How bad are the prizes you give away?
I wouldn’t say any of the prizes are bad! I’d be made up if I won some cash or Lambreni or a bottle of poppers!
Liverpool and Manchester seem to be taken by your bingo but they might just be an easy crowd. Why do you think Leeds will become bingo converts too?
The main thing about Bongo’s Bingo is having good craic, getting wrecked and raving on tables, if Leeds weren’t up for that I’d be disappointed.
Any tips for bingo virgins?
Every number called will be on your bingo card so you should always be marking something down and always be sure before you shout BINGO because false calls result in 500 people shouting obscenities at you.