Hate Mail, by Mr Bingo
Penguin, RRP: $26
Reviewed by Jim Robinson
Crikey. Englishman Mr Bingo does seems to have a bit of pent up anger.
Had he released it with a little more craft, this could have been a very funny book. Instead, to me, it just comes across as bollocks. Beautifully printed, beautifully hardcover. But bollocks nonetheless.
As he relates in the introduction, Mr Bingo set up an enterprise whereby people paid him ten quid, and in exchange he sent each of them a postcard. On the back was a one-off, hand-rendered abusive message. A few examples:
Fuck you. Dick head. You’re a fucking dunce. Twat. Fuck you. Tit. Fuck you.
Now it seems Mr Bingo has a fair following. Hundreds of people evidently paid up to have his cartoonish effing and blinding, so many that he had to close the service after a few days because he couldn’t meet demand.
This collection is a best of: one hundred offensive cards.
Closing the cover and thinking about it, I guess it reinforces that what’s funny to me is not necessarily funny to you. And vice versa. That’s good. But I also find it a bit perplexing.
To some folks, if I think I understand it right, Mr Bingo is smacking social conventions on the nose. He’s taking the piss out of stuff we say, that doesn’t actually mean what we say. As in postcards, for example. He’s turning that on its head, and shouting the stuff that we all wish we could say, but don’t: well, fuck you. Dick head.
The problem is, while Mr Bingo’s offensive, he’s not clever. Writing fuck you doesn’t gain any greater depth simply by drawing it on a schoolboy style cartoon of a cake. Or within a cartoonish rainbow heart.
Writing you’re a tit, around a big cartoon pink — geddit? — tit really doesn’t strike me as very profound.
Okay, I did find it a bit funnier when the abuse came within the message, Here’s that tin of FUCK YOU that you ordered, with the key words forming the label on a tin can.
And yeah, there are a few that stretch beyond the obvious. You’re a tool, written on a cartoon spanner, at least makes you put one and one together. Keep calm and fuck off is at least a parody of that famous wartime poster. Fuck Essex, to someone who lives in Essex, does at least acknowledge the recipient individually. FUCK YOU written in the style of an early 70s album cover is at least grounded in popular culture.
But surely, surely Mr Bingo could do better than that.
To me, it’s all a bit like the trend we seem to be suffering of stand-up comics, who reckon the punchline is funny just because it includes an expletive, or better, two expletives. Personally I find that’s not so much of a laugh. It’s swearing because you can’t think of a sharper way to say it.
Maybe I’m getting old. Maybe I’m too far away from the years a group of us as 11-year-olds drew Mr Bingo-ish cartoon cocks on the school playground.
Maybe you’re different. Maybe if you think a lot of social conventions are shallow and pathetic, maybe if you think we all have an inner stream of vitriol itching to burst out, maybe you’ll be different. Maybe you’ll strike it lucky with Mr Bingo’s humour. Maybe you’ll see the satire I don’t.
If the thought of a cartoon dunce hat, accompanied by the message, you’re a fucking dunce makes you snigger, hey, you’d better go take a look.
But to me, the short introduction says it all: “it was a late-night drunk idea”. Now I haven’t been drunk for a fair old while, but I do know that when I am I’ll laugh at just about anything.