Mr Bingo, artist, illustrator and public speaker, is famous for being rude. You might also know him from a hilarious Kickstarter video promoting his recent book Hate Mail, or maybe you’ve seen his bus stop poster advertising for a wife. We agree to meet at Leonard Street, and he shows up in what he calls his ‘funeral outfit’ - bright yellow shoes and a pink shirt. The Guardian once called him an ‘entrepreneur in the industry of hate’ and Bingo himself thinks that people should take themselves less seriously.
What’s the story behind the ‘Mr Bingo’ nickname?
In 1998, I played Bingo at Gala Bingo in Maidstone, Kent. I won £141 and people started calling me Bingo. A couple of years later I added the ‘Mr’ to it and started crediting any work I made with Mr Bingo. Basically, I ‘branded’ myself at the age of 20 when I had no idea what I was doing (actually, I still don’t) and I’ve had to live with the daft name ever since. It’s a really stupid name, a bit like The Arctic Monkeys; surely they regret that now they’ve all lost their teenage acne and started prancing around moodily in smart clothes in black and white photos?
‘Hate Mail’ was one of your most famous projects – what was your biggest learning?
One of the biggest things I leant from the Hate Mail project is that humans are better than I thought they were.
I had this generalised opinion that most people were pretty boring. They go to work, go home, cook dinner, watch TV, have generic conversations, get drunk on Friday night, get married, buy houses, and have babies…then die. I put a load of ridiculous reward tiers on my Kickstarter as a sort of joke, or a test. To my total surprise, (other than ‘Be my friend’ which was £5,000) every single thing sold out. Strangers parted with their hard earned cash to get drunk on a train with me, have me do their washing up and meet me for a pint in five years time. So, I realised that people were more fun and willing to engage with silly ideas than I thought they were. My faith in humans was restored.
Have you ever written down or thought about your life philosophy?
Most of these are impossible but I try my best to do them:
Don’t look backwards
Don’t compare yourself to others
Don’t take anything too seriously
Don’t have a plan
Don’t chase money
Never be satisfied
If you’re afraid of making a change in your life, ask yourself “What’s the worst that can happen?”
Don’t worry about your problems when you’re in bed
Work with people who can do stuff that you can’t do
Accept that everything has an ending
Never ever, ever, ever have a job
Anyone can be an artist
Sometimes doing nothing is good for you
Hate Mail makes people laugh. That’s a great reaction to art. How did ‘making people laugh’ become your mission?
It’s just something I realised I could do from a really early age. I can’t do much else. I used to draw funny cartoons when I was a child and I always used to enjoy the reaction I got from people, so I always strived to continue to make work which made people laugh as it’s a really nice thing to be able to do. I’m looking to make people smile.
What is your view and personal experience when working on commissioned projects?
I made a decision to stop working for clients and companies about a year ago and it’s been lovely. No meetings, no conference calls, no bollocks, no waiting months to get paid, no compromising. I just make things I want to make and as long as people out there continue to buy them, I can maintain this free lifestyle that I’ve now become accustomed to.
You made a bus poster advertising for a wife. Did you receive any enquiries?
I had quite a few applications via email, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram direct message.
Unfortunately they were mainly 21 year old art students which I felt was a bit young for me so I didn’t follow any of them up. If anyone (preferably in their 30’s) reading this is interested, please do get in touch.
Over time, what have you learnt about motivation?
I’ve learnt that you need to be really motivated to be a self-employed creative. You have to really want to do it to make it work and be motivated to work a lot harder than you probably would if you had a Monday to Friday, 9-5 job. I’m motivated by the reactions I get from people to my work and also by the fact that I must have enough financial success to never ever have to work for a company again.