IT’S FUNTIME! It’s the all-singing, all-dancing Edinburgh pub quiz that thinks it’s a 70s gameshow. Welcome to the brilliantly twisted world of It’s Funtime. Jonny Ensall steps inside.
A ll across the country this coming Saturday night families will sit down in front of the TV to watch people be mocked and derided in the name of entertainment. They’ll gawp at the outrageous outfits worn by the mentally unstable on X Factor. They’ll boo and hiss at Craig Revel Horwood’s acid dance critiques. Whatever happened, you have to ask, to The Generation Game? Yes, it poked fun at people, but it was never mean-spirited. Communal silliness and old-fashioned sportsmanship were its bread and butter, and nobody left feeling hard done by.
In Edinburgh a small group of disaffected quizzers have been asking the same question. And, it seems, they’ve produced an answer, picking up the mantle of light entertainment dropped by Bruce Forsyth and creating their very own homage to the gameshows of yore. Their once-in-a-blue moon event is a suped-up pub quiz called It’s Funtime, hosted early doors at the Bongo Club in the heart of the capital. For those in the know, it’s the most magnificently silly Saturday night’s entertainment on offer anywhere in Scotland – a riot of fancy dress, spilt drinks and hilarious games.
This is not to suggest, however, that the organisation is slap dash. Everything about It’s Funtime is unnervingly professional. It has its own theme song, which the teams of contestants gaily sing along to at the opening. It has a presenter – Wilson Keppel – whose chirpy Yorkshire accent recalls Jimmy Saville, and dusty suit, manic grin and wiry hair bring to mind David Lynch’s Eraserhead. The quiz has music and observation rounds, but also eating and drinking challenges (lest you ever wanted to know how quickly you could scoff a packet of Monster Munch), physical games of accuracy and skill, and a punishing Tower of Strength round in which players have to endure holding a pint of pennies at arms length. There are also regular appearances for a limbo pole, a kazoo orchestra and some giant robots, though surprise is always the most bankable element of a Funtime evening. In between rounds host Keppel ad libs through the game commentary in a deadpan worthy of Bullseye’s Jim Bowen, while Betty, his glamorous assistant, keeps score. A team of green-coated lackeys ensure an array of props and gizmos flow smoothly on and off stage, while any gaps in the fun are filled with short films that boast incredibly high production values. This effort is only ever for the benefit of a few dozen contestants. Everything is done purely in the name of fun – certainly not profit – which makes It’s Funtime one of the city’s most sparkling hidden gems but also raises the question, ‘why?’ And following that, ‘where do these people get the time?’
‘We do more than you should really. We’ve all got other things to do . . . It’s basically a pub conversation that got out of hand,’ says Keppel, real identity illustrator Sean Lee, over a lunchtime coffee. He and two others from the Funtime crew of seven have congregated to explain themselves. ‘There’s something perversely enjoyable about spending too much time on it. I remember I spent two weeks doing the computer graphics – rendering flying saucers and things – for our sci-fi special,’ says Danny Carr, the talent behind Funtime’s visuals. ‘I think there’s a part of me that would get less pleasure from it if we were making money out of it,’ Carr says. ‘Which is fortunate, because we never do make any money out it,’ adds Bongo Club manager Andy Nation.
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