Boy Meets Tractor Showcases Creativity and Humor with a Swarthmore Bent

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Boy Meets Tractor (BMT), Swarthmore’s only sketch comedy group, will be hosting its Spring Show today at 8:30 in Sci 101. Four new video sketches and six live sketches will premiere at the show.

An active student group for over a decade, today’s BMT is marked by a casual and collaborative atmosphere. Both live and video sketches are produced collectively from inception to post-production (in which minor effects are added to the video sketches) during the bi-weekly meetings.  Each of the ten current members contributes writing, acting, directing, filming, and editing. “You can never point to a sketch and be like, ‘that was that person’s idea,’” Nathan Siegel ’15 explains.

Themes of the sketches vary widely and are not necessarily related to Swat life. “We try to stay away from just doing Swarthmore jokes, because it’s kind of just too easy,” said Sophia Naylor ’13, a member of BMT for eight semesters. Naylor does note a Swarthmore bent to the group’s humor, however. “When we go out to see other comedy, or when other groups come in, we definitely know that our group is from Swarthmore—that’s definitely clear. We talk about it a lot at our meetings, how we really try not to have low-brow humor. Easy humor, again, just makes really bad jokes. We try to be more clever instead of just being insulting or offensive.”

The group’s new live sketches rely on classic comedic standbys like funny accents, comic contrast, and escalating absurd situations. In “Dinosaurs Are Back,” a pair of writers makes increasingly desperate attempts to pitch a new musical. One of the longer sketches, “Game Show,” parodies Family Feud and features great comedic timing from the energetic host and three eccentric contestants. Some sketches rely on simple conceits—a squirrel terrorizes a picnicker, obnoxious customers berate a fast-food employee—while others are more outlandish. BMT members Siegel and Dana Benton ‘16 agree that “Twins,” in which gold-digging British Siamese/fraternal twins attempt to romance a rich American, is this show’s weirdest.

Most sketches start as improv exercises and grow organically from there. “We do mini-skits off of random ideas and then they start to morph into different and weirder things,” Siegel said. “That’s often how we get some of the funniest stuff and also the weirdest stuff.” Other sketch ideas develop more casually. My personal favorite sketch—“Iced Coffee,”—grew out of an inside joke from a BMT Sharples dinner several semesters ago.

“Nate was like ‘I’m going to make iced coffee’ and it was shocking to me—you can just put ice in coffee, but—I was new to Sharples, I was a freshman, that was exciting … Gail and I would just sing about iced coffee in rehearsals … Two years later it’s a sketch,” Siegel said.

In the sketch, an apathetic teenager is inducted into a barista job via an outdated training video. The skit-within-a-skit “video” was creative, and the barista-in-training’s ennui seemed true to life (though I may just still be bitter about being rejected from a job at Starbucks last summer).

The new video sketches will include “Bad Sportscasters” and “How It’s Made: Babies,” a parody of the documentary TV series on the Science Channel. Other video sketches will make fun of Public Service Announcements and helicopter parents.

“We’re excited for people to come and see how much fun we’re having, and hopefully they’ll have fun too,” Benton said.

Previous video sketches and recordings of selected live sketches can be viewed at the BMT YouTube page.

Photo courtesy of Hannah Bown ’15

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