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The Dartmouth
May 22, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

TTLG: I, Keggy

Senior and former editor of the Jack-O-Lantern, Julia King ’23, reflects on her time at Dartmouth through the experience as the College’s most beloved unofficial mascot, Keggy the Keg.

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Source: Courtesy of Julia King

Out of all the things I expected from college, dressing up in a silver, spray-painted keg costume was not one of them. 

Keggy the Keg, Dartmouth’s beloved, unofficial mascot, was created by the Jack-O-Lantern, and we still own his copyright to this day. We try to bring the character out and about during major events, but it’s usually spontaneous because, in case you didn’t know, the College doesn’t really like our mascot being an anthropomorphic keg. 

During Homecoming 2021, the Jack-O editors wanted to bring Keggy back for his first appearance since the start of the pandemic. They said they needed someone of perfectly average height to wear the suit, and I fit the bill (for the record, I think someone with longer limbs should have been Keggy. I struggled to bend my arms in the suit). 

On Friday of Homecoming, I got ready behind Mass Row before walking out to the Green. There was a group of Jackolytes to help me get ready to wear the costume; the wearer has to slide inside from below, strap into the harness and put their arms through the holes. I couldn’t see anything but my feet, since the cut-out for the mouth, which is roughly at eye level, was covered with opaque black cloth. I had four or five Jack-O people holding onto my arms so that I didn’t trip. When we got to the edge of the Green, I tried taking more exaggerated steps, making more expressive movements with my arms. When I heard people yell “Keggy!” I tried to turn and wave in the vague direction of the voices. I quickly learned that I could rely wholeheartedly on the Jackolytes, who fended off people who pregamed a little too hard and checked in to make sure I was okay. They truly made me feel safe and supported. I couldn’t have been Keggy without them.

It turns out that you can’t possibly be Keggy badly. The character makes people happy just by existing, which is lucky because the first night I was Keggy, I was totally disoriented and off-balance. The suit is top-heavy, and it’s easy to forget that it makes you much wider. It didn’t help when people smacked the keg, but my “security team” kept most people from doing that. It probably sounds like it would be a stressful, overstimulating situation, but I found it surprisingly easy to adopt the charismatic, party-loving persona of Keggy the Keg.

The spring after I became Keggy, I also became an editor for the Jack-O. I don’t know if there is a Keggy-editor pipeline per se, but I think playing the character demonstrated my reliability and commitment to the club. I didn’t have a lot of experience writing and had no experience with comedy before joining Jack-O in spring of 2021. Then I was chosen to be editor in spring of 2022. It’s a lot more work than you might think! Two weekly meetings, one weekly leadership meeting, at least one weekly editor meeting, time for editing and publishing and office hours if we can fit it in. And then there’s the publications. 

While this commitment was stressful at times, the Jackolytes really made it worth it. I loved to meet younger students and see them come into their own voice and get more confident writing. We had fantastic social events (bad movie nights, murder mysteries, etc.), and I got to see firsthand how creative and collaborative my classmates can be. In the end I felt like I was constantly learning on the job, messing around with Photoshop and learning how to describe and critique comedy. Strategies I learned from Jack-O are now ones I use all the time. One of these practices is what we call the “bad words version,” a term Jack-O editors use when an article loses the main angle, thus compelling the writer to restate the angle of the article in the simplest way possible. Then with that, the writer can go back and refine the writing. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gotten lost on a class paper and find myself going back to the bad words version.

But during my tenure at Jack-O, I think I learned the most about being (or at least trying to be) a student leader. Like most leaders, I made mistakes and had to manage what came of them, along with all the stresses of Dartmouth we all deal with day to day. It was also difficult to work with other students when we disagreed, especially when they were my personal friends. I second-guessed myself constantly. 

I don’t mean this to sound like a pity party. It’s more of a reflection on how I was so terrified of all these things when I started at Dartmouth: disagreement, conflict, messing up. And trust me, I did not like it when mistakes happened, and I tried my best to keep them from occurring again. But the point is that I made it. When I was a senior in high school, I was convinced that I wouldn’t be able to handle the real world — I had really severe anxiety and went multiple days when I couldn’t leave my house. College felt like an enormous leap. However, I made the leap, and I am grateful every day that I did. 

Granted, Dartmouth isn’t “the real world,” but in some ways Dartmouth is an even more intensive test run of being a person and a young leader. We’re all stuck here in the middle of the woods, and our relationships with each other develop and change quickly. We’re laser-focused on school work, extracurriculars and social spaces, for better or worse. Stress is high, and we don’t always treat each other with the patience and empathy we should. I’m definitely no exception to this. 

I’m not planning on going into comedy, but I definitely think a little differently now after having spent a couple years in Jack-O and as Keggy. There’s the bad words version strategy, of course, and I also learned some better project management skills. I also tend to think in headlines now; like if I see something ridiculous, I think of how I would put it in the Jack-O group chat as a pitch. Even if I don’t share my ideas with anyone, I think it’s good for my sanity to acknowledge when something is absurd and make fun of it a little. 

And I think it’s healthy to not take myself too seriously. Dressing up as a keg with arms and legs is a good way to practice that. 

Julia King is a former editor of the Jack-O-Lantern and a member of the Class of 2023.