May 01, 2019

Behind the mask

An unprecedented secret interview with Gunga, Andover’s unofficial mascot
by Allyson Irish

It’s an age-old question. One that’s been pondered by thousands of faculty, students, and alumni: Who is behind that freakishly happy gorilla mask, and how did they get that cool job?

Andover magazine was able to track down the wily spirit animal and—in an unprecedented secret interview—obtain information never before revealed about the clandestine tryouts, the rigors of being Gunga, and what the future holds for Andover’s unofficial mascot.

Why did you want to become Gunga?

I think, truthfully, I’ve always been a gorilla on the inside. It was only a matter of putting on the suit. More seriously, however, I wanted to cheer on and represent Big Blue. It was the best decision I ever made.

What were Gunga tryouts like? Did you do anything to prepare?

I had no idea beforehand how to prepare. I looked at myself in the mirror every night and imagined myself representing Big Blue on the field, the court, and the arena, hyping myself up and sort of just growling. The night before I watched some videos of professional mascot tryouts. They are actually really funny and I got a lot of ideas from them.

What’s your primary responsibility as Gunga?

My job is to be the soul of Andover, the living, breathing, school spirit. I represent Andover at all sports making sure everyone—including each and every rival student and athlete—knows exactly what Big Blue stands for.

Gunga is the one spirit leader that everyone can have fun with. Some people may not know certain Blue Key Heads and it can be intimidating. But no one knows who is behind the mask, so everyone can interact and have fun.

What does Gunga enjoy most?

Gunga enjoys the bare necessities: Sunday sundaes, getting bananas, and Wednesday morning crepes, plus going to Senior Tea and Friday night basketball games, naturally.

Gunga also enjoys running up to random people and teasing or interacting with them, and playfully taking people’s hats or flicking them off their heads.

How do you protect your true identity?

I’m a really good actor. That’s all I can say without revealing too much. Sometimes I have to lie to a lot of people or make up random excuses.

Gunga and Baby Gunga with Blue Key Heads

My job is to be the soul of Andover, the living, breathing, school spirit.

Gunga

What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve done as Gunga?

Hmmm. Good question. I once got yelled at for going in the softball dugout to give our team high fives. The coaches did NOT like that. My proudest moment in the suit was at winter AE when I was playing knockout during a break at the boys' basketball game. I’m normally pretty terrible at basketball and I wasn’t expecting to make any of the shots I took, especially in the Gunga suit. Nevertheless, I made a three-point shot on my first try and it was legendary.

What is the hardest thing about becoming Gunga?

Not talking. Definitely. It's really, really hard not to talk and to go along with the cheers and the songs the Blue Key Heads sing. Also, the suit itself is pretty gnarly. There's a bunch of clothes pins and Velcro holding it together in all sorts of places and it gets sweaty—like really sweaty.

Having to lie to keep your identity secret is also hard because the whole school is trying to figure out who you are. It can be very stressful. So, this goes out to all students: let Gunga be and let Gunga thrive. All Gunga wants to do is have fun with you guys!

What about little Gungas—what do they do?

They are the sweetest. The first time I saw a little Gunga I almost died, it was the best thing ever. The little Gungas are our little mascots and they do a great job.

Why do you think Gunga is so popular?

Hmmm. The secret identity for sure. Andover students want to know EVERYTHING and if they don’t know something then they make it their mission to figure it out. People love a good secret at PA.

What does the future hold for Gunga?

I wouldn’t object to a video or an Instagram page. Gunga needs a new suit too!

Any advice for future Gungas?

Be wild. Be the most insane, powerful, non sibi gorilla you can possibly be. Make the suit your own and a part of the spirit of this campus. Be the Big Blue, be crazy, and make everyone feel a part of this amazing and special campus. Be silly, run around, have fun and interact with the crowd, and always enjoy yourself.

Categories: Campus Life, Magazine Online

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