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Football v Lafayette Credit: Yuzhong Qian , Yuzhong Qian

After the West Powelton Steppers’ exceptional drumline excited the crowd, Franklin Field was finally due for the halftime entertainment I had come to see Saturday night — the Penn Band.

And it didn’t take long for the potpourri of pop culture put-ons to commence. The band quickly paid homage to Beyonce’s performance earlier this month at Made in America, standing in the shape of a heart and playing her mega-hit, “Crazy in Love.” I found out that Miley Cyrus and NSA jokes over the loudspeaker certainly aren’t off-limits, either.

There was even an anecdote about a group of Penn Band students who worked with a representative named Carlos Danger, who reportedly sent some “illicit” pictures to some of the students. Who needs a marching band when you can have Anthony Weiner jokes?

But that begs another question: Where do all the laughs come from?

They come partly from Penn Band Vice President, junior Andres Gonzalez, who facilitates the scrambling band’s all-important joke-writing.

A “scrambling” band does not march while performing; rather, they form one shape, play a song and then “scramble” to the next position while a member of the band tells jokes or an anecdote in reference to the next song and formation.

“[Usually] one of the members of the Penn Band gets over the loudspeaker and tells jokes about the Ivy schools,” Gonzalez said. “Our punchline is usually the formation and the song we play.”

And the band makes the joke-writing process a ritual of sorts. The entire process is very collaborative, geared towards what Gonzalez calls “finding a balance” of material. Writing begins Wednesday night with a dinner for interested band members, or “Bandos,” who trek to the band room at Platt Student Arts House and talk about how current events might fit into the next show.

“There’s usually a format to each show. [We] reference recent events, things in pop culture,” Gonzalez said. “We keep away from band inside jokes [because] we need to keep in mind our audience.”

Then the rehearsal process is led by co-drum major, junior Kylie Murrin. On Thursday and Friday nights, Murrin and her fellow Bandos prepare the formations for each stage of the performance, which by then is full of what Gonzalez refers to as “clean and funny” punchlines. All of the material is created exclusively by the band members and passes through the undergraduate executives of the organization for approval.

And on Saturday night, from “Video Killed the Radio Star” to Carlos Danger, the Penn Band was on top of its game.

A previous version of this story misidentified the West Powelton Steppers as members of Lafayette’s drumline.

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