Last Thursday, the Hinman Production Company (HPC) premiered its ninth production of Binghamton Night Live (BNL), “BNL (COVID-1)9.” Hosted each semester, the fully student-produced sketch comedy show made Binghamton University history this fall in multiple respects.
The show was co-directed by Lorin Miller, a junior double-majoring in English and Italian, and Henry Sinnott, a senior double-majoring in mathematics and economics. Both students have been involved with past BNL performances, this one being Miller’s fifth and Sinnott’s seventh, yet neither had prior experience with an online show. Despite this, the production group, comprised of around 30 students in total, focused on the silver linings instead of the clouds.
“When we found out we’d be doing a virtual BNL, we tried to look at it optimistically and think about the new possibilities the online format gave us, rather than the limitations,” Miller said. “We’re proud of what we were able to come up with.”
The event premiered on HPC’s YouTube channel. A live chat allowed for viewers to interact throughout the show, a function that would quickly prove popular. Even in the minutes leading up to the premiere, the chat was flooded with excited messages, a digital version of the pre-show chatter that typically fills a theater.
The show kicked off with an upbeat parody of the popular song “WAP” by Cardi B featuring Megan Thee Stallion, which in this case, stood for “Welcome Amidst a Pandemic.” Complete with renditions of popular TikTok dances and splits, the clever lyrics poked fun at some of the pandemic’s effects on BU students, such as reducing campus life to games of cornhole and the looming possibility of a shutdown. As one of the lyrics said, “What about Dilly’s, did you see that line?”
The WAP parody’s plethora of Bearcat-specific references embodied what Miller described as a key driver of the show’s overall creative direction: the students.
“BNL is different than any other show on campus because the humor is tailored specifically to [BU] students,” Miller said. “Humor is one of the best ways to reach people and highlight your shared experiences.”
Some of these shared experiences, as demonstrated by “WAP,” were ongoing ones. For example, one skit took the form of a YouTube video uploaded by influencer “Corona Virus,” burlesquing the typical influencer “apology video” down to every tear. In a mock Zoom call, students made fun of their professor for having a race car bed — and yes, this skit did feature a real race car bed, making it the most expensive sketch in BNL history. Additionally, in the first-ever “Weekend Update” segment, taking influence from the popular “Saturday Night Live” (SNL) segment, hosts touched on multiple elements of current events and pop culture. This entailed everything from literally just screaming about Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation to the fact that neither host had ever seen two pretty best friends. Still, other skits emphasized commonalities from Generation Z’s earlier years.
“We knew coming into this one [show] that we wanted to have some sketches about the pandemic — it’s unavoidable — but we also wanted a good amount of sketches that have nothing to do with that,” Sinnott said.
One such sketch was a parody of Disney’s old commercial break segment “TTI: The Time I,” in which a student recounted the time she got peed on at The Rathskeller. Additionally, a nostalgic “Tooth Tunes” commercial was rebranded as “Tooth Tunes for Sad Adults,” in which the original toothbrush’s upbeat music was swapped for “Blonde”-era Frank Ocean songs. Miller said that a lot of work goes on behind the scenes.
“Don’t get us wrong, this BNL was not easy to make,” Miller said. “It took imaginative writers, some very patient editors and a cast with a ‘can-do’ attitude to turn BNL (COVID-1)9 into what it is.”
“It’s bittersweet to not go out on a truly live BNL,” Sinnott said. “But it was so much fun getting to end with something so new and different.”
On the bright side, Miller believes the memories will be preserved — at least digitally.
“I’m happy we’re putting all the sketches on YouTube this semester so they can live in a dark corner of the internet forever,” Miller said.