Behind the mask: Marty the Martlet

As McGill University’s mascot, Marty the Martlet holds a prominent position in the eyes of the school’s student body. Not only is Marty seen around campus and at sports games in its kilt, it is also prominently featured in numerous McGill-centric meme pages and accounts. 

With all its notoriety, it is hard to remember that there’s somebody inside that giant vest-wearing bird costume. In an exclusive interview with The McGill Tribune, the performer behind the Marty mask answers questions about what it is like to don that costume, and shares tips on becoming a successful mascot.

Marty began mascotting after an open house at their high school, when they had the opportunity to don a full costume for the first time.

“I got picked for it first when all the people were there,” Marty said. “I honestly had a stupid amount of fun, just […] walking around, high-fiving [….] I could be as goofy as I wanted to. It was perfectly acceptable, if not expected of me. Being able to do that for an hour was awesome.”

After that experience, there was no looking back for Marty. They immediately signed up to be their high school’s mascot and eventually earned their spot as Marty the Martlet when they arrived at McGill. As a seasoned mascot, Marty notes that it takes a particular type of energy to get into this line of crowd-work.

“I’d say to get into mascotting, you need a lot of energy,” Marty said. “You can have introverts who like to be able to be part of a crowd and like not to be recognized. You can have extroverts who like being the center of attention […] and just making people happy [by] taking photos. It’s a good outlet to let loose very goofy, extroverted sorts of energy, and all sorts of different people can have that within themselves.”

On the surface, it appears that Marty’s job is easy, but considering the ground that they have to cover and the social situations they have to navigate, mascotting is a lot more than smiling and taking pictures.

“Time management is a very important part of what I do,” Marty said. “I have to think about questions like ‘When I am going to find a chance to go to this side of the stadium?’ and ‘When am I going to interact with these people?’ In a football game when the ball is in between downs, I might, like, scoot to one side, wave to a bunch of people, give some high fives, and maybe take a picture. And then 30 seconds later, when the game’s back on, I have to find a place to sit down without blocking anybody’s view.”

Marty said that mascots have a certain mystique surrounding their presence that makes for interesting reactions from the crowd.

“A lot of people are very unsure of how to act around you because you can’t speak,” Marty said. “But, at the same time, there’s a type of allure of like, ‘Oh, it’s a mascot.’ It’s like the physical manifestation of what our school and its spirit and essence is supposed to be. So there’s something cool about just getting a picture with that.”

Since McGill sports stopped in March, Marty has been out of work and has not been able to take pictures, offer high-fives, or dance. They look forward to the resumption of in-person sports matches, no matter how long it takes for games to come back.

“Being Marty was probably the most fun thing I did at McGill,” Marty said. “Sports games are something that so many different types of people come to to purely have a good time. To have the opportunity to be the person who stands out in front of the crowd and is there to entertain everybody is a very enticing idea to me and I miss it a lot.”

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