If you're a regular Red Line rider, chances are you've seen some very strange ads popping up on the train cars over the past month. Among the usual offers to take experimental drugs for schizophrenia or to jump start your career at the Illinois Center for Broadcasting is a campaign called "#SquirrelTruth."
"FACT: Statistically speaking, at least one 'person' on this train is actually 7 squirrels wearing a human suit. Don't be a victim," says one of the ads.
Another reads, "FACT: Squirrels have never, ever wished you a Happy Birthday. Like, not even once. Probably because squirrels are inconsiderate, selfish monsters."
These ads were born out of a Kickstarter campaign by local improv and sketch comedian Ben Larrison, which raised $4,399 from 91 backers.
That funding allowed Larrison to afford an ad on 100 train cars, warning Red Line commuters of the danger that squirrels present.
"I don't have any genuine hatred or anger towards squirrels at all," Larrison says. "It's funny to me how ridiculously ever-present they are."
Larrison contacted Titan, the CTA's advertising broker, last spring to see what it would take to put an ad campaign up on the trains. He found that one can advertise pretty much anything on the CTA.
This isn't Larrison's first Kickstarter for a comedic endeavor. Last winter, he launched a campaign called "Dunk Contest of the Century of the World," which raised money for him to take on a professional basketball player on a Fisher Price hoop. It's worth noting that Larrison stands at a menacing 5'5".
The campaign raised enough money to book WNBA legend Sheryl Swoopes, who, unsurprisingly, won.
Larrison will be hosting a new show at the Annoyance Theatre later this year that, like his CTA ads and dunk contest, will be comprised of "things that you've always wanted to do, but never thought you could pull off."
The #SquirrelTruth ads are contracted for a month, but Larrison hopes they will remain up longer than that. If you're looking for a copy of one of the ads, you can purchase a print at the campaign's website for $20—don't steal one off a train.
"I really hope people don't take them," Larrison says. "As tempting as that might be, it's fun for everybody if we leave them up there. We're gonna be able to make people happy and smile and laugh if they can be on the train for a while."