The Chicago Transit Project

The Chicago Transit Project (July 22, 2014)

Ben Larrison wants to make Red Line riders smile, even if they're packed like sardines on a rush hour train.

The 27-year-old Lakeview resident, freelance writer and improv performer launched a Kickstarter Tuesday. He aims to raise $4,100 for a different kind of ad campaign. If successful, Larrison won’t actually be selling anything. He’ll simply crack some jokes.

“You’ll look up and instead of seeing an ad for GrubHub or Tropicana, you’ll see an ad about the dangers of squirrels tickling you in your sleep,” he said of his "Chicago Transit Project” campaign. With the money, he plans to buy 100 total ads to place in up to 100 CTA cars. Other ads he's planning are random pictures of goats and fake personal ads of an ex pleading to get his girlfriend back.

“It might hopefully brighten someone’s day, or make someone’s day better after a rough day at the office,” he said. “I definitely know what that’s like.”

If all that sounds silly, consider Larrison’s track record. In June, he earned enough crowdfunded money to have a slam dunk contest with the WNBA’s Sheryl Swoopes. He’s also the founder of Northwestern’s Happiness Club, which has built impromptu sandboxes on campus and brought in dogs during finals week. And he was a cast member for ComedySportz’s “Improvised Double Dare."

“I love trying to come up with ideas that I probably shouldn’t be able to pull off and actually trying to pull them off,” he said.

Larrison is trying to lure investors with rewards as quirky as the hypothetical ad campaign itself. They include leaving complimentary notes about the potential funder in a RedEye box, wearing a T-shirt with the funder’s face on it for a day or even including an investor’s name on one of the ads.

As for the logistics, Larrison said he’s already asked the CTA's ad buying agency for a quote. He's also reviewed the CTA’s policies for advertising. While the agency does reserve the right to reject vulgar or offensive imagery or ad copy, Larrison said he doesn’t think his squirrel jokes and goat pictures will be a problem.

“I’m definitely optimistic,” he said of hitting the goal. “I hope that people are into this and that we can get it done. I know it isn’t a small amount of money, but I hope enough people around the city pitch in a few bucks and it catches on.”

If all goes well and he has the $4,100 when the campaign ends Aug. 21, he said he hopes to have the ads up by the fall.  

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