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The Squirrel Comedy Theatre Brings Live And In-Person Improv Back To New York City

Jeryl Brunner

In-person improv is coming back to New York City! This week Squirrel Comedy Theatre announced that on Saturday June 5th the theater will begin a residency at Caveat on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The Squirrel will offer in-person improv, sketch, and variety shows on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday nights.
(From top left) Michael Hartney, Maritza Montañez, Lou Gonzalez, Corin Wells, Patrick Keene, Alex Song-Xia Of The Improv Team BorabishCourtesy Squirrel Comedy Theatre

Caveat will be strictly adhering to state and city Covid-19 guidelines to ensure a safe experience for both audience and artists. In-person and streaming tickets can be purchased through both The Squirrel and Caveat’s websites, and

“Covid-19 has been particularly hard on the performing arts industry, and we’re lucky to be able to reopen after so many extraordinary theaters have closed,” said Caveat co-founder Ben Lillie. “That is why we’re incredibly excited to be working with Squirrel Comedy Theatre as they continue New York’s tradition of creating the absolute best improv and sketch comedy in the world.”

This past November comedians Lou Gonzalez, Michael Hartney, Patrick Keene, Maritza Montañez, Alex Song-Xia, and Corin Wells who are all alumni of Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre New York, launched the Squirrel Comedy Theatre.

On June 5th, the Squirrel’s debut Caveat show will kick off at 7:30pm with Borabish, an improv group formed during the pandemic by Squirrel's founders. The June lineup also includes former UCB shows Asian AF, Characters Welcome, and Here & Queer, along with new shows like the immigration-themed game show Citizenship Live!, the improvised hip-hop musical team Empire, and A Juneteenth Variety Show: You Still Owe Us Reparations.

A New York based non-profit theater and school, the Squirrel Comedy Theatre is devoted to celebrating diverse artists and audiences as they create, perform and teach comedy. Their mission is to provide a creative home for sketch and improv comedians. They are also devoted to financially compensating artists, which many improv theaters don’t do.

Core in their beliefs is to foster an environment where people can fully express themselves and not feel like their identity is a limitation or a tokenized commodity. Starting with its majority-queer and POC foundership, they aim to create a community that fully resembles myriad diverse voices.

“If there is one thing people need right now, it's hope," says Michael Hartney. A writer and comedian Hartney also an original cast member of the Broadway musical School of Rock. “And if we were able to give even one person hope that something creative and cool will be there for them on the other side of this, it was worth it."

The Squirrel founders couldn’t be more thrilled to be teaming up with Caveat to make their physical debut. “Our missions complement each other nicely,” adds Squirrel co-founder and late-night TV writer Corin Wells. “And you couldn’t ask for a better space.” 

Corin Wells shared more.

Jeryl Brunner: It’s hard to create a sketch and improv comedy theater and school, period. But it would seem especially hard during a pandemic. Why was it important to create Squirrel Comedy Theatre now? 

Corin Wells: This life pause allowed us to really do our homework and research so we could do this the right way. We were able to really flesh out what we want this theater to look like. Also, a lot of people went from performing and taking classes everyday to instantly nothing. That’s jarring and dare I say, traumatic. So filling that void for our community as soon as possible was really important to us. 

Jeryl Brunner: Can you talk about how The Squirrel Comedy Theatre values community, representation, transparency, and equality?

Corin Wells: I’m a black woman who has had to navigate predominantly white spaces my entire life. And let me tell you, it’s exhausting. Especially when you are trying to create art that is authentic to you while also having to appease and impress the white gaze. We want everyone to feel a sense of belonging when they come to Squirrel. We want them to feel that this theater is theirs.”

Jeryl Brunner: So many people dream of doing something super creative like starting a comedy venue like The Squirrel Comedy Theatre. What gave you that courage? 

Corin Wells: Honestly, it’s the other Squirrel founders. I trust Michael, Patrick, Lou, Maritza and Alex fully. They are so passionate, talented, driven and smart as hell. They are a really great group of freaks who have a similar vision and love for New York comedy.  

Jeryl Brunner: What kinds of virtual courses are you offering via Zoom?

Corin Wells: Squirrel offers online classes in sketch, improv and characters at all levels. I teach a character class called Creating Characters that guides students through conception, writing and performing their own original characters pieces. Teaching via Zoom has been surprisingly fun and easy. The class is a good balance of writing and performance and discussion so Zoom really lends itself well to the format. Some of my students have said how cathartic it is to have a consistent creative outlet every week where they can talk to and create with people. It’s been very cathartic for me too.  

Jeryl Brunner: What has kept you sane during this time?

Corin Wells: Assuming I am sane. The jury is still out. I’m rewatching True Blood with my roommate, performing with Borabish! every week and playing Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. I feel exposed.

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New York based journalist who has written for Forbes, Parade, InStyle, National Geographic Traveler, Travel + Leisure, and The Wall Street Journal. Author of the book "My City, My New York, Famous New Yorkers Share Their Favorite Places" and podcaster, ("When Lightning Strikes"). I cover the arts, theater, entertainment, food, travel and people who are motivated by their joy and passion.

New York City, NY

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