McClellan: The Home Behind the Humor
Nestled a hop, skip, and a jump away from campus within the heart of Amherst Center on McClellan Street is a dwelling with a history as rich as its character. The pink-shuddered, three-apartment house appropriately known to its residents (and frequent passerby) as "McClellan" has provided a home, rehearsal space, party venue, and growing museum of comedy relics to the members of the UMass Comedy League (UCL) for over two decades.
UMass's premier comedy RSO is comprised of a trifecta of improv and sketch troupes - Mission: IMPROVable, Toast! Improv, and Sketch 22 - that since the 1990s have entertained audiences every weekend, twice a weekend in their home turf of one of Herter Hall's lecture auditoriums. From 8 to 9 every Friday and Saturday night, Herter 231 becomes a high-energy oasis of tactful humor, shared by an eclectic sample of the UMass community, with audience members spanning from young children and families to parents and faculty.
Out of the nine available beds throughout the three apartments, seven of them belong to members of UCL. Senior Jen Gately, junior Lauren Moura and sophomore Richie McNamara of Mission: IMPROVable share the upstairs apartment, which up until two summers ago featured the illustrious wall of signatures - a sharpie-riddled section of the living room dedicated to the rite-of-passage practice of signing one's name as a record of their UCL initiation. Due to a once-a-decade, Town of Amherst-mandated painting renovation, the apartment has since said goodbye to its wall of signatures as well as other various posters, flyers, and programs that had accumulated over the years, but the residents have worked to maintain museum-like quality that has come to define McClellan over time.
"After the clean-out we did during the painting renovation, we wanted to ensure that the heart of what this apartment has always been remained clear to anyone who walks through it," Gately explained, regarding McClellan's role as UCL's home base. "Scattered throughout both the upstairs apartment and the entire house are very clear remnants of a bunch of college kids who love creating comedy together, and that really makes it the most fun environment to live in."
Scroll through McClellan's walls below:
Located on the first floor are two more apartments, home to seniors Megan Shinnick, Thomas Coughlin, and Ember Thomas of Mission: IMPROVable, Toast! Improv, and Sketch 22, respectively, as well as junior Eva Tipps of Sketch 22. On any given weeknight, these living spaces turn into a versatile venue to gather for rehearsals (especially on holidays when academic buildings are closed), film sketches, or host poker games and movie nights.
The welcoming doors of McClellan's central Amherst location renders it especially accessible to UCL members and what the residents refer to as "friends of the house" who may not live there, but are drawn to its congregating qualities.
"The best part of my McClellan experience has been all the nights staying up with a big group of people playing games, watching movies, or just hanging out. Lots of laughing and abs hurting has happened here," Coughlin notes, "I think communal spaces are hugely important to any group’s togetherness."
Especially to UCL's younger members, McClellan has been a site for nurturing their earliest college friendships, catalyzed by the independence of off-campus living, as McNamara remarks, "Living in McClellan had allowed me to feel comfortable and at home in college, which is something I did not feel very much in the dorms. Being surrounded by people who understand and support me because they are familiar with my style of comedy has helped me grow comedically and personally."
Shinnick expands on the notion of McClellan fostering a sense of belonging, "My favorite thing about living in McClellan is being surrounded by my best friends who all have similar interests and goals as me, and living here has solidified for me how special this community is. Having my home be the one that any of the over thirty members of UCL have memories in is so special."
Before fall semester has even reached Thanksgiving break, five of McClellan's rooms have already been reserved by burgeoning UCL upperclassmen for the 2020-2021 school year, indicating that the house's hallowed halls will undoubtedly remain in the hands of these heartfelt comics for years to come.