Instead of going on parade, Krewe du Vieux's sub-krewes are putting their floats on display around town. This year's installations reflect their raucous nerve, still inexhaustible after 34 years of jeering, jibing, and joking. Below is the list of locations to find these stationary "floats." Make it an event by masking up and walking around town—but watch out—the krewe has some tricks up their sleeve. "One of these may not be real," they say, as a challenge to "test your Krewe du Vieux sub-krewe knowledge!"
Bourbon: 2480 Burgundy St., January 30 and 31, from dusk to 10 p.m.
CRAPS: 171 Walnut St.,* January 30
Drips + K.A.O.S: 600 Elysian Fields (at Chartres)
Inane: Phoenix Bar, 941 Elysian Fields Ave.
LEWD: 3215 Milan St.*
Mishegas: 2433 Magazine St
Mama Roux: 1311 Decatur St., January 30 to February 16
Space-Age Love: 217 S. Bernadotte St.,* January 30, 6:30 p.m. to…
Smashing Watermelons: Tivoli Circle (Lee Circle) pedestal
And now, let's go back in time. The year is 1987. The cultural landscape is ripe for irreverence. At the box office, satirical comedies are coming out like nobody's business, with the releases of Spaceballs, Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn, and The Princess Bride. In the world of standup, George Carlin, Rodney Dangerfield, and Robin Williams are bulldozing the topography. It is in this general terrain that Krewe du Vieux (KdV) emerges as a farcical phoenix from the ashes of Krewe of Clones.
From the start, KdV was ready to wreak havoc. The sub-krewes united under one banner saw themselves as bringing back a critical element of Carnival that went missing somewhere over the years. Krewes were polished, family-friendly, respectable. It was enough to make you puke. What happened to the debauchery? Didn't there use to be more bawdiness?
According to Keith Twitchell, a Poobah of Publicity for KdV, the answer is yes. "The ruling elite said, if we give the people one day to go crazy in the streets and make fun of us, we can keep them under control the rest of the year," Twitchell told WWLTV.com. "That had kind of disappeared over time, so when Krewe du Vieux first started, I think we deserve a lot of the credit for bringing satire back," he added.
By 2021, our ears are leaking with everything that has been said about the ability court jesters have to make real political change. After four years of socially conscious television and late-night shows, it became clear that comedians were unable to write better Trump jokes than Trump wrote himself into. The idea presented by Twitchell and KdV—that jokes were allowed to keep everyone under control—felt impossible to ignore. Who was laughing at whom? Satire is exposing human folly, but folly had stripped its disguise.
Despite this shift, Krewe du Vieux continues their brand of comedy. Their satirical paper a la The Onion, called Monde de Merde, turns 30 this year. In their January 30, 2021, issue, headlined "Krewe du Vieux Has No Taste: And We Don't Smell Too Good," the krewe saysn their piece on the year that was. They express support for Black Lives Matter. Lament all that was lost in 2020. Make a lot of jokes about politicians and viral transmission in verse. Most significantly, they dedicate their Royal Toast of 2021 to all the frontline workers in New Orleans, Louisiana, and America, especially the medical professionals. In a year in which Mardi Gras is dispersed, the kings and queens have gone plural.
It's not the first time that KdV has made a gesture of sincerity. In December, they set up a GoFundMe to raise money for their musician partners. Carrying on the torch of history, the krewe is one of the last remaining parades to use only live music. The fundraiser has raised $10,450 so far. Read more about the initiative and donate if you can.
[Lead Image: Gustavo Escanelle for Where Y'at Magazine]