Home Artificial Intelligence Krewe du Vieux parade in New Orleans LA pokes fun at AI | The Latest | Gambit Weekly

Krewe du Vieux parade in New Orleans LA pokes fun at AI | The Latest | Gambit Weekly

It’s never too difficult for Krewe du Vieux to find possible themes for its annual Carnival parade. After all, New Orleans’ premiere gang of lovable smartasses live in a target rich environment for their signature satirical parade.

Last year, many of the 17 subkrewes were focused on mocking city officials, heavily leaning into Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s travel-related controversies and other municipal failures.

But this Saturday, Jan. 27, the parade has a wider scope as it explores the theme of “Artificial Ignorance” while making its way through Faubourg Marigny, the French Quarter and part of the Warehouse District.

“It’s looking at societal changes more broadly,” says Sebastian Boegershausen, captain of Krewe du Vieux. “You’ll find a lot of references to how artificial intelligence is changing us. At the same time, there’s a lot of willful ignorance in the world, for people to sustain their opinions. We are shamelessly mocking that behavior.”

Each subkrewe of the famously off-color parade will showcase hand-made, mule-drawn floats, soundtracked by live brass bands. Floats depict various interpretations of the theme, infused with plenty of political and social commentary and witty, provocative humor.

The Krewe of the Mystic Inane, for example, is tackling homophobic hysteria that has been stoked by right-wing politicians and commentators — and mashing that up with the concept of a robot takeover.

Members are planning to dress up like “gay robots,” says captain Jenn Lilos. “Our theme is ‘Feared and Fabulous: The Gay-I Ro-Butt Uprising. We’re going to be Godzilla-style taking over New Orleans. But rather than destroying the city, the gay robots are making it more fabulous.”

The Krewe of K.A.O.S. hints that it will be dunking on everyone’s favorite Foghorn Leghorn impersonator, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, whose pseudo-folksy antics in D.C. have become increasingly buffoonish over the years.

“We’re targeting a certain hypocrite senator that used to be a very liberal attorney but now panders to the far-right by pretending he’s not an Ivy League / Oxford grad,” a krewe member says.

Of course, New Orleans City Hall is not going to get out of the night unscathed. As usual, revelers can expect plenty of jabs at local officials over recent and ongoing issues.

Isaac and Amanda Toups will be honored as krewe royalty for 2024’s parade. 

The Krewe of Drips and Discharges’ float is an ode to the city’s inability to regulate short-term rentals, which has worsened the affordable housing crisis and wreaked havoc on residential neighborhoods.

“Our theme is AirD&D: Short Term Rental and Displeasure Club,” says longtime member Sean Gerowin.

He says the float will depict a short-term rental in disarray, decorated with empty beer cans and other garbage commonly found in the wake of, say, a rowdy bachelor party attended by out-of-towners.

“It’s like a typhoon of chaos,” Gerowin says. “The trash represents the pulling apart of the fabric of neighborhoods … It’s supposed to grab people’s attention and say, ‘Hey, Airbnbs are a bit of a problem.’”

Among the Drips and Discharges’ throws are small pieces of paper with “Yelp reviews left by disgruntled tourists,” such as “’The French Quarter sucks and the whole place smells like weed,’ or ‘I went to Commander’s Palace and the oysters were raw,’” says Gerowin.

Some of the subkrewes are leaning more into the lewd humor that the parade is known for.

The Mystic Krewe of Spermes, easily recognizable by its 50 or so members who carry giant papier-mâché sperms on sticks, is giving a naughty nod to Krewe du Vieux’s king and queen consort, chefs Isaac and Amanda Toups.

“(Their restaurant) is Toups Meatery, which goes really well with ‘meat’ and ‘beat,’” says Christopher Ard, a Spermes co-captain. “Our floats are sometimes very political, but this year it’s more just funny … We’re just giving (parade-goers) a break from reality on a Saturday night.”

For his part, Isaac Toups says being named as the new king came as a complete surprise to him.

The krewe typically chooses someone who’s a culture bearer and unsung hero to reign over its parade, and Toups certainly fits into both of those categories.

Still, “It wasn’t even on my radar,” he says. “Normally, some gossip slips my way. I’ve been here (in New Orleans) and in the industry and the network, and it was completely out of the blue. I’ve never rolled in any parade ever, and now I’m the king.”

Boegershausen says Isaac Toups was an obvious choice, given his ongoing charitable endeavors and his contributions to the culinary scene in the city.

“He deserved this questionable recognition we’re giving him,” he says.

Boegershausen adds that the Toupses’ float is a marvel designed by John Valentino, a longtime commissioned artist who has designed several floats for previous Krewe du Vieux royalty.

“What he’s doing this year for Isaac is absolutely astounding,” Boegershausen says. “When it gets disassembled, it should end up in a museum somewhere.”

The Toupses would normally be at the restaurant on a Saturday night, “getting their asses kicked,” during one of their busiest seasons, Isaac says.

He fully embraces his new role as the king — and the krewe’s general lack of plastic beads. Handing out unique throws has long been a part of the parade’s traditions. Many members give out stickers, cups, koozies and other hand-crafted items and keepsakes, instead of beads.

“Each subkrewe has different rules, but we have always discouraged beads,” says Inane’s Lilos. “Even if we didn’t discourage them for ethical and environmental reasons, they’re just a pain in the ass to carry … Sometimes crowds of tourists, who don’t understand what parade they have gone to, will ask for beads. I’m like, ‘It’s not that kind of parade, but here’s something unique I made.'”

Toups says he has some special throws planned for his turn as king. The couple will hand out culinary-themed throws including go-cups, heads of garlic and customized condoms adorned with the phrase “Better than your husband’s meat” on the packaging.

Meanwhile, Krewe du Vieux members are also relieved that the route is back to normal after the city cut it short last year, just days before it was expected to roll, citing police staffing shortages.

“A lot of businesses were impacted last year,” Boegershausen says, referring to bars and music clubs along Frenchmen and Decatur streets that were blindsided by the route changes last year. “But we started working with (NOPD) in July and have had a very good, close cooperation throughout the season.”

He says the krewe also communicated with business and neighborhood associations, who were thrilled to learn that the parade would be “back and at their doorstep.”

The krewe will host its Vieux Doo ball after the parade ends at the Sugar Mill. The event is open to the public and tickets are $50 through Eventbrite, and the lineup includes entertainment by J & the Causeways, Jeez Loueez and LOTAGRFD.

And despite the pressures that come with a shorter Carnival season, the krewe’s den has been abuzz with excitement as members put their finishing touches on their floats.

“It’s kind of like summer camp,” says Gerowin of getting ready for the parade. “You get everyone back together again, but instead of doing water skiing or mountain climbing, we’re building a highly inappropriate float to parade down the New Orleans streets.”

Boegershausen says he hopes spectators get “a good laugh.” But he also says the parade is meant to be eye-opening.

“We’re a satirical parade, and satire needs to be both of those things,” he says. “It needs to make you laugh, and it needs to make you think.”

For more information, visit kreweduvieux.org.




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