Comedian and activist Jonah Bascle in 2011. He used a run for mayor and for City Council to bring awareness to New Orleans' lack of services for disabled residents.
New Orleans comedian and disability advocate Jonah Bascle died today from complications stemming from muscular dystrophy, a disease he had fought for many years. He was 28 years old.
In 2010, Bascle drew attention to New Orleans' lack of services for the disabled — particularly streetcar service on the St. Charles line — with an attention-getting run for mayor. He placed eighth in the race with 160 votes, saying he hadn't intended to win, but using the election as a forum "seemed like a good way to get some attention for this problem." In September 2011, his fight was the subject of a Gambit
cover story, "A Streetcar Named Denied."
In 2013, he returned to politics, running for the City Council District A seat against incumbent Susan Guidry, who welcomed his candidacy.
"It's been four years," Bascle explained. "Stuff that I thought would be done by now still isn't."
In a 2010 interview with The Huffington Post's Karen Dalton Beninato, Bascle explained why he was running for mayor
I think New Orleans needs to see some that actually cares about the people in this city. And someone who can figure problems out with creative ideas and not that much money. I also think we need a mayor who will get things done. It is so hard to get anything done with the way the system is set up.
Bascle, who worked as a comic at La Nuit Comedy Theater
and other venues around New Orleans, also was the subject of Jonah Stands Up
, an independent documentary by filmmaker Hannah Engelson. Engelson raised nearly $10,000 for the project in August via a Kickstarter, and the documentary is underway.
Last week, Bascle was honored by the New Orleans City Council for “his outstanding contributions to the arts and accessibility in the city.” The certificate was presented to him by Guidry in his hospital room, along with a certificate from Mayor Mitch Landrieu "in honor of your outstanding service to people with disabilities":
In recent days, Bascle had been breathing with the aid of a ventilator, which was removed at his request during the kickoff of Sunday's New Orleans Saints game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, according to an online update provided by family and friends. The update concluded:
Rest assured, a fittingly comedic and questionable tribute to the life of Jonah Bascle is in the works. You will be able to laugh and cry with all of the friends and family who now have a Jonah shaped hole in their hearts. Until then, buck up and get to work writing those Jonah jokes to tell at the event. That's the way Jonah would have wanted it.