There's nothing funnier than the absurd nightmare of the present. Even President Donald Trump's Press Secretary Sean Spicer unironically retweeted The Onion, describing Spicer's "role in the Trump administration will be to provide the American public with robust and clearly articulated misinformation." "You nailed it," Spicer wrote. "Period!"
The election inspired political satire as dissent or turned comedy into a platform for an unfunny, grim reality. In a recent interview, South Park co-creator Trey Parker said "what was actually happening was much funnier than anything we could come up with." Vic Berger's viral, surreal edits of footage of Trump speeches now resemble horror films. Tim Heidecker has embraced his Randy Newman. Saturday Night Live's cold open sketches and monologues repeat the week's headlines and land with a "but seriously, folks" that glimpses the offstage horror show, inspiring Trump's late-night Twitter aneurysms (which, if anything, only underlines his inability to take a joke).
Then there's Krewe du Vieux, speaking explicitly to New Orleans with its deranged, vulgar and pun-filled obliteration of polite society. Now in its 31st year, the krewe's 2017 parade begins Carnival's post-election catharsis with "The Crass Menagerie" on Saturday, Feb. 11. "The need for therapy is enormous," says subkrewe captain Lee Mullikin.
While several floats and throws from the 17 subkrewes satirize local institutions and people (New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Mayor Mitch Landrieu) and others embrace the menagerie-themed animal kingdom, the krewe "can't ignore the big orange monster in the room," Mullikin says. There's Trump as Jabba the Hutt, references to A Clockwork Orange, a tentacled groping Trump-thing, and an homage to an "unholy alliance" with Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, from Mullikin's Krewe du Comatose (rolling with the theme "The Russians are Coming!").
The krewe will hand out miniature bottles of "Trumpoff" vodka and "I Voted" stickers starring Putin a la George Rodrigue's Blue Dog voting stickers. There also are "Soviet propaganda films" on a large screen mounted on the krewe's float, revisiting last year's graphic film starring Landrieu and Sheriff Marlin Gusman. "We got in so much trouble," Mullikin says. "If you're not angering people, you're not doing it right ... Two-dimensional pornography is bad, but three-dimensional is OK? The float behind me had a dick so big it broke the float."
How does a satirical Carnival krewe know when to stop adding to the pile-on from the Trump administration? "It's just been raining all kinds of stuff ever since," Mullikin says. The subkrewe floated several theme ideas, including a "Canadian immigration service" ("which was fun, but a little defeatist," Mullikin says). "It's tough to come up with something you can convey in three seconds, even though it only has to last three hours, in the wind and rain. It's got to be catchy, short, it's got to have costumes," he says. "You don't know until you have it."
The parade begins at Decatur and Mandeville streets and winds through Faubourg Marigny and the French Quarter, then ends in the at the Civic Theatre, where the krewe ball follows. Reigning as the krewe monarch is prolific New Orleans cartoonist and author Bunny Matthews, whose Vic and Nat'ly cartoon provoked and embraced New Orleans culture with an exaggerated Yat dialect. "We're really proud of Bunny Matthews and the great art he's given to the city," Mullikin says.
Following Krewe du Vieux is Krewedelusion, which abandons Carnival tradition in the wake of Trump's election to roll without royalty. "Instead our celebration in the streets of New Orleans will be an uprising of the people governed by a radical reorganization of our current administration," the krewe said in a statement. "We encourage people and krewes to abandon their new rulers and we invite everyone and every krewe that treasures freedom."