I spent the past week in the Big Easy at the New Orleans Comedy Festival. The city is very aptly nicknamed. The only thing that wasn’t easy in that town was getting up before noon. I think the whole city sleeps in. Workers in Spain take siestas…folks in Nawlins nurse hangovers.

That city is a blast. My parents are from there so I’m no stranger to the area, and I never get tired of visiting. I would never live there, mind you. Just visit. Not to sound disrespectful, but almost every other city has a better road system. Sarajevo for example. And Hazard County.

Fortunately, I wasn’t driving. Not too many people there do, because everybody drinks. Locals and their guests. Cops and their horses. The Saints (maybe that’s why they’re 2-0). I knew I was in trouble when my plane landed and the festival shuttle driver gave me a beer to say “welcome”. It was 10 AM.

Evidently, all comics were to have three goals for the festival: drink, network, and maybe tell some jokes. I’m just kidding, of course. The stages were filled with talented comics, but after the shows, it was hurricane season.

One night about 20 of us went to a bar called the Gold Mine (you think they serve miners?). We proceeded to partake in a round of “Flaming Dr. Peppers”. When I was told of the plan, I was relieved to discover that it was indeed a drink and not a gay podiatrist. If you’re ever in doubt about whether or not a drink is potent, here’s a hint…if it lights on fire, chances are good that after five or six of them, your liver will resemble a wiffle ball.

That was the beginning of a wild and crazy week.

Believe it or not, there are some things you can’t do in the Big Easy. For example, you can’t order water at a bar. You have a better chance of getting a street performer to buy you a Cadillac. There is no shortage of street performers in the French Quarter. The New Orleans version of the Buckingham Palace soldier is the guy who paints himself metallic gold and stands completely still on a milk crate. Who said America isn’t creative?

In case you didn’t know, New Orleans has various customs. Like the tradition of giving away plastic beads to women who expose themselves. What’s the price of dignity? A five-cent necklace? Who’s the mayor of this town…Larry Flint? I’m not complaining-believe me. In fact, I think the city should take down the statue of Andrew Jackson on horseback and erect in its place a statue of the guy who invented the bead trade. Some early explorer who really knew how to barter with the locals.

“Hey…de Soto! Tell us of your travels to the New World!”
“Well…I discovered a mighty, flowing river and lots of frozen liquor. Oh…and the females show off their breasts for fake jewelry.”
“You discovered Heaven?”
“Well, I thought I did. Except this place had more rain. And a bizarre scent of urine.”

Allow me to recap: nice, healthy, perky breasts in exchange for worthless plastic beads. Does anybody else think there should be a beanstalk and a giant in this story? Trust me, it’s no fairy tale. But you could probably find a cow and some magic beans if you went to The Dungeon, which is a bar I was told we visited.

Girls put down a few drinks, they see the beads before them, and then they lift their shirts in order to get the beads. If Pavlov had known this, he would have gone to New Orleans to study positive reinforcement and fired those stupid dogs. The man could have made science cool while writing off binge drinking expenditures as “research”. Sweet, sweet land of liberty.

It apparently doesn’t take much to convince the ladies to “earn some beads”. I saw guys dangle the beads and simply say, “If you don’t lift your shirt, the terrorists win.” And that’s all she wrote. So drunken frontal nudity is now considered patriotic. Get you some of that, Osama!

The one glaring problem with this age-old tradition is that every girl thinks she’s eligible. There should be a law against this. The cops on horseback should earn their paychecks by arresting certain girls who expose themselves. Sexist? Fascist? Not at all…just looking out for the hard-working Bourbon Street visitors who would rather not go blind involuntarily. Granted, I’m no prize to the eye, but you don’t see me dropping trou for a bag of pistachios. Well…you don’t see that unless you saw that website. AOL Keyword: nuts. I joke, but honestly…that’s the beautiful thing about that town. Everyone has fun: all are welcome and all are friends. Bourbon Street is like one big wedding reception, only nobody dances to “Love Shack”, thank God.

Needless to say, I had an absolute blast in New Orleans. Please note that it’s not pronounced “New Or-LEENS” or “New Orlins” or even “Nawlins”. It’s pronounced “Oh, My Head”. I do believe that Ibuprofen was invented in that town. Right after they invented the powdered donut with the French name….the beignet, I think. I certainly showed my naïveté when someone suggested I get a beignet and I thought she meant one of those toilets that shower your ass. I think that’s a bidet or something. Ah, who cares about the French anyway? Who would have thought they invented anything resembling a shower? If you’re reading this and you’re French, I apologize. If you’re not French, then hey, how ’bout those stinking French, huh? Okay, just joking around. Chill out. I like France. They gave us the Statue of Liberty. And Kool Aid. Note: my research assistant is on vacation.

Folks, if you’ve never been to the Big Easy, do yourself a favor and go. You won’t walk away disappointed. You might walk away with one of those headaches that feel like little tiny people are inside your skull pushing out your eyeballs, but you’ll still be happy. And bring lots of film, because you won’t have much of a memory and someone in front of the camera might want some beads.

Thank you, New Orleans for a great week!!
Be sure to check out the pics from the Big Easy, coming soon.

Categories: Columns