I was invited to do four stand-up shows in New Orleans this weekend. I had never been before, so I was excited to see the city. I had three nights there, so I took the chance to see NOLA with down-time during the days and shows at nights.
During the days, some visiting comics and I explored New Orleans. We walked down Bourbon Street, which must feel to locals what Times Square feels like to New Yorkers. Crowded and filled with tourists, with businessmen standing outside trying to bark people into their strip clubs at lunchtime. “Titties? Wanna see some titties?” they were shouting to anyone who passed by, including a father with his young kids. The father rushed his kids down the street, but not before doing a double-take to see the address. We’re all hoping he got to see some breasts later.
The arts, particularly the music, scene is huge. Streets are filled with live music. Jazz, bluegrass, R&B — all kinds of genres.
Some of the local comics said that they think the music scene informs the comedy scene. Comedy shows are competing with all of this free entertainment, so many of the independent shows are at spots where there’s live music before or after the stand-up.
Despite the vastness of the arts scene, there is no formal comedy club in New Orleans.
I talked to some local comics and they said that, like in many cities, the comedy scene can be segregated. Some comics primarily work black rooms, in different neighborhoods, and there is not as much overlap as you would think. This setup is the case in New York, to an extent, and many cities. I wish I had found out ahead of time and gotten the chance to do at least one black room in NOLA while I was there, just to have that experience and play to a different audience than the mostly-white crowds that frequented the shows I did.
There are really talented local comics in the city. The New Orleans folks I met said there isn’t much of a young professional culture around. Like in New York, most comics have sort of a piecemeal employment: working as an assistant, working for a school, temping, etc. Whatever to get by while still being able to do sets at night. Obviously, there isn’t as much stage time in NOLA as there is in a place like New York, but comics in the area can still get on-stage at least once/night, if they want.
My last night, some other comics and I were walking to our last show, when a Hispanic Heritage parade started passing through the streets. They were hurling beaded necklaces and coins, hitting people in the face. It was a real celebration of culture, coupled with unexpected facial wounds for some. With that experience, everything made sense: If you’re going to potentially get hit in the face with beads walking down the street, the least the city can do is offer you the chance to see tits 24/7.