“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3 FM), Ep. 7: Boyfriend, Michael Tisserand, OperaCreole and Virginia’s Harem

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Over the past few weeks as we’ve gotten “PopSmart NOLA” off the ground, we’ve focused almost every show on a certain topic, whether it’s challenges facing the transgender community, life for artists and the Affordable Care Act, or how the creative community deals with sexual harassment and assault. But as the holidays approach, we took a little break and had a little fun. On Saturday’s show we welcomed:

  • Boyfriend, the rap-cabaret artist who needs to hustle over to St. Claude Avenue herself for her “Bounce Around the Block” appearance at the AllWays Lounge.
  • Writer Michael Tisserand, author of “Krazy: George Herrimen, A Life in Black and White”
  • Givonna Joseph and Aria Mason of OperaCreole, the amazing opera troupe — dedicated to researching and performing lost or rarely performed music, and sharing with the community the contributions of our people to this musical art form, in New Orleans, and around the world.
  • The all-female comedy troupe Virginia’s Harem, which performs Dec. 17 at The New Movement on St. Claude Avenue


I was really excited to start off the show by welcoming Michael Tisserand, who’s been writing about New Orleans and Louisiana culture for some 25 years now, including a stint as the editor for Gambit Weekly (where I served under him as A&E Editor from 1998-2005). He literally wrote the book on one of America’s original music forms with “The Kingdom of Zydeco” and wrote the Katrina memoir, “Sugarcane Academy.” Now, after years in the woodshed, he’s come out with another definitive work, “Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White,” which captures the influence and complexities of the Krazy Kat cartoonist and New Orleans native.

We had Michael place Herriman’s life in perspective — especially as a New Orleans native who left the city as a young age, and his place in America’s pop-culture landscape in maybe the same way we think of such icons as Louis Armstrong.

Check out his reading from the book, as well. (I ran an excerpt from the book earlier this week.)


We were really thrilled to welcome Boyfriend, whose rap cabaret features some fascinating influences — from her time behind the desk and on the stage at Rick’s Cabaret as well as burlesque performances with troupes such as Trixie Minx’s Fleur de Tease, but also rap music that eventually saw her open for New Orleans’ own Big Freedia.

One of the many cool things we discussed was the nature of art and identity and the ongoing debate about burlesque (and stripping) as empowerment.

And, how so much of her work is infused with wit.


As noted in their biography, “Opera and classical music in New Orleans and around the world have always included the contributions of persons of color. Since the 19th Century, Creoles of New Orleans have made contributions to the music and culture of New Orleans. It is their participation in opera, as well as the music of Africa, Spain, and Haiti that contributed to the birth of jazz. OperaCreole is a non-profit company that’s dedicated to researching and performing lost or rarely performed music, and sharing with the community the contributions of our people to this musical art form, in New Orleans, and around the world.”

We were honored to welcome the dynamic mother-daughter duo of Givonna Joseph and Aria Mason to discuss how their work makes them something akin to culture detectives, given how much African-American culture has been lost over the years.

I also asked Givonna if there was a particular obscure work they found that they’re hoping to present soon, and loved her answer. (Hint: May!) 


Our final guests were from the all-female sketch group, Virginia’s Harem, which was formed in early 2015 and is comprised of Erica Goostrey, Alicia Hawkes, Kirsten Macaulay, Lianna Patch, Maggie Ritchie, and Emily Slazer. They met through taking classes at The New Movement-New Orleans, and that is their home base. Their shows are a blend of high-energy sketch comedy and short, low tech videos. Their aesthetic is accidentally 1090s-ish as it is shaped by their lack of technological expertise and an exuberant lack of concern about that lack of expertise. Their collective group personality is kind of like a weird, drunk aunt or Miss Havisham on one of her good days.

We asked the performers present — Erica Goostrey, Alicia Hawkes, Lianna Patch and Emily Slazer — to discuss their upcoming performance on Saturday, Dec. 17, at The New Movement for a “post-apocalyptic holiday romp.” Set in the very near future, “Season’s Greetings From the Bunker” is the holiday special no one asked for but everyone is living: manic, terrifying, and distinctly Trump-laced. Eggnog. Christmas carols. Nuclear fallout. Billy Joel. Santa Claus. Fascism. All of the holiday hits you know and love. Check out their Facebook event page for more info.

If you like what you’re hearing on this, the radio show version of “PopSmart NOLA” you can “like” us on Facebook. We’re also on Instagram at @popsmartnola, and I’m on Twitter as @dlsnola504.

Please join us next week for another edition of “PopSmart NOLA” — our special super-sized holiday edition, with special guest co-host and DJ Alex Rawls of My Spilt Milk and an appearance by the one and only Debbie Davis with “Oh Crap, it’s Christmas!” It’s all on WHIV (102.3 FM) — radio dedicated to human rights and social justice. END ALL WARS. You can also listen online at whivfm.org.

Thanks again for listening to “PopSmart NOLA,” and please remember to keep the intelligent conversation going.


“Sorry-looking sheep”: Excerpt from Michael Tisserand’s “Krazy,” a biography of cartoonist George Herriman

WHAT: New Orleans author reads from and signs copies of his George Herriman biography
WHEN: Tues. (Dec. 6), 6 p.m.
WHERE: Octavia Books, 513 Octavia St.
MORE INFO: Visit the store website

(Full disclosure: Michael Tisserand was my editor at Gambit Weekly, 1998-2005) 

Michael Tisserand attempted to capture cartoonist and native New Orleanian George Herriman in all of his personal and creative complexity with the deeply researched “Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White” (HarperCollins, 560 pp.). The subtitle is more than a clever pun, for Tisserand reveals the racial subtext of Herriman’s life, which often seeped into his comic-strip hero of the same name; Herriman, an African American, passed as a white man.


(Photo by Pableaux Johnson)

The praise for Tisserand’s book — years in the making — already is overwhelmingly positive on this, its release date (Dec. 6). “Tisserand elevates this exhaustively researched and profusely illustrated book beyond the typical comics biography,” writes Kirkus Reviews. “Seamlessly integrating the story of Herriman’s life, he executes an impressive history of early-20th-century race relations, the rise of Hearst and the newspaper boom, and the burgeoning cross-continental society life of New York and Los Angeles.”

In this excerpt, courtesy of the publisher, Tisserand offers a glimpse at Herriman’s early hints at racial commentary in his work, this time in the form of satirical fiction in advance of a boxing match …

In 1892, bare-knuckle champion John L. Sullivan drew boxing’s color line when he declared, “I will not fight a Negro. I never have, I never shall.” For the next two decades, most top white boxers followed Sullivan’s lead. Yet, by 1906, with the emergence of superior black fighters in every class — Baltimore lightweight Joe Gans, Canadian middleweight Sam Langford, and Texas heavyweight Jack Johnson — boxing fans turned on the “lily-white club.” In his Examiner column, Beanie Walker offered up the “true dope straight from the shoulder” on the color line: “Every time you hear a top-notch white fighter whining about the ‘color line’ you can bet 100 to 1 that there is a dangerous black man fighting in that class.”

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