They gathered Sunday afternoon outside the Kingpin bar Uptown.
There were men in bow ties with flasks brimming with scotch, women dressed as robots, at least three Elvis look-alikes and scores of yellow “Jonah for Mayor” buttons circulating amid the eclectic crowd.
The boisterous crew grew momentarily somber as the soul-stirring moans of a saxophone hung in the air. Tears splashed down cheeks. The dirge wailed.
Minutes later, though, about 300 mourners joined in a joyous jazz funeral for comedian and disability advocate Jonah Bascle, who died early this month of heart failure at the age of 28.
Mourners remembered Bascle for everything from his jokes to his tireless advocacy on accessibility issues.
“He was kind, wonderful and such a great example of a person,” said Rebecca Elizabeth Hollingsworth, who acted in sketch comedy scenes with Bascle and said she spent a lot of time hanging out at his home.
“Almost every night one summer, we had a naked pool party,” she quipped with a grin.
Others shared stories similarly heartfelt and quirky.
They characterized Bascle as a humorist and activist with tremendous energy who died far too soon.
Bascle, who had muscular dystrophy, garnered local media attention in 2010 when he ran for mayor of New Orleans on a platform that emphasized improving accessibility for people with disabilities.
Though his vote tally fell far short of that of winning candidate Mitch Landrieu, his campaign catapulted him into the role of a spokesman for New Orleanians with disabilities.
Bascle lobbied for years for the St. Charles streetcar line to be made wheelchair-accessible, even blocking the tracks with his wheelchair for several hours in protest one day shortly before the election.
Because of its historical status, the line is not subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the cars remain inaccessible to wheelchairs.
He also raised money to install wheelchair ramps at scores of bars across the metro area.
“The most important legacy of Jonah Bascle is the work he did on accessibility, ”said J. Alfred Potter, a comedian with a disability who uses crutches.
Potter said Bascle was an inspiration for his own comedy, encouraging him to push the envelope with humor around his disability instead of trying to minimize it.
“When we met, he pointed to my crutches and said, ‘Use them,’ ” Potter said.
Stephanie Davis, a family friend of Bascle’s, said the comedian was constantly full of ideas.
“He was so young, so vibrant, almost frenetic, he had so much he wanted to get done,” she said.
Davis is a member of the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus, which was on hand to help give Bascle his final send-off. The Organ Grinders dance troupe also was present.
Hovering above the crowd as they crossed St. Charles Avenue was a giant cardboard cutout of Bascle’s likeness in his wheelchair with the caption, “It’s a good joke, you just don’t get it.”
The second-line was headed to La Nuit Comedy Theater on Freret Street, where Bascle often performed and where he would be roasted posthumously later in the evening.
But the jazz funeral had unfinished business first.
It stopped cold on the streetcar tracks, grooving to the band’s funky take on the song “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party),” by the Beastie Boys.
Eventually, streetcars converged from opposite directions, their paths blocked by the throng of mourners.
Tourists rubbernecked, and one of the streetcar drivers tossed up his hands with a smile at the crowd chanting: “Let him ride, let him ride!” — the same chant Bascle’s supporters used during his 2010 protest that blocked the streetcar tracks.
Eventually, with lines of crowded streetcars starting to back up, the crowd moved on toward Freret Street.