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Comic Cowboys

There's nothing fancy or pretty about them, but the Comic Cowboys are as much a Mobile Mardi Gras icon as Folly and Death or Cain's Merry Widows.

The Cowboys' parade is about as stripped-down as they get. First, the group's queen, Queen Little Eva, is always a guy in a dress. It's said that the group simply picks the burliest member it can find to be the queen that year.

Beyond the queen's float, there is a series of rather plain wagons or trailers (it's hard to call them floats), each with two plywood billboards, one at the front, one at the back. On each side of each billboard is painted a joke or humorous observation about some event in the news or sports or entertainment, local or national. It's all done, the group points out, according to the longstanding motto, "Without Malice."
All along the parade route, revelers stop, look up, read, then either laugh or groan.

The Comic Cowboys was founded in 1884 by Dave Levi, a Mobile store owner who had also been a stage actor and comedian. According to historian Julian "Judy" Rayford, Levi WAS the Comic Cowboys for many years. He'd pull up with his humorous, witty floats on Fat Tuesday and simply pick young men from the crowd to ride aboard.

To see the Mask's photos and video of previous Cowboys parades, click here.

This year, of course, the Cowboys paraded on Fat Tuesday, February 9, just behind the MCA King Felix III procession and the Knights of Revelry parade, all of which started at 12:30 p.m.

The Cowboys' parade included 12 wagons, which were festooned with jokes and observations addressing everything from Auburn and Alabama football to the temporary city skating rink.

To see the Mask's HD video of the 2016 Comic Cowboys parade, click here. And the Mask's slideshow of photos from the 2016 parade is below.