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SF’s St. Stupid’s Day Parade, a Wonderfully Idiotic Tradition

Updated: Apr 11, 2023 21:30
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All photography by Vita Hewitt & Alex Mak

St. Stupid’s Day Parade. Photo Alex Mak

There is a ridiculous tradition each April Fool’s Day in San Francisco.  It’s a celebration of all things illogical, a demonstration for the foolish by the fool hearty, a preposterous procession that celebrates above all one thing: human stupidity.

San Francisco’s uniquely stupid tradition is a proper parade, complete with its own float, costumes, police escort, emcee, and until recently its own marching band.  It’s called the St. Stupid’s Day Parade, it’s led by ‘Bishop Joey’ of the ‘First Church of the Last Laugh’, and it’s followed by a hodge-podge of dumb-dumbs from the SF Cacophony Society, the Suicide Club, The SF Mime Troupe,  and even The Church of the SubGenius in a playful, costumed, procession of irrationality.

The Parade really gets started after Bishop Joey addresses the crowd on a megaphone, explains why what everyone is doing makes no sense, and leads the audience in a chant of “Bullshit!  Bullshit! Bullshit!” or “No-more-chants, No-more-chants, No-more-chants!” and as tradition dictates the Bishop kicks off the coronation by promptly turning around, dropping his drawers and mooning the crowd.

The St. Stupid’s Day Parade has been happening since 1979, and this past Saturday was the 45th year of this uniquely Bay Area phenomenon. The sheer silliness of it all dazzled with its devout crowd of idiotic method actors and ill-advised costumes and signs. If you like to get weird with some of the original SF Cacophony Society and do something truly and utterly pointless with your day that will both delight and surprise you, the St. Stupid’s Day Parade is for you.  The sheer stupidity of it all gives me a perma-grin for the rest of the day.

SIDE BAR: There is a long tradition of play-acting for the simple absurdity of it in San Francisco, take “SantaCon” as just one example, SF Cacophonists began dressing up like Santas as a protest to commercialism and holidays consumerism by culture jamming malls and retail stores in Union Square, but that idea was later co-opted by actual morons and now, what was once “Santarchy” is now a nationwide pub crawl where young idiots put on Santa hats in order to get wasted during the day…without really satirizing anything…what’s the point of that?

But no one has copied St. Stupid’s Day…I guess because they’re too stupid.

On a typical April 1st, the parade weaves its way through the financial district, where the procession stops in front of big banks and does things like throw pennies at them, to the sound of tubas, trumpets, and a steady drum beat of a marching band.  They’ll go to a Wall Street institution and trade each other pairs of ‘socks’, while yelling price changes and absurdities at the bankers inside.

Why? Because St. Stupid’s Day satirizes religious traditions, holidays, and the ridiculous dogma they’re based on, it then addresses America’s real religion, money.  It lampoons America’s modern temples, which it considers to be the banks, and financial institutions, and the illogical ‘faith’ we have in our financial system.  It says, “let’s make a parade, that makes fun of parades.”

And I must say, it’s pretty glorious to be in the FiDi on a work day, and watch some finance bros come out of their office on their lunch break, and have a squid woman yelp at them.

And people dressed as ghosts ‘Booo’ them mercilessly.   It is priceless.

But when St. Stupid’s Day falls on a weekend, the procession changes, and instead of marching through the FiDi, the parade starts at the Transamerica Pyramid and goes up Columbus Ave through North Beach, and ends in Washington Square Park, (where there is a statue of Benjamin Franklin, which is frankly, quite stupid).

Emporer Norton always makes an appearance on St. Stupid’s Day, he even hands out imperial currency to his loyal subjects and assures them that Mexico is quite protected.

The Banjo Man who regales the crowds at Niners, Giants, and Oakland A’s games always brings his trusty trombone.

The Cacophonists have been getting stupid for so long that some need a little help getting up the hill.  Wavy Gravy, (the official clown of the Grateful Dead) for example, is too old for the hike and now rides on the parade float, along with the Doggie Diner Heads.

Faithfully driven around by one of Burning Man’s founders, John Law.

Since most of these crazy clowns have been play-acting since the 1970s, there’s definitely an age gap in 2023, but the next generation did make some appearances presumably to support their parents and grandparents.

And perhaps the satire of the Bay Area’s youth will be as ingenious and interesting as it was in the 20th century.

I see sprigs of quality satire in things like the BART Basel for example. 

And of course, there are traditions like Bring Your Own Bigwheel that continue to inspire DIY nonsense just for the sheer fun of it in San Francisco.

And there are still raver renegade parties happening on secluded coves or distant pockets in our parks each weekend.

Or a teenage punk band throwing an impromptu concert on a public train.

Who knows, you could be part of our city’s next uniquely Bay Area phenomenon. Our city needs more punters willing to do something truly and utterly pointless in order to delight and surprise their fellow citizens.

The initial ideas that formed St Stupid’s Day were organized by Ed Holmes (Bishop Joey).   And everyone is free to satirize whatever they like on St. Stupid’s Day.

If you’re interested in getting involved with the St. Stupid’s Day Parade next year, the easy way is to join the St Stupiders facebook group.

See you out there, fellow morons.



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A post shared by Alex Mak (@alexmaksf)

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Alex Mak - Managing Editor

Alex Mak - Managing Editor

I'm the managing editor and co-owner of this little expiriment. I enjoy covering Bay Area News as well as writing about Arts, Culture & Nightlife.

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