LPB to air two-part documentary about Louisiana history, culture

By: - December 5, 2022 6:18 pm

The Soul Queen of New Orleans, Irma Thomas, talks to the soul of Louisiana’s music scene with Jay Dardenne. Thomas and Dardenne will appear in the new documentary “Why Louisiana ain’t Mississippi .. or Any Place Else!” on Louisiana Public Broadcasting next week. (Image provided by Louisiana Public Broadcasting)

“Why Louisiana Ain’t Mississippi… Or Any Place Else!”

That’s the apt name of Louisiana Public Broadcasting’s new, two-part documentary running next week that producers describe as a whirlwind tour of Louisiana’s history.

Louisiana Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne inspired the program. A former secretary of state and lieutenant governor, Dardenne has traveled the state giving a presentation called “Why Louisiana Ain’t Mississippi” since 2005. The documentary is an adaptation of his lecture.

The show blends animation, comedy skits, interviews and historical footage to tell the story of Louisiana. Music also plays a big role. The program uses snippets from 60 Louisiana songs over its four-hour run. 

Dardenne spearheaded fundraising efforts for the production and appears on camera as its host. He drove all over the state to conduct on-site interviews, from Poverty Point in northeast Louisiana to Fred’s Lounge in Mamou.

“It really covers the entire state. You will see every facet of Louisiana,” he said. 

High-profile Louisianians such as Irma Thomas, James Carville, Kim Mulkey, Jimmy Swaggart and John Folse appear in the documentary. The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe is also featured.

Producer Linda Midgett said her team worked hard to retain a lot of the humor that has made Dardenne’s original presentation so popular. Academy Award-winner and Shreveport resident William Joyce directed animation for the program.

A local comedy troupe also punched up the historical portions of the program with sketches. The group includes Dardenne’s son John, who performs in the show.” 

“These comedic skits are really my personal favorite part [of the program],” Midgett said. “They are like little, mini films we did – little, tiny comedies.” 

Alongside the television show, Louisiana Public Broadcasting will release a book from photographer Carol Highsmith, who spent months taking pictures of Louisiana cultural events. Those photos will eventually end up in the Library of Congress as part of a larger collection of Highsmith’s work.  

Louisiana Public Broadcasting also plans to develop a school curriculum around the show. Students in Louisiana learn history in middle and high school, and the producers believe teachers will find the program helpful. 

Dardenne started to spearhead the fundraising required for the production and book last December. Financial sponsors include Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, Ochsner Health, Lamar Advertising, Roy O. Martin, Louisiana Workers Compensation Corp. and the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana.  

“Why Louisiana Ain’t Mississippi … Or Any Place Else!” will air at 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11 and Monday, Dec. 12, on Louisiana Public Broadcasting. Click here for a list of LPB affiliates or  here to watch online.


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Julie O'Donoghue
Julie O'Donoghue

Julie O’Donoghue is a senior reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator. She’s received awards from the Virginia Press Association and Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press.