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Juggler Michael Davis a modern jester juggling at Ford's Theater for Reagan

A Modern Jester (from the 80s…)

This is from back in the day when it was OK to mock the “other” party without fear of causing a crazy breakdown in government or death threats. (Yes. It’s true. I’m calling forth the good ol’ days.) But considering this is what the jester did in his (her!) traditional role, it’s not all that crazy OR back in the day.

Michael Davis is a modern jester who makes fun of a high ranking senator, Ronald Reagan’s policy, and jokes about disarmament during the middle of the Cold War, all while still keeping on the good side of the caesar and not getting his head chopped off… It’s brilliant. Exactly what a jester is supposed to do, and he pulls it off perfectly. And all the while with egg (literally) on his face.


Modern Day Jesters Doing It Right

I don’t even know if words can express how happy this makes me. These are the best modern day jesters I’ve ever seen. The ones doing physical comedy, that is. The mental wizards are Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert, of course. I don’t think we’ll ever have the perfect combination again of physical and mental humor that marked the jesters of the past. But still.

I think part of what amuses me so much is that she’s so attractive, and he’s…not.

He’s not ugly or anything, just very typically geeky-looking. It’s clear that they’ve developed their routine and craft, but also obvious that they care for each other. (It makes me wonder about all of those kings, czars and rulers that wanted husband and wife teams to “create” more jesters for them. But that’s another blog post for another time, I suppose…) She is just so awesome as the straight-man, and they make all of the acrobatics look amazingly easy…

It’s brilliant and perfect and funny. No words needed. (Except for the extra words that the video is private and I can’t embed it, so you’ll have to watch it on their Vimeo channel…)

Modern Day Jesters in Action

Oh! And the extra words that as far as Die Maiers go, you can even hire them!

As long as the massive ballroom in your mansion is tall enough and wide enough, they’re all yours!

They truly are the perfect jesters.

A Jesters Joust by Mary Browning

Jesters and Fools. My Niche, But Not for Everyone.

That’s right. Jesters. Fools.

The Court Jester by William Merritt Chase a famous image of jesters

The Court Jester by William Merritt Chase

Silly people with bells on their hats and marottes. Like the jesters above in The Jester’s Joust by Mary Browning. And the joke is that out of the 12 experts on jesters in the world, I’m number 13, but only because I’ve read everything the other 12 experts have to say, so I owe it all to them.

Information About Jesters

Since I’ve already got a good start on research, I’ve written a review of several of the research and scholarly works that I’ve read over jesters and fools.

I’ve also written up a shorter review of some of the fiction books I’ve read that include jesters and fools. I keep reading and adding to the list, however, so check back if you’re looking for more recommendations.

Jesters Online

There are a couple of great online sources. The general Wikipedia article over the court jester is good, as is this discussion from a site about a real jester in New England that you can hire for performances. (Awesome!) Die Maiers are also for hire! I’m not sure if Michael Davis is. If so, he’s probably too expensive. Totally worth it though. He’s hilarious.

There are a couple of educational sites, and this history on HubPages is fantastic, especially in its description of where jesters came from. There’s so much more to being a jester than just fun and games.

And I’m not talking about the evil jesters from Batman comics. Or the creepy ones from tattoos and gaming sites. Or even the absolutely bonkers ones from literature. I’m going to go with the classic fool. The ones that cheer up the king, distract the general public, and generally pretend like they’re acting however they want to act, but are really calculating each and every move and maneuver. It’s fascinating.

No. Really. I swear it is.

Being a jester isn’t for everyone

Court Jesters Playing Bowls by Eduardo Zamacois y Zabala

Court Jesters Playing Bowls by Eduardo Zamacois y Zabala

No one wants to be associated with being a fool. Let’s face it, it’s got a negative connotation. Fools from history were treated like animals (made to sleep with the dogs), and some were even kept in circus cages (oh, those rascally Russian czars). This is why I prefer the title jester. (Yes, even I’m biased.) It implies a certain look–cap and bells, face paint, harlequin outfit–but also lends a little dignity to the title. As if it’s a career choice, and not something someone fell into off the back of a horse.

But even the word “fool” has deeper meaning. The whole tarot card meaning in itself is complicated (as are all tarot card meanings, of course…), but it comes down to the beginning and the end. The Major Arcana starts with the Fool and ends with the Universe (or the World), and one is influenced by the other. Yes, an end and beginning, but still a circle and the “start” of a whole new cycle.

So the fool is a social outcast, but still a necessary part of society. The entertainer and the one who makes everyone forget their troubles and laugh, but also the scapegoat–the patsy. Jesters just took that a step further and made a business out of it.

At times, it wasn’t a very well-paid business, and the risk of losing your life was high, but it was a business all the same.

Jesters and Fools in Fiction

When I get tired of reading dense, scholarly tomes about fools, I turn to my collection of books that include jesters and fools in fiction. I’ve found some excellent jesters and fools in fiction, and I’ve found some bad. I tend to really enjoy the older books, but there’s one modern series that really captures what I’d like to do.

My First Forays Into Jesters and Fools in Fiction

I heard about a book called Troubadour by Richard Burns and bought it, then realized there was a first one to the series called Khalindaine, so I made the mistake of buying that one, too. No–I shouldn’t be so cruel. But honestly. Starts with an intriguing scene, then the whole first chapter is plodding through description after description of the river and the palace and the city…

The troubadour shows up at the end of the chapter and makes me laugh, but then the second chapter goes someplace else and proceeds to describe what it looks like. Hey! I want Streetpoet back! At least he gave us some action and funnies! I think I may just have to go through and read his parts only…the rest may put me to sleep. I think the problem is the high fantasy aspect of it. It’s never been my favorite genre. I seem to recall a few other books that my brothers had that were similar. So bogged down in recreating the place and the writer doesn’t focus on character and plot. I’m striving for something different, so those books got put back on the shelf fast.

My Favorite Novels That Include Jesters and Fools in Fiction

As far as fiction goes, the Alan Gordon Medieval Mysteries series is my absolute favorite.  I bought them all. Even placed the most recent on pre-order with Amazon. He is amazingly good at portraying the scene they’ve set up as entertainers; the dialogue is fast and witty (just what you’d expect from jesters); the love story is sweet; and the mysteries themselves aren’t half bad either. They’re stretched a bit thin in places, but what mystery isn’t? I’m not reading it for critical analysis. But he really does a brilliant job.

The Fool Beloved by Jeffery Farnol book cover features jesters and fools in fiction

I’m reading a few others as well–one of my favorites is The Fool Beloved by Jeffrey Farnol. Wow. So over the top I can’t even believe it. It’s like reading a bad Shakespeare play. But I love it. I don’t know why. Really hard to read the super flowery language, so it’s taking me a bit longer than I expected, but I just love seeing it on the end table by the couch. The book was published in 1949 and smells a bit musty–the pages are all uneven along the edges, not smooth like we’re used to–the cover is the 1949 equivalent to a bodice ripper, I’m thinking. All cowering bad guy and gasping maiden and the fool (Bimbo) advancing menacingly with his marotte. Did I mention how much I love it? The murder scene at the beginning is even done like a play. Off stage left we hear the cries and grunts of pain and running footsteps, and then our hero rushes in too late to rescue his friend. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth, and then the vow of vengeance. Most intriguing, wot?