Chapter 5. Jesters


I can broach the truth with impunity because I am powerless. I have nothing to lose, not even self respect. They listen because I amuse them, and I’m funny because I affect an accent, because I act palsied, because I mock my betters as their faults deserve while juggling absurdities with wit, wordplay, and rhyme.

Fooling for a living

Why is a fool better than a lord? Because a fool admits it when he dissembles. Because a fool is more fearless when speaking the truth. Because a fool cares less what others think of him. Because a fool is always learning new tricks. And why isn’t a fool paid more than a lord? Alas, because he’s a fool.

The profession

Ours might be the second oldest profession, and just as scorned and relied upon. Prostitutes and jesters entertained the pharaohs and ancient Romans, also the Aztec and European courts. Wherever society promotes inequality, it seems it must also support jesters.

Why people laugh

An itinerant performer’s got it made, because people want to have fun. If they come to see you, then they expect it. Their laughter’s instinctual and contagious. You don’t even need to be funny, just provide an excuse for people to get together and take their minds off themselves and their problems. If not, then you’re off to the next town. The danger that the jester faces is that the person who hires him may think it’s his job to make them laugh. For that reason, I always keep a penny in my pocket that I will pay if they can make me laugh without being embarrassing or cruel. Many people don’t know how hard it can be.

News satire

The news is full of groaners. My patter writes itself; I add only selection and timing. My only problem is that too many political figures are already ridiculous and exaggerated caricatures of themselves.