Writer - Lee Blevins
Roguish types often ask me, “Ize, how do you get to be a court jester?” I always tell ‘em the same thing: be born poor, stupid, cowardly, and lazy. You have to be all four at once or else you might end up a monk, a bandit or the King of Something.
But it takes more than low birth or gypsy foster parents to become a court jester. You also have to be persistent. There’s only so many courts in the kingdom and there’s hundreds of fools trying to swim across their moats. Luckily, some of them are dwarfs. Dwarfs are easy to drown.
You can teach a man to dress up like a woman but you can’t teach that man to bend over. Having said that, here’s some edicts for anyone looking to get into court jestering. (An edict is a tip offered with the point of a sword. My sword is wooden but I can still spank you with it.)
1. Choose A Stage Name
Like Jingles or Bottom or Puckercup. Nothing you wouldn’t name a pony.
2. Join A Traveling Troupe
It’s almost impossible for an inexperienced jester to walk in off the old Roman road and get a job at court. (I knew one exception to this rule but he used to be a warlock and ended up a pile of ashes). Most court jesters spend the early years of their careers in traveling troupes. It’s demoralizing work playing flippant for plague-ridden bumpkins, but at least you get to see the countryside. And the minstrel might fall asleep long enough for you to make it with his wife.
3. Beware Poachers
Intoxicated poachers have been known to mistake a fool’s cap for a set of antlers, or even worse, recognize it for what it really is.
4. Practice Acrobatics
Everyone enjoys a good cartwheel. Also, it helps avoid arrows and crossbow bolts, which will be sent your way sometimes, most often in Wales.
5. Get In With A Petty Lord
Petty as in landholdings, not petty as in personality. If you start with a petty-as-in-personality lord you might get your legs broken and your dog tongue-tied. Choose someone with a couple dozen serfs who lives in a fixer-upper castle in a gentrified neighborhood. Pray to God the peasants don’t revolt.
6. Work Your Way Up The Feudal Ladder
Landed nobles like to visit other (less) landed nobles and see how much they can gloat short of causing a succession crisis. This is is your time to shine. Make the fat man with the feathered cap laugh and you might earn yourself a promotion. (Once an ambitious but rather untalented jester staged an assassination attempt on a fat man in a feathered cap, foiled it, and was rewarded with a lifetime of table scraps).
7. Use Discretion
There are certain subjects even a court jester shouldn’t touch, such as God, the Pope, or civil liberties for commoners. And don’t provoke the future usurper of power. You’ll know him when you see him: dark haired, pale, bottom lip pouty. Often he will smell of soap, the fiend. You stick your neck out enough already. There’s no need to get decapitated because you once said Prince John sits down to pass yellow water in the chamber pot.
8. Don’t Flirt With A Woman A Knight Is Wooing
A married knight is an easygoing knight but a sexually frustrated knight might run you through with a lance and overwrite an epic poem about it.
9. Remain Politically Neutral
We’re supposed to be fools, not idiots. Don’t involve yourself with bastards, heretics, or Spaniards. The only reward a court jester has ever received for taking part in court intrigue is getting spit on, beaten, and emotionally abused by the next despot. Mostly, their swollen heads wind up on pikes for all the world to throw tomatoes at.
10. Be Original
No one needs to hear another who-poisoned-the-well-joke unless your who-poisoned-the-well joke is so good they forget all the other who-poisoned-the-well jokes they ever heard. But “Who-poisoned-the-well?” is hack. “Who cursed these schoolgirls into epileptic fits?” is cutting edge comedy.
It’s hard to be a court jester but it’s worth it because we’re all going to burn in hell unless we can afford to pay the priest to forgive our sins and boy I feel sexy in these leggings.
Lee Blevins lives in Kentucky, Lexington. No, wait, he mixed up his state and city. At least he can remember his Twitter handle: @BleeSevens.