history of fools: jesters

like what you heard? tell me about it!

here is the full script and list of references for my episode on jesters! i also threw some images in there for fun :) if you would prefer to read this in a google doc, click here!


my primary source for this episode was Fools Are Everywhere, by Beatrix Otto. This is the book that started it all for me. I cannot recommend this book enough. It's a well-researched and easily digestible tour through a subject that very few other people give more than even a passing thought to. It avoids being a dry academic affair while still being buttoned up on all fronts. Seriously just read it if you want more jester knowledge.

section list
what did a jester look like?
who could be a jester?
the formal roles
the informal roles
the decline

When I say the word jester, I'm sure you already have a pretty solid preconception of what a jester is and looks like. You are probably imagining a languid figure in a bi colored suit and stupid pointy hat adorned with bells. You probably see him with a scepter, standing in front of some European monarch, doing silly gesticulations, maybe shaking his butt a little, and just making a general fool of himself to try to elicit a laugh from the king. And honestly? Yeah. You’re not exactly wrong. If that’s what you see, you’re halfway there. Because the figure of the jester is all at once a very straightforward and very enigmatic one. The role of the court jester is to be an entertainer to the royal court, though most specifically the king- however, the sheer breadth of the royal fool and the surprising nuance of his role is what I want to show you. He’s not just a silly little guy- he’s a silly little guy with a gigantic responsibility and divine ordinance.

if this is what you think of, not bad!

To start, I’d like to let you know that you can find jesters literally all over the world, not just in medieval Europe. From the french jongleurs, to the Russian skomorokhi, to the Spanish truhanes, to the Roman histriones, to the Scandinavian skalds, to the Persian dalqaks, to the Japanese taikomochi, to the royal fools of India, Egypt, China, and the Aztecs, If there’s a monarch existing between 1000 and 1700 CE, they likely had a personal entertainer of some kind by their side. Now you may have noticed I didn’t list the specific language equivalent for “jester” for those last 4 examples. That’s because, although the role of “royal fool” is nigh universal, the specificity offered by the term “jester” is not. Jester terms in indo-european languages became more specialized around the 16th century in Europe, as this is when the refined version of the royal fool we find most popularized comes into its own. However in China there isn’t a comparable singular term for the role itself, but instead for the type of humor employed by those in that role (fengjian, which can be translated to “indirect, mocking, or satirical remonstrance”). In India, an advisor to the monarch was extremely common, but not all of them needed to be silly. It was just kind of a plus when they were.

For the sake of consistency and brevity we are henceforth going to be referring to all royal fools as “jesters”. But it does bear noting that, as with all historical topics, there are plenty of exceptions and variations on this subject, and therefore there are disagreements on how applicable or appropriate the term is. For example, I’m going to reference Tenali Rama a few times in this episode, who was an Indian poet, scholar, thinker and a special advisor in the court of Sri Krishnadevaraya who ruled during the 16th century. He is not, as far as i can tell, ever officially given a title comparable to “jester”, but plenty of his actions and the role he played to the Emperor are undeniably jester-like, as I hope to show you as we go. Basically, Tenali Rama is by no means a fool, but rather a man of great wit and eloquence who aptly played one when it was beneficial. And that’s what a jester truly is. Which brings me to another point I want to make clear- the role of the jester is not a negative one. To be a jester was very much both an honorable and enviable thing, as well as something that took a lot of intelligence, compassion, and skill. I mean if the main unifying trait of a profession is to have the heart and ear of the most powerful person in your society, that is definitely not something I’d view as a negative title to have. So, from where I’m standing, utilizing the term “jester” for those who are not normally categorized as such is not a negative thing to do. It is admittedly a bit lazy, but hey, I'm not a salaried jester, just a freelance one, so you’ll have to grant me that slight reprieve here.

Speaking to the looseness of the title and the tools- it is also worth mentioning how much crossover the jester has with other entertainers of the time. Bards, minstrels, puppeteers, magicians, actors, acrobats, the skills of all of these entertainers can be found in jesters. Yet at the same time, a king could have a bespoke juggler, puppeteer, bard, and jester in his employ all at once. The biggest thing that sets a jester apart from these roles is the crucial responsibility of being an advisor and critic to their monarch. From Beatrice Otto’s book “Fools Are Everywhere'', my primary source for this episode: “A jester is there to amuse and entertain, to stand on the sidelines and observe, and to act as a control against which to measure the folly of others. A jester is funny, down-to-earth, irreverent but not unkind, he companions the king as a friend and confidant despite the difference in status and addresses him with insolent familiarity.” So although a jester may be utilizing skills of other professions, he is unique in that whatever entertainment he brings, it is underlined by the privilege of a closeness to the king, as well as the burden of all the responsibility that comes along with that intimacy. This is the core truth that is found across all royal fools. Along with the fact that they all are low key kind of assholes. That’s their secondary core truth.

Now that we’ve established what a jester is, where did they come from? The earliest reference to a court jester we have is in ancient Egypt during the 6th dynasty, or about 2300 BCE, during the reign of Neferkere. It is a letter from an official telling the emperor that he has found a dancing Little Person, and he wanted to send him to the Emperor. The emperor responds enthusiastically. It appears that the emperor had this Little Person, and potentially others, do dances to entertain him. How much wit they were allowed to utilize is unknown to me.

However outside of Egypt, the earliest common ancestor I could find to the court jester you and I conjure up, was the comic mime actors of ancient Greece and Rome. Mime here does not denote the horrid silent performer popularized in France, but rather that these actors were literal imitators. They were mostly featured in scripted plays but they did utilize improvisational skills as well during their performances. Which, I mean I can’t imagine anything worse than a mime who also does improv, so thank god they’re stuck in the past. They also had a freedom similar to a jester’s to openly mock most subjects. They sang, danced, and even did the occasional acrobatics like a jester might. These actors are also the earliest record I could find of the 3 pointed coxcomb hat we often see worn by jesters during the medieval and renaissance periods in western Europe. The biggest difference is these actors were not tied to one specific monarch like a jester is. They were seriously just actors. At this point in time an emperor’s addition of fools and comics to their court is largely one based upon personal preference rather than an established norm. Emperor Verus for example brought actors out of Syria during the Partian War of 161 CE. From the Historiae Augustae: “he had brought with him too, players of the harp and the flute, actors and jesters from the mimes, jugglers, and any kind of slave in such numbers, indeed, that he seemed to have concluded a war, not against Parthians, but against actors.” Perhaps the first true “you put your chocolate in my peanut butter” moment sparking the seeds of jesterdom was Roman Emperor Hadrian having Atellan mimes attend his banquets for the entertainment of his guests- though we wouldn’t see a proper royal fool in a court until about a thousand years later in China. Interestingly, there was a significant stipulation on these mime actors: while they were taking aim at some seriously powerful political figures, they couldn't be citizens of the Roman empire themselves. Which in a strange way mirrors the unique and somewhat isolated social space the later jesters would come to inhabit, which I’ll get more into later.

what did a jester look like?

The origins of the culturally-held jester garb we think of today can also be traced to those same Greco-Roman comic actors. There are records of comics wearing pointed hats and bi-colored patchwork costumes, though some did perform nude when they were really trying to get a chuckle out of their audience. One must remember that the Greeks and Romans were in fact quite garish- the white marble statues we see in museums today were actually regularly painted bright colors and patterns during their heyday, and with that context it’s not surprising to envision a costumed character during that time that features a similarly lurid and showy palette.

While we’re on the subject of garb- what exactly did a jester look like? The European jester did often wear bells, yes, and sometimes a pointed or coxcomb hat, or often a hood with ears on it, mostly those resembling the ears of a donkey. Because, y’know, the jester is a bit of an ass. Surprisingly often, they just wore normal ass fancy clothes- Will Sommers, jester to the one and only Henry the 8th of England, is a great example, and this is also certainly true for jesters in India and China as their position as royal fool was not a costumed one. Though Chinese and Japanese royal fools would occasionally don make up or a silly outfit for performances or dramatic effect.

who could be a jester?

Now, you may be wondering- Who could be a fool? The role of the jester has been referred to as one of the only consistently meritocratic positions found during medieval and renaissance era Europe. There are stories of kings being told a joke by some random asshole on the street and being so tickled by it, they hire them on the spot to be his jester. A witty rebellious university dropout, a well-regarded comedic musician, a saucy monk thrown out of a priory, a blacksmith’s apprentice whose well-timed jest just happened to strike a nearby nobleman, an established poet, even an active scholar could find themselves promoted to jester. It’s really all about being found at the right time by the right people. In fact, Archy Armstrong, one of the most famous and well-recorded jesters, once had the distinguished career of Sheep Stealer before he was discovered and given the royal title. The jester profession was male-dominated but not exclusively male, as we have reference to a fair amount of female jesters like Jane the Fool, jesteress to several of Henry the 8ths doomed wives. We also know of Mathurine de Vallois, a storied French jesteress to Henri the 3rd, Henri the 4th, and Louis the 13th, successively.

In China the jester selection process appears to have been a bit more refined. One example shows that the Emperors of China at the time occasionally plucked their royal fools out of academies for music and poetry- Emperor Ming of Tang for example actually set up one of the earliest bespoke academies for performing arts during the Tang Dynasty, around 700 CE, and supposedly occasionally funneled some of them right from class to graduation to royal court.

Another interesting fold in the answer to the question “What did Jesters look like”: Little people and those with facial deformities were often preferred by some royal courts, most notably those in Spanish and Aztec courts. They were widely titled “Natural fools”, while those of average stature were called “artificial fools”. This is, unfortunately, due to the inherent humor people back then would find in those of, what they would consider, an unfortunate state of being. I don’t get why a hunched back or a little person or a big crooked nose would strike those people as inherently hilarious, but at the very least it did offer those who would potentially otherwise live a life of struggle the chance of luxury.

Those who employed the so-called “natural” fools did value them greatly, even if it came from a deeply biased place, and made sure they lived comfortably and treated them well. The aforementioned jesteress Mathurine seems to have been particularly doted upon during her time in the royal courts. She was a person with dwarfism and considered one of the wittiest of the court at her time, with this lovely little anecdote being attributed to her: One occasion, in which a lady in waiting complained that she did not like having a fool at her side, upon which Mathurine jumped to the lady's other side and announced: “I don’t mind it at all.” Sick fucking burn. She also literally stopped a would-be assassin to king Henri IV from escaping his attempt on the king’s life! She was truly a renaissance woman, well-respected, knowledgeable, and undeniably witty. So-called natural fools were not just laughed at from a place of pity, but were sought after for their wit as other jesters were. It appears the other traits were just kind of viewed as a bonus.

what does a jester do?

So, we covered some of the basics of what a jester can do and can look like. Let’s get into the nitty gritty of what they really do.

Let's start with the formal roles.

Obviously, the formal roles are entertaining and acting in an advisory role to their monarch. It’s important to keep the king in high spirits, because that makes it less likely he’s going to command that someone get whipped 100 lashes for sneezing at the wrong time during a speech or something. Using humor to guide the king when he strays is vital- from the king in Ludwig Tieck’s Puss in Boots: “One cannot work hard enough, my friends, to keep in good humor a king about whose neck hangs the welfare of an entire country and countless subjects. For if he gets into a bad mood then he very easily becomes a tyrant, a monster; for good humor promotes cheerfulness, and cheerfulness according to the observations of all philosophers makes men good”.

Jesters were often asked for their opinions by the king, as the royal fool was one the monarch inherently trusted to give an honest opinion, even if it was couched in a humorous platitude. From Fools are Everywhere: The jester can voice his disagreement by agreeing with the king so profusely that he sees the absurdity of his ideas for himself. He can tell a funny story that apparently bears no relation to the issue at hand but that will make his point clear indirectly without causing any loss of face for the king. Occasionally he dispenses with subtlety and opts for bluntness, a change of tack that can have quite an impact on a ruler perhaps more used to hearing people’s words cushioned with courtly unction”.

The Chinese jesters were particularly adept at this- one of my favorite examples is Er Shi, the second and last emperor of the Qi dynasty, deciding he wanted to lacquer the Great Wall of China. You Zhan, knowing that this would be an absolutely gigantic waste of time, money, and resources, said, according Sima Qian’s “Accounts of Jesters”: “That’s a splendid idea! If you hadn’t mentioned it your majesty i certainly would have suggested it myself. It might mean an awful lot of toil and trouble for the ordinary people, but all the same it’s a magnificent project. Lacquer the Great Wall all smooth and shiny, then it’ll be too slippery for any invaders to climb over! Now let’s get down to the practical side of the job. The lacquering’s easy enough, but building the drying room may present a problem or two”. His witty retort convinced the emperor not to take on the project.

A jester was also often strategically used to be the bearer of bad news in order to stave off an attempt to Kill the Messenger, or just because everyone else was straight up too scared to do it. King Phillippe's VI of France’s naval fleet was destroyed by the English at the Battle of Sluys (SLAOS) in 1340. Literally none of his advisors felt brave enough to deliver the news, so his Jester, whose name is sadly lost to us, was said to have quipped to the King that quote, “The English don't even have the guts to jump into the water like our brave French!"

Some jesters were even used for diplomacy. Monarchs would send their jesters to other courts either as a mark of friendship or just as a way to cheer them up when they heard their fellow rich person was feeling bummed out. Some jesters were even brought to the battlefield, whether to boost the spirits of the monarch, the troops or both. A great example of this is Taillefer, a veritable hype man for the Norman troops during the 1066 CE Battle of Hastings, who sang songs about Charlemagne and Roland. He was actually supposedly one of the the first casualties at the Battle of Hastings due to juggling his sword, loudly reciting the Song of Roland, and just generally irritating the Anglos Saxons enough that they just fucking murdered him. Pretty good way to go honestly.

Jesters would also sometimes put the king in check, whether by jape or by example, making the king realize when he needed to exercise restraint in a matter. This was a particularly vital function of the jester, and one that I think really pinpoints what makes the jester special. Birbal, an army commander and advisor to Emperor Akbar of India during the 16th century, has a wealth of anecdotes attributed to him that undeniably sound like those that would come from a jester, even if he was not officially titled as such. Folk tales revolving around Birbal and Akbar have been passed down via oral tradition in India for hundreds of years. Most follow a convention where Akbar tries to test Birbal's wit, Birbal makes him realize his folly in some way, and it always ends with Akbar getting bemused and impressed and admitting to his exposed folly. These maybe-mythical maybe-not stories enjoy a legacy that continues on in India to this day, with children’s books featuring these stories as lessons or morality tales. One such anecdote I think perfectly illustrates an instance of a jester teaching a monarch a lesson, from Joseph Souza’s All About Birbal: “Emperor Akbar kept trampling crops in his hunting ardor, and the farmers complained to Birbal about it. When they next went hunting they rested a while under a tree in which some owls were twittering, and Akbar asked Birbal what they were saying. He listened carefully and explained that one of them refused to give his daughter away in marriage unless he be given 25 trampled fields as a bride price, while the boy’s father was saying that if he could only wait a few months he would be able to have 30 such fields. Akbar was puzzled and asked how the boy’s father could have 30 fields ruined in a few months if he didn’t even have 25 now. Birbal pretended to listen again. “Quite Simple my Lord” he replied. “The boy’s father says that the king loves hunting very much. He rides through the fields. He has already damaged many crops. If he does not stop hunting, he will soon ruin many more.” Akbar was very sad when he heard this. “I have not thought of the damage I have been causing, Birbal,’ He said. “I have only thought of my own pleasure. I shall never go hunting in the fields again”.

Since it’s one of the main tenets of what makes a jester a jester, there’s no shortage of tales of jesters teaching lessons to their king. In the mid 1500s, not too far off from Birbal’s time, King James the 6th of Scotland employed a Jester by the name of George Buchanan. The young James was notoriously lazy when it came to signing official papers and he often did so without reading the documents. So Buchanan wrote a Royal Decree that abdicated the rule of all of Scotland to himself for 15 days. And James signed it. After this, James reportedly never again signed a document without reading it first. Unfortunately they did not follow through with George’s rightful 15-day monarchy, but that’s probably for the best.

Jesters were even utilized to solve interpersonal disputes within the monarchy. One such case details Tenali Rama being asked by the queen for help. She had accidentally yawned when the king was reading her a play he had written, and the king hadn’t talked to her since. The queen asked Tenali to help her earn his forgiveness. Tenali visited the king as he was discussing with his ministers how to increase the rice crop, and produced a single rice seedling that he said could yield 3 times more than any other if it were planted by somebody who had never yawned and never would. From Fools Are Everywhere: “Fool!” the king said, “Can there be a single person in the whole world who has never yawned?” I forgot that, Tenali said in response, “How silly of me! I must go and tell the queen about this folly of mine.” After a pause, the king said “No, I shall go and tell her myself”. Tenali scored two bags of gold, one from each grateful monarch for that one.

Speaking of compensation, jesters wouldn't just score bags of gold here and there- they were often given salaries and gifts, and lavishly so. Carriages, horses, hats, shoes, quilts, fabrics, gold, sometimes even land. Ivan the Terrible dressed his jesters in gold whenever he brought them along on an outing like they were a whole troupe of Lil Nases. Chinese jesters could be rewarded with bolts of silk if they told a particularly pithy pun. Jester Merry Joseph of Austria was said to have 99 different jester outfits, which I'm uniquely, frothingly jealous of. And, contrary to some mildly popular belief, jesters were not made to sleep in peasant’s quarters or among the horse stables, but rather often had their own sizable living quarters. Nothing too fancy of course, normally not much more than the equivalent of a one bedroom apartment, but one of those costs like $2000 a month right now so that’s pretty damn good if you ask me. A lot of these gifts would be given as rewards for eliciting a laugh from the king- we have records of Edward II giving 20 silver pennies to a guy who fell off his horse a bunch during a hunting trip. It’s kind of like the modern day equivalent of plugging your cash app under a viral tweet- if you make a funny enough joke, someone might reward you for it.

More seriously, some jesters even risked their lives to go down with their monarch - Mathurine risked her life to contain that would-be assassin to Henri the 4th. Chinese jester Shen Jiangao drank a goblet of poisoned wine intended for his emperor and died of a brain hemorrhage as a result. Irish jesters in particular took their relationship to a “til death do us part'' degree, as an account in 626 CE tell of Irish prince Fiachrae’s (FEE AUCHRA) jester begging to let him die alongside his master in battle, and another actually taking his master’s place in a battle due to an alleged prophetic vision.

Next, let's look at the informal roles.

Kings often trusted the jester greatly, perhaps because of a shared sense of isolation. The king’s for being a singular leader, and the jester for operating on the periphery of all social groups. Jesters could accompany them on trips of all kinds, and into battle too. There was the impression that a king NEEDED a jester to keep him grounded. Per “Fools are everywhere”, “A jester was not merely tolerated, he was cherished, protected, trusted, and indulged”. If a king didn’t like the jester, what’s the point? The jester is there to fill a unique slot, and at the core of the role is being actually loved by the king.

In fact, a jester could be called upon at any hour to entertain the king. From Fools are Everywhere: “The jester, in view of his real and symbolic closeness to the monarch, could be a kind of privileged partner. He would be with his master in both public and private capacity, accompanying him on progresses, military campaigns, and hunting trips. Nasrudin was once asked by Tamerlane to accompany him on a hunt, as was Motke (MOOTKEY), the Hasidic Jewish fool whose company the king is said to have enjoyed. Zuniga went with Emperor Charles V on his campaign against the French in Navarre in 1523, and in 1524 he accompanied the princess to the border of Portugal to join her new husband. He was also an eyewitness to a historic meeting of papal legates and various potentates from Europe and elsewhere, held in Toledo in October 1525. In China too, the jester would go with the emperor on his travels, with Li Jing always bringing his royal fool Li Jiaming along with him. A jester would also follow the king into his private apartments, which was a very unique privilege to have: one anecdote about Nasrudin has him chatting with Tamerlane in a Turkish bath.”

Okay, look, I'm not gonna string you along. There’s no historical record of a jester and a king being gay together.

I would however like to note that the vast majority of historical events are unrecorded.

Luckily what little we do have recorded of kings and jesters’ casual interactions is actually pretty cute. There’s a good number of stories of kings and emperors sometimes going out in disguise to mingle with the common folk, and bringing their jesters along for the adventure. Adorably, there is a recorded anecdote of Emperor Huizong going out and having to scale a wall, and his jester having to push him up and over it with his shoulders, which is the kind of intimate moment you’d read in a modern day fanfic. Even some Popes had jesters, and Pope Leo the 10th actually had his jester kept by his bedside when he died. Persian jester Talhak, advisor to Sultan Mahmud of Ghanza, is described in one scene depicted by poet Obeyd Zakani as having the sultan laying his head upon Talhak’s knee. Will Somers was so beloved by infamous wife executioner Henry the 8th he was bid welcome to come into the king’s quarters at any time of day. Quite the privilege to have for one of the most lethal men in noble history to be married to. In one particularly romantic sounding example, Chinese jester Zhou Za was captured during a military campaign against the current Emperor, Zhuanzong. The emperor spent years looking for his jester, and the reunion when it finally happened was reportedly an emotional one. Zhou Za explained he was only saved by the intervention of two guards, and asked that they be rewarded with gifts of land. The emperor agreed without hesitation to reward the men who had returned his beloved jester.

In fact for many monarchs it seems they were unwilling or unable to survive without the jester at his side for more than an hour, which even if that is hyperbole, is telling enough. What, you can’t bear to be away from the silly little guy who teases you in front of the royal court for a few hours? You simply can’t stand being separated from the little motherfucker who farts on your command?? The man who is allowed to just pop into your bedroom whenever he wants, who can offer you emotional honesty like no one else can, who you specifically hired to be by your side because you enjoyed his charm??? Some historians could be led to believe this type of relationship could bely potential romantic implications. Some could perhaps say that the sexual tension between a jester and his king would be off the charts, and a love story between the two may be one of the juciest untold stories one could hope for.

Some could say that, but not me. I would never. I’m a professional. And professionals never make jokes about gay sex.


Though a jester may be loved by their king, that doesn’t mean they were always free from repercussions. A jester was definitely always still in danger of facing an angry monarch if they overstepped. From Fools are Everywhere, “The kind of person who might become a jester was unlikely to use wit only as a tactical weapon, aiming at a specific target before while calculating how impudent he could be before the opposition struck back. His ebullient irreverence was visceral and unfettered.” which is a lot of words to say, sometimes a jester just couldn’t help being a little shit. Jesters often spoke for that which was right, and worked in both the king and the culture’s best interest, absolutely. But sometimes they just couldn't help themselves from being a bit of a bastard. And they can certainly pay the price for that impulse.

Jesters could be beaten, beaten publicly, beheaded, banished. These instances were on the rare side, and seemed to have happened a bit more in Chinese courts than European ones, if only because of the slight difference in expectations between the two. Middle eastern and European jesters appear to often be faced more with banishment. Beatings however seem pretty even split across the board. At the end of the day, a monarch is a monarch, and if they get pissed enough at even their favorite person in the whole world, they will resort to whatever violent whim that strikes them to retaliate.

One French jester, Marias, was reportedly shaved at King Louis XIII’s behest, which I'm honestly not sure how much the jester hated that, but it was framed like a punishment, so I'm mentioning it here.

Of course, being handed a sentence of banishment or even a death sentence doesn’t mean a true jester isn’t going to try to find their way out of it. Reportedly when Tenali Rama was ordered by the king never to show his face in court again, he simply covered his head in a pot and came back. Which is a great joke that still hits to this day. And one of the most famous jesters, Triboulet, jester to Louis the 12th and Francis I of France during the 16th century, has a fantastic account attributed to him. From Leonie Frieda’s Francis I: The Maker of Modern France: Triboulet could not contain himself and slapped Francis I on the bum, to the enjoyment of the surrounding nobles. The monarch lost his temper and threatened to execute Triboulet. A bit later, the monarch calmed down a little and promised to forgive Triboulet if he could think of an apology more insulting than the offending deed. A few seconds later, Triboulet responded: "I'm so sorry, your majesty, that I didn't recognize you! I mistook you for the Queen!"

I won’t even comment on the fact that the jester had an apparent overwhelming desire to smack his king’s ass and did not die for it. I will leave that be. Because again, I’m a professional.

the decline of the jester

Now, we have covered so much of the surprisingly vast history of the court jester up to this point. And you may have noticed that in this day and age, there’s not a ton of jesters around anymore. I mean I’m here, so that’s one. And there is an official town jester named Russel Erwood (or "Erwyd le Fol"), in Conwy, Wales, who was appointed in 2015. He, by the way, gave me his official jester seal of approval on twitter back in February of 2022 so you know he’s legit. But really, my homie Russel and I are doing most of the heavy lifting in the Western jester market nowadays. So what happened?

To start, the decline of the Chinese jester really began during the Yuan dynasty, coinciding with the rise of the stage actor as theater in China really started to grow into its own thing. Jesters were pretty much done in China by the 16th and 17th centuries. Jesters in Europe were not far behind, with their reigns of japes being snuffed out around the 18th century. In Medieval Europe, the fall of folly as a fashionable literary allegory device seems to be a big part of the issue, as well as the similar function of stage actors as found in China centuries prior. Who needs a jester when you have Shakespeare’s slutty social commentary? It could even be a result of rising printed literature and literacy rates. One common early printed product was Jest Books, compilations of jokes, funny poems, and stories accredited to various royal fools. Which I personally would love to have in my bathroom, since I can’t have a live jester in there.

Point is, there’s not one big thing to point to that we can blame for the erasure of jesterdom. My pet theory is that jesters fell out of fashion with monarchs and people in power because they started resenting having a voice of morality in their ear. And we need that now more than ever. Imagine Elon Musk being checked by a singular figure who actually holds sway over him instead of hundreds of thousands of people on twitter. Although I do think it would be great if we could livestream that to hundreds of thousands of people on twitter. It’d be a lot harder for him to ignore criticism if it was staring him right in the face and jingling its bells. And I bravely nominate myself for that position. Elon, I know you’re listening, I know you have spyware that combs the internet for any and all mentions of your name. Hit me up, the internet will love it. Bezos, I know you’re listening too, and I actually don’t want anything to do with you sorry.