Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What's the Deal With Jesters?

I've been called a goofball a good number of times in my life, and I usually don't take offense to it.  It's not really an insult in most social contexts ("Look at that goofball in the silly hat!" is more common than "Some goofball took my social security number and is currently goofing around with my credit score," for example), and I've developed from a goofy child to a goofy man-child over the past 22 or so years of my life.  It's a role that I'm comfortable with, and I'm fortunate to have been born in a modern era of goofballs, because if I were born in Medieval times, It'd be much harder to impress royalty and commonfolk with stories about being a chubby middle-schooler with an absentee father.  Most preferred songs, magic, or juggling, which may as well be magic because only children and tourists believe in it.

An elaborate illusion.  You can't fool me, guy!

  After researching jesters, I learned that medieval jesters fell into two categories: the licensed fool and the natural fool.  The licensed fool was allowed to be goofy and obnoxious by decree of the court, and was usually employed for a long period of time, while the natural fool was a divine doofus that audiences could recognize as a unique and interesting personality that wasn't putting on airs. Both licensed and natural fools performed magic and acrobatics, told stories, and kept royalty in check by poking fun at them and their guests.  However, jesters were careful about telling jokes at the king's expense, because if they went too far they'd be scolded or whipped or thrown out of the court altogether.  

"Please don't hurt me. I'm doing my best."
  The jester's outfit is an iconic symbol of goofdom, but they didn't always wear a coxcomb hat with bells and a motley coat.  Jesters would sometimes wear the same outfits that servants wore, and would sometimes wear a hood with ass's ears instead of the coxcomb hat we all know and love.  

"Uhh, jester hat? This is a coxcomb hat. I may look like a fool, but you sound like a fool."
 I thought that jesters had gone extinct before researching for this blog post, but there was one modern jester named Jesse Bogdonoff, who served as court jester/financial advisor to Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, who was the king of Tonga from 1965 to 2006.  Bogdonoff was a fool in both title and behavior, because in his role as financial adviser, he wiped out the Tongan Trust Fund (by giving the entire portfolio to an asset management company that would end up stealing it) and was sued by the government of Tonga for fraud and negligence.  He fled Tonga in 2004 and now works in California as a clinical therapist and hypnotist.  
Jesse Bogdonoff, wearing a coxcomb hat


1 comment:

  1. Spencer –

    I am glad you have accepted your status as a goofy man-child and have even seen a couple of your videos (like the one on funnyordie). In presenting yourself in videos to tell stories and jokes do you consider yourself a modern day jester? Or, would you describe your entertainment as more of a comedian?
    After looking into the topic of jesters, I found that in literature, the jester is a symbol of (ironically) common sense and honesty. The jester offers insight to the reader and advice to the monarch by their ability to speak freely against the king. Jesse Bogdonoff, however, must not have been aware of this connotation. Or, maybe perhaps he did and it was this trust that allowed him to wipe out the Tongan Trust Fund.