The King's Jester
I get on stage, and take off my cap. It is green, blue, and red, and has three tails called ass-ears sticking out, each ending in a bell. There’s nowhere to hang it, so I toss it on the ground. A sneeze starts to overtake my body. I reach into my pockets for a handkerchief, but pull out clump after clump of cow dung. I toss the wet dung behind me, a hefty coil lands in my hat. I find the handkerchief, bring it to my nose, and sneeze. My nose and upper lip are caked brown. From the feces. The entire court laughs, but the king hasn't cracked a smile. I shout at him, “not funny? Fine, I QUIT.” I snatch my hat off the ground and slap the wet dung over my head and ears. The king laughs. The cow dung bit has been my closer for years. I’ve had pink eye nine times. Nothing a few leeches won’t fix. My name is Robert Dullens and my title is court jester, but I consider myself a truth teller.
Never has laughter been more important in the kingdom. The Hundred’s Year War has raged for sixty years, and the psychic toll of sending generation after generation of peasants to die in battle weighs immensely on the king's subconscious. To suppress it he curates his love for being entertained. The flowers of levity must bloom, and squirt water in his face. His face. The curl of his lips when I dress a dwarf like a Frenchman, then flog him cruelly in front of a crowd. I love it. He loves it. Comedy has the power to heal.
My career began traveling the road and performing in pubs. Laughter every night. All the mead I could drink. I brought many-a inn keeper’s daughters bedward, and touched them in the service of Venus.
I did this for 10 months before another jester I went to Oxford with said he could get me a gig performing in the king’s court. All the best jesters went to Oxford, and make a point to only help other jesters from Oxford, because, as I said, Oxford produces the best jesters.
It is a privilege to joke and mock in England. A lowly carpenter told a joke about the king, many years ago. He asked, “When is a piece of wood like the king?” He answered himself, “when it’s a ruler,” and held his measuring stick in the air. The king interpreted this as an insult. He is very sensitive about his height, as the men on his father’s side are very short, and his mother is of the same family. The king had the carpenter’s family beheaded and forced him to build coffins for them, then he set the coffins afire and buried his family in the mud.
You can understand how the royal laughter might go to one’s head. That’s why it’s so important I stay humble. Once a month I visit the hospice for orphaned and sick children, and perform a free show. I pick the two or three most crippled children in the audience, and do an impression of them: limping about, starring dully, pretending to have no arms. Without fail, all of the other children laugh at them. It is a privilege to entertain.
I use my own feces in my act. With my daily diet consisting entirely of ham, turkey, brisket, quail, eggs, cherries, and olives plundered from Greece, you might expect my droppings to be quite odorous. But the king’s alchemist provides me with purified orange oil, a vial of which I drink every morning. The result is stunning, the stool emerges with the scent of the Valencian orange fields. Quite literally, my shit no longer stinks. Now that’s comedy.