Laughter’s master

This wistful, affectionate phrase come from Feng Menglong's preface to the Expanded Treasury of Laughter. Among other aspects of fools, we are determined to figure out who counts as a, or the, god of laughter and, by liberal extension, fools.  There is a generous...

read more

Part of the pabulum

This expansive quotation comes from the Preface to the Expanded Treasury of Laughter by Feng Menglong (1574-1646). I love its tumbling cascade of mutual mockery and laughter. And, like Aristotle, he seems to posit laughter as a quiddity of being human, though I've...

read more

We have lift-off!

What better way to launch than scientific evidence of their central role on earth and beyond. NASA has cleverly realised that the skills of the fool are essential to prevent mayhem when cooping up a dozen astronauts for months on end in a...

read more

Of humour and proportion

This, in a delightful travelogue in 1930s Romania, caught my eye as a pithy and original definition of humour.  I now keep it in mind as I re-visit examples of jesters using humour to rein in excess, be it self-indulgence by the king (boozing instead of reigning),...

read more

The fool’s mission statement

Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose is a gripping medieval whodunnit but also a plea for humanity and humour over extremes of piety and earnestness.  This advice to the young Adso sums up the dangers of any ideology taken too far and too earnestly - in this case leading to...

read more

Fools are everywhere

Fools are everywhere - the name of this website and title of the book which informs it, and a shorthand for the underlying thesis; that court fools and jesters existed, not literally in every place at all times, but across a breathtaking array of cultures over a few...

read more

Always more to say or add is not a digital version of the book which informs and inspired it. Websites are 'works in progress', always evolving, never complete; it's part of their complementary beauty and strength alongside print. As such, we don't expect anything shared...

read more

A note on design

A note on the visual aspects of this site for those interested in design choices.For the illustrations, having not found anything ready-made with the spirit, kinetic energy, brightness, playfulness and coherence I wanted, I've had the pleasure of working with the...

read more

How to get the boss to up their game

This account of a Chinese jester is from what may be the earliest study of their exploits. It highlights a common technique for influencing behaviour - not through confrontation but by lightly indirect means, allowing the king to draw his own conclusions. In the...

read more

A cure for carousing

A common theme in the interactions between fools and kings is the need to rein in regal carousing or other forms of distraction from the affairs of state. On one occasion Baldy Chunyu used a riddle to talk Weiwang of Qi (c. 356-319 BC, whose name has been neatly...

read more

Are they still relevant?

In the age of concentrated and even absolute power, jesters were a vital counterpoint, a dose of humorous corrective, a laughing shaker-up of rigidity. In an age of spin, propaganda and fake news, they may - should - still have a role to play.  They typically come...

read more

Hiring? Here’s the job description

Following a thorough examination of the issue, we have concluded that fools are as vital to societal and democratic health as they ever were hanging around the courts of monarchs and other power-wielders. To help you improve your organisation's performance (and your...

read more

The seriousness of jokes

A fundamental error regarding humour is to assume that jokes aren't somehow 'serious'. They can of course be for no purpose than entertainment, but equally can and often are deadly serious in their implications, message or revelation. They can also be a mechanism for...

read more

Sobering up the king

Riddles are one technique in the rag-bag of fools' tools and can prove a playful, indirect way of bringing someone round to another view.  First they focus the person on solving the riddle, allowing a moment for the real meaning to sink in quietly. The decoy of a...

read more

Were these not great men too?

This ringing endorsement of the effectiveness of court jesters seems a good way to launch a website celebrating them across time and space.  It comes from Sima Qian (c. 145-86 BC), 'father' of Chinese history, who wrote what may be the first ever study of jesters,...

read more

Now we are two

The mirror is a recurring theme in fooldom, both as a symbol and a function of the role - they hold a mirror up to show things as they really are, in turn allowing us to 'reflect' on our behaviour.  In European iconography, the jester can be seen looking into a...

read more


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Design and content copyright: Beatrice Otto 2019 all rights reserved I I I I I header & related jester illustrations by

Colours and fonts were chosen for aesthetic strength and because their names reflect the mission of Fonts: Quipley I Lustria I Wild Pen.

Colours include: Jester Yellow by Faeriepuffs I New Laughter by Ilara


Pin It on Pinterest

Share This