There are some surviving anecdotes on the informal and meritocratic way in which jesters could be recruited. Sometimes they were ‘talent spotted’ by the ruler or a courtier on their travels, such as if they were something like the village fool.
One famous such example is Claus Narr (Claus Fool, also known more formally as Claus von Ranstedt), who served the German Elector Ernst (d. 1486), among others.
Ernst seems to have been sufficiently taken with Claus to ask Claus’s father if he could take him to court. According to Flögel, the source of many of these accounts, Claus’ father was only too glad to have him taken off his hands.
‘That would be great, Sir! I’d be relieved of a great encumbrance thereby; the youth is not good to me – he makes nothing but trouble in my house and stirs up the whole village with his pranks.’
‘Sehr gern, Gnädiger Herr, ich würde dadurch eines grossen Verdrusses überhoben, denn der Junge is mir nichts nütze, in meinem Hause macht er nichts als Unruh, und durch seine Possen wiegelt er daß ganze Dorf auf.’
Source: Karl-Friedrich Flögel, Geschichte der Hofnarren (1789), p. 284.
Image credit: portrait of Claus Narr, after Hans Lautensack (1524-c.1560), public domain