For so many who love the Renaissance Festival, laughter is the great joy that drives their attendance, we daresay perhaps even more than the ale. Or mayhap it is the ale that makes the laughter so deliciously belly-jiggling! To celebrate April Fools Day, we reached out to jesters and court fools from festivals all over the country to share short anecdotes and fun photos. We confess to costume envy! What a fun gig, to make so many people laugh!
“I play Jane the Holy Fool at the Oklahoma Renaissance Faire. I am the jester to the queen, and attend the daily events with her. I try to model my performance after Bugs Bunny, Vaudeville performers, and Mel Brooks-type comedy. One of my favorite “jokes” is knocking over a trash can right as a patron has walked by. I like to blame it on them, and call them a scoundrel. I always pick a trash can that is mostly empty, and I immediately clean up my mess. I usually get a good laugh out of it. I’m a prop heavy performer, and I usually pick one prop or toy a day to work with. It allows me to explore a variety of jokes involving one object. one of my favorite objects to work with is a burlap body bag I made. I drag it around and gleefully shout “finders keepers!” Patrons are usually intrigued by the site and amused by my reaction to the problem. It’s also fabulous for photo opportunities.”-Ashly Alexzandra, Oklahoma Renaissance Faire
Kelsey and I did a bit where she was a wicked witch and I threw a mug of water at her, causing her to melt. It wasn’t supposed to hit her in the face, but during the performance, that’s exactly what happened. A mug full of cold water splashed her square in the face, and she didn’t melt so much as sputter and squint. There was an audible gasp from our audience, and as I turned sheepishly towards them, I saw our king, queen, and princess with various expressions of surprise. Afterwards, I went to apologize, as I assumed she was less than happy about my terrible aim. On the contrary, she thought it was hilarious, and insisted that I should do it exactly the same next time!” Andy Hickly and Kelsey Walls, Will Sommers and Lucille Fouderoy of Pittsburgh Renaissance Faire
My jester character wears an exaggeratedly short skirt (poking fun at Renaissance social norms) and I wear bright, colorful bloomers underneath. In the beginning years of performing, I would flash my bloomers at a Scotsman and then exclaim: “Your turn!” I stopped doing that bit altogether, because I often saw more than I bargained for! It’s almost like they were waiting for any excuse to show the world that they were regimental! Haha!” Tara Reed, who performs with husband Mark as “Fool Hearty,” is at Sherwood Forest Faire and the Texas Renaissance Festival.
Jerome Keeno, King of Fools at Arizona Renaissance Festival, says his favorite that he tells in his show is, “What do you call a Lima bean that follows you home? A beanstalker! Oh, don’t worry, the joke will grow on you!”
He shares this story, “Two faire seasons ago during a special festival day for the deaf, I tried to learn the proper sign language to describe one of the most dangerous props I juggle, which is a bear-trap on a stick. My stage didn’t have an interpreter assigned so I thought I’d ask somebody who knew ASL what the proper term for ‘bear-trap’ would be. I spent all day using what I thought was the correct signage, but was later informed just before my last show of the day that I had in fact been signing the phrase ‘Itchy-Bear’ to people all. day. long. Last season I still had people coming up to me and signing ‘Itchy-Bear’ at me!”
Though silliness and hitting the old funny bone shouldn’t be underestimated, sometimes our court fools make an impact of a different kind. Micah Speirs, who plays Chester Tumbledown at the Colorado Renaissance Festival, shared the following story that arrived in his inbox, from patron Lorie.
“Just would like to share with you that you actually were involved with one of my favorite memories. My youngest son is a wonderful, unique little boy, but becomes overwhelmed easily, and can sometimes melt down and shut down. We were getting ready to just call it a day after only an hour into his first visit… because it was just too much for him to handle. You see many children, and I know you can’t remember one out of thousands. But you smiled and him and waved and shook your head, jingling your bells. You simply did that when many of the other people around us were averting their faces and shuffling around to get as far from my crying son as possible, something that happens, and hurts on a regular basis. But you smiled, you waved, and he became enchanted by you in your parti-colored garb, with the happiness and kindness you were showing him. We all, most importantly my son, enjoyed the rest of the day tremendously. Now that he’s four and more verbal, he still remembers the man who made him laugh.”
Whatever faire you attend, you’ve probably had the joy of playing with or watching a master jester or fool, who made you laugh and brightened your day. Who’s your favorite? We’d love to hear from you!
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Want to learn about the real history of the court fool? Read our piece by Christine Boyett Barr, “April Fools!”
Cover Photo of Ann-Elizabeth Shapera: Ivan Phillips
Ashly Alexzandra (Jane the Holy Fool): Chris Jeffery of Culture For Ransom, by Russ Matthews
Andy Hickly and Kelsey Walls (The Royal Fools): unknown
Tara and Mark Reed (Fool Hearty): photos by Stalkwell, Cliff Baise, Mike Morgan
Jerome Keeno (King of Fools): Light’s View Photography
Micah Speirs (Chester Tumbledown): unknown
Perry Rintye (Simon the Village Idiot): photo by Chip Talbert
Ann-Elizabeth Shapera (Jane the Phoole): photo by John Karpinski
Mark Jaster and Sabrina Salma Mandell (Oh and LaLa): photo by Andrew Lesny