To Play the Fool


This fellow is wise enough to play the fool,
And to do that well craves a kind of wit.
He must observe their mood on whom he jests,
The quality of persons, and the time,
And, like the haggard, check at every feather
That comes before his eye. This is a practise
As full of labor as a wise man’s art,
For folly that he wisely shows is fit.
But wise men, folly-fall’n, quite taint their wit.
from Twelfth Night,  Act 3, scene 1
(This guy’s wise enough to play the fool, and only clever people can do that. He pays attention to the mood and social rank of the person he’s joking with. And he doesn’t let go of his target when a distraction appears. His job requires as much effort and skill as any wise man’s occupation could. And he shows he’s very smart at playing the fool, while smart people look stupid when they play the fool.)
I’ve been thinking a lot about fools lately: St Francis of Assisi, Russell Brand, King James I, Prince Myshkin…
Two of the last three books I read were about fools “To Play the Fool” and “The Idiot“, the choice was coincidental but I’m a great believer in serendipity (finding what we want without consciously looking for it). The other book was about buried pirate treasure (“Riptide“), maybe if two of the three books had been about buried treasure I’d be posting about that now.
Russell Brand in a recent interview by Jeremy Paxman riled humorously against the elite. The clip was heavily commented upon in the social media, some applauding him others referring to him as a “twat”. I read Brand’s autobiography “My Booky Wook“, he is an interesting and amusing man.
In the eighties when the Labour party was in disarray with infighting the only effective opposition to the excesses of the Thatcher government were the puppets of Spitting Image.
Humour can undermine dictatorships and make them uneasy, there was a joke in Stalinist times:
Q: What is the difference between Roosvelt and Stalin?
A: Roosevelt collects the jokes people tell about him and Stalin collects the people who tell jokes about him.
Playing the fool can be dangerous.
In 2008 I took a stand up course with Logan Murray (which I would highly recommend, it was a lot of fun and met some great people, here is a link: )
At the end of the course we did a showcase stand up set in front of a real audience at a bar in Covent Garden. Here is my performance: I inwardly cringe watching it, but I am glad I did it.
After that I did 6 gigs in Derby, Worcester, Alcester and London, an interesting experience, moving to Tbilisi curtailed any futher gigs but it gave me some insights into the craft of the stand up. A serious business comedy.
The new pope is Francis I, named after  the most famous example in the Western church of a Holy FoolSt. Francis of Assisi, whose order was known for following the teachings of Christ and walking in his footsteps. Thus, upon joining the order, Franciscans gave away all possessions and focused on preaching in the streets to the common man. I haven’t been interested in popes before, but this new one looks interesting, there is a lot of injustice in the world and capitalism and the love of money is making a few people very rich, exploiting the workers and the poor (George Carlin, an American stand up, is worth watching on Youtube clips). I don’t intend for my blog to get too political.
Who are your favourite Stand Up Comedians?

Mine in no particular order are: Ed Byrne, Dara O’Briain, Dave Allen, Steve Martin, Sarah Millican, Jane Godley, Rhod Gilbert, Shoppi Khorsandi, Alexei Sayle, Chris Rock, Ardal O Hanlon and when I post this blog I’ll probably think of some obvious omissions.

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