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Is that a cockscomb in your pocket?

Sep 13 2021

Court Jester Great interview with Al Gore on the Daily Show. My favorite part is how he compared John Stewart to the jesters in the Middle Ages who were the only ones who could speak the truth without getting their heads choped off.

It’s an interesting analogy. The concept of a jester actually has origins before the middle ages, but mostly people’s impression of one comes from the romanticized Middle Ages. Wikipedia has the following to say about jesters:

The jester was symbolic twin of the king.[1] All jesters and fools in those days were thought of as special cases whom God had touched with a childlike madness—a gift, or perhaps a curse.

Some Jesters probably were mad or otherwise mentally disabled but not all were, and Al Gore is right that several were known for their humorous political commentry. Probably one who most reflects this is Sta?Ñczyk, a court jester in Poland in the early 1500s, who became a celebrated folk hero and is still considered to be an important historical figure. Again quoting wikipedia:

Sta?Ñczyk has been always considered to have been much more than a mere entertainer. He is remembered as a man of great intelligence and a political philosopher gifted with formidable insight into Poland’s current and future situation. He used his job to criticize and warn his contemporaries by the use of satire. His witty jokes often pertained to current political or court matters. Sta?Ñczyk’s remarks and jokes were preserved by numerous contemporary writers and historians, who praised him for fighting hypocrisy in the name of truth. [emphasis mine]

Looking forward at the history of tomorrow, I would not be surprised if John Stewart (and Stephen Colbert) become equally important historical figures. The presence in the historical landscape may be more lasting and in a way more potent than our current president; in the least, they will be more fondly remembered.

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