When I tell people what I do for a living, they always say, “Wow, that sounds like a fun job,” “must be fun to laugh all day,” or something to that effect. But, let me tell you, being a court jester is not all it’s cracked up to be.
Originally, I had hoped to perform the plays of a new up-and-coming playwright named William Shakespeare. He’s from Stratford-upon-Avon, so, you know, he has a very strong Stratford-upon-Avon voice. You can really hear the Stratford-upon-Avon influence in his work. Anyway, if you haven’t heard of him, I assure you that you soon will.
When I moved to London from my small village, I was full of vigor and excitement. Everything about London appealed to me with the exception of the constant smallpox outbreaks. But smallpox aside, I was eager to leave my provincial hometown and prove myself in a metropolis. But, alas, London is not a forgiving place. I was lonely, soon penniless, and found myself residing in a boarding house barely fit for a smallpox outbreak.
Here I was, a self-proclaimed “serious actor,” applying for any job I could with nary an audition in sight. I searched for job after job at pubs and restaurants, but there are so many actors in London that all the jobs at pubs and restaurants were taken, and I had no references having never previously been in the employ of a pub or restaurant.
So, I took a job as a bedpan emptier. Yes, that’s a job! You go to a wealthy man’s home and empty bedpans. You dump them into the Thames River like everyone else, which, of course, is done to prevent outbreaks of disease. It’s not much of a job, and now that I think of it, it may not be such a good idea to bathe in the Thames as I do, what with all the discarded bodily waste. But, I must get clean somehow!
After years of toil, I joined a small acting troupe. Our first few shows were great. All our friends came out, but then our friends grew tired of our skits making excuses like “oh, the night of your show is the night I was planning to wash my hair in the Thames,” and soon, we were playing to practically empty houses. While my enthusiasm had dimmed, it was still pretty bright. And, I kept at it, one barely existent audience after another honing my craft.
Until one day, I saw an announcement for auditions to become a player at The Globe Theatre, Shakespeare’s home playhouse. The Bard himself would be there! “Huzzah, my destiny is calling,” I thought! By the way, “The Bard” is Shakespeare’s nickname for those of you unfamiliar with the London theatrical world, though I’m told his close friends call him Willy Shakes or Peanut. I won’t venture a guess as to the origin of the latter nickname.
Now, when I got to The Globe to audition, and you won’t believe this, there was a long line to sign up for a limited amount of audition times. Yes, not a line for the auditions but a line for the sign-up sheet for auditions. That’s how bad the odds are. As it was, I barely made it in the batch for auditions. I had only a few days to prepare and prepare I did.
I chose to do a scene from a Greek tragedy. Unfortunately, at the audition the only “tragedy” was my performance. The sight of Shakespeare made me so nervous I hyperventilated. I fumbled my lines and then fumbled my body. I fell to the ground after tripping on thin air. Then, as I attempted to rise, I tripped again. The whole audience was now laughing at this supposed “serious actor.” Mortified, I scrambled off stage holding my cloak over my head. I rushed for the exit but I was cut off by Master Thorn. Master Thorn said he was from The King’s court and he’d like me to come on as a court jester — he had enjoyed my pratfalls, and The King’s court needed a back-up for the current court jester who was proving unreliable due to his addiction to corn liquor.
I assured Master Thorn that I was a serious actor and he laughed and said, “If I had a shilling for every time I heard that I’d be a rich man.” I had never heard this hyperbolic quip before but I gathered what Master Thorn was saying was “you’ll never make it.” While this hurt my feelings, already tender from my sad audition, I sensed an opportunity for a non-bedpan emptier job. And, while I certainly wouldn’t be a player at The Globe, as a court jester, I would at least be honing my performance skills. So, I said to Master Thorn, “looks like we’re in a ‘thorny’ situation,” and that subpar pun solidified the deal as Master Thorn laughed. I was hired on the spot. At that point, given the warm reception of that lame pun, I should have known that pure hackery would often be expected of me.
Five years hence from that time, I am now head court jester doing yuck ’em ups for an ungrateful over-privileged man-boy and his nitwit compatriots. But, it won’t last long. The King has grown weary of me. I don’t think he’ll behead me, but my time is almost up here.
You see, The King has grown tired of my material. It’s good stuff. I have great bits on ox carts, feasts and moat maintenance to name a few, but The King is sick of them. Even my big closer on drawbridges barely gets a chuckle these days. And, randomly falling down has ironically grown predictable. One time I even tried to be “edgy” and do a chunk on regicide, but this only served to make The King uncomfortable.
To make matters worse, my parents don’t know what to make of me. They tell people I’m a bootblack to avoid questioning. My mom keeps writing me that with my bedpan emptying experience I could get an apprenticeship as a bedpan maker and even join the Bedpan Makers Guild someday. But, I don’t want to make bedpans. I want to sing the song of my soul and act!
That is why I’m not so upset The King will dismiss me soon. My old acting troupe says they’ll take me back and I’m sure I can get a bedpan emptier job somewhere. And, The Globe is now offering classes for non-company actors. So, I will once again go back into the heart of unforgiving London to pursue my calling.
But, for now, show time is almost here. The Duke of Marlborough is visiting and Master Thorn says The King wants me to do an hour of material. Of course, I’ll have to dumb it down for that idiot The Duke and his moronic entourage. Rest assured, I will have to do a manifold of genitalia jokes. Oh, how I dread performing for non-Londoner middle-of-the-country folk with their fanny packs, stupid shirts and obese bodies–but no matter, for this court jester will someday be an actor of great renown treading the boards to sold-out audiences. Though, for now, as we show people say, the show must go on…
The Higgs Weldon is a humor website with funny articles, cartoons, and one liners. It was started by the Los Angeles stand-up comedy community, but takes submissions from everybody. Please read and enjoy our jokes!