10 Court Jesters From the Golden Age of Wit

Many of us have grown accustomed to buffoons in positions of power, but historically the jester was a job title. Plucked out of obscurity for making people laugh (whether they actually intended to or not), they held a special place in royal courts and were given “comic dispensation” to say whatever they wished—even, or especially, to the monarch—without any fear of reprisal.

10. Roland the Farter (12th Century)

Oscar Wilde famously remarked that “sarcasm is the lowest form of wit”—which means farting must be at least one rung up. That’s certainly what Roland the Farter, medieval master of the flatulent arts, thought anyway, along with his patron King Henry II of England. In the Middle Ages, it may even have been a form of philosophy—an offhand reminder of our existential finitude, not to mention our feculence and sin. And this was no doubt important for keeping otherwise near-omnipotent rulers from becoming pompous assholes themselves.

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