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England appoints first jester in three centuries
Warwickshire, England, August 2004 - Kester the Jester, aka Nigel Roder, has been named England's first "official" jester since the post was last held in the court of King Charles I in 1649. He beat out six other contestants to win the title of State Jester on Saturday, August 8. England's last jester was Muckle John, who lost his job when King Charles was beheaded
Kester, who has his own website at www.itshim.co.uk, is a professional juggler, and has a small company specializing in family entertainment.
Says Tracy Borman, events director with English Heritage: "This is a real job. Kester will have to amuse and provoke, although failure to do so will no longer risk beheading."
Unlike historical jesters, he will also be able to negotiate his own salary. His contract with English Heritage, which challenges him to divert the public from the daily grind, will run from March to October 2005.
Traditionally, jesters entertained monarchs and distracted them from the more difficult problems of state. Kester's job, however, will be to entertain the crowds of tourists that visit castles and other historic sites around England.
Kester himself says of his new post: "I am a national fool now. It is the best thing a man can be."
The original post of jester was abolished by lackwit Oliver Cromwell as part of the purges that followed the English Civil War, and was never reinstated after the Restoration.
Cromwell, who was known to have little sense of humor, is reputed to have said there was no room in affairs of state for such a post.
Yet the fool has played an important part in world history, even in Christianity. St. Francis of Assisi, for instance, was once famously described by G K Chesterton as 'God's Tumbler'. His troubadour and companion Brother Juniper, was often called the 'Jester of God'. Francis is reputed to have said, 'I would I had a forest of such junipers'. While a crowd waited to receive him in Rome, Brother Juniper was found playing seesaw with some children outside the city. St Francis's Franciscan order is known as the 'fools of God'.
The advertisement for the position, which was first published in the Times newspaper read: "Jester wanted. Must be mirthful and prepared to work summer weekends in 2005." It went on to say that applicants must have their own outfits, including bells, although a "bladder on a stick: can be provided "if necessary."
The Heritage Trust was pleased with its choice. "It's about time we had a jester again," said Tracy Borman. "This will be the first jester to be employed by the state for hundreds of years."
Still, not everyone was happy. Jonathan the Jester, spokesman for England's National Guild of Jesters, complained there was too little notice for professionals to be able to apply. "It's a gimmick. It's getting people for cheap," said the official jester for the city of Salisbury.
Surely he jests!
Catherine's objective with Survival of the Funniest is to make a seat for corporate jesters at boardroom tables. If you must put him or her on the organization chart, the title should be Vice President, Humor Resources. She says that holding the mirror up to the corporation and the CEO will remind executives of their lack of infallibility, the jester's historical role.