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[[quoteright:350:[[Literature/HorribleHistories http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/d15ddaf7ef0b68c94278bc1cc94d5200.png]]]]

->''"It is a fool's prerogative to utter truths that no one else will speak."''
-->-- '''Morpheus''', ''ComicBook/TheSandman'' "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

The constructive {{troll}}, a common feature at the StandardRoyalCourt. Much like his historical counterpart, the Jester's foolish appearance and demeanor means he's generally laughed at or not taken seriously. The upside to this is being able to pretty much [[HonestAdvisor speak his mind in the most blunt way possible without fear of reprisal]].

It's worth noting that real jesters were the {{Trope Codifier}}s for most ClownTropes. For example the reason modern clowns wear ruffs is because [[RegalRuff they were popular back when jesters were around]], so the jesters started wearing them too, and they have since remained a part of clown costumes.

The Jester, or [[TheImp his antagonist counterpart]], occurs once other characters stop being genuinely offended by him. The Jester gets to give the alternate point of view in the most potentially rude way possible, which sometimes ''helps'' his cause, because the audience members who disagree with him can write it off as being a jerk, while those who agree with him can snicker in their sleeves. If they become (or pantomime) TheProtagonist, they typically play TheFool.

Many writers have noted that it's [[ObfuscatingStupidity a great cover]]. No one would guess that the silly and seemingly harmless jester is really a bodyguard, assassin, or spymaster.

May overlap with MagicalClown, due to RealLife jesters in TheMiddleAges using magic tricks as part of their acts.

Not to be confused with a VillainousHarlequin, a villain who really is [[VillainBall as foolish as she appears]] (although a Villainous Harlequin may have the appearance of one), or SelfDemonstrating/TheJoker.

Often dressed in the HappyHarlequinHat. May be a SexyJester.

Sister trope to ServileSnarker.



[[folder: Anime ]]

* In ''Anime/IrresponsibleCaptainTylor'', when Tylor is captured by the Raalgon and made into Empress Azalyn's pet, he takes it upon himself to fulfill this role during Court, calling out the TreacherousAdvisor Wang on exactly how he's trying to manipulate the empress as well as loudly and publicly speculating over his motives.


[[folder: Comic Books ]]

* The Comedian from ''ComicBook/{{Watchmen}}'' at the beginning of his career weared a clown custome trying to invoke this trope. However, [[ViewersAreMorons nobody got the joke]]. So he became a StrawNihilist {{Troll}} who only said truthful things to hurt others without any hope that someone would get the joke and do something to change things. At the first reunion of the [[SuperTeam Crimebusters]], the Comedian was so mad that the heroes were so vain to think they could solve America problems that he claimed that [[ReedRichardsIsUseless it wold not matter because a nuclear war will destroy the world anyway]]. The Crimebusters disbanded immediately, but even when the Comedian thought he was trolling them, in reality he exposed the real situation to [[spoiler: the only hero with the knowledge and resources to avert that trope]].
--> [[spoiler:'''Ozymandias:''']] "[He] opened my eyes. Only the very best comedians can do that".
* Though SelfDemonstrating/{{Deadpool}} doesn't realize it, [[ComicBook/CableAndDeadpool this is why Cable likes him]].
* SelfDemonstrating/TheJoker is this for the DC Universe as a whole. He certainly views himself as this in the ''ComicBook/DeathOfTheFamily'' storyline.
* In one of the Magazine/DisneyAdventures comics, Kuzco had a Jester act as a BodyDouble for a visiting nation regarding a Golden Hand. This, predictably, proves to be a very ''big'' mistake on Kuzco's part.


[[folder: Film ]]

* Randal Graves from ''Film/{{Clerks}}''
* Hubert Hawkins's (Creator/DannyKaye's) impersonation of Giacomo in ''Film/TheCourtJester'' is perhaps the definitive "Jester as cover."
** And Giacomo (Creator/JohnCarradine) himself was [[spoiler:a disguised assassin for Ravenshurst]].
* Kyoami in ''Film/{{Ran}}'' fits this trope to a T, at least as first.
* [[TheInvisibleMan Griffin]] in ''WesternAnimation/HotelTransylvania''.


[[folder: Literature ]]

* ''Literature/TheStormlightArchive'': The Alethi king has a position known as "the King's Wit" who insults people in the king's stead so that the king doesn't have to sully himself. His primary role is to humiliate and humble the various "lighteyed" lords and ladies by mocking them, which he does with relish and gusto. He does hide his genuine criticisms in a lot of straightforward insults, but they are there. It's ''technically'' legal for a slighted lord to kill the Wit, if he is willing to revoke all his lands and titles.
* Thersites in the ''Literature/{{Iliad}}''
* ''Literature/{{Discworld}}'': In ''Discworld/WyrdSisters'', the Fool is a classic jester who spends most of the book reluctantly advising the usurping Duke. [[spoiler: He later becomes king himself, and is shown to be a kind ReasonableAuthorityFigure, and optimistic by Disc standards.]]
** In one of the diaries, it's revealed that all court jesters are actually spies for their guild. They send everything they overhear back to the chief clown, who profits enormously.
* A more benevolent version of this occurs in Alan Gordon's ''Literature/FoolsGuild'' mystery novels, in which the eponymous Guild are essentially a continent-spanning spy ring who try to manipulate their patrons into averting war, or running damage-limitation if that doesn't work. The main character, Theophilos, is stated to be Feste from ''Twelfth Night'', and is heavily implied to be the Fool in ''King Lear''. [[spoiler: Oh, and he's Laertes from ''Hamlet'', as well. Sort of. Look, just go read the books, they need the love.]]. Some of Shakespeare's other jesters, such as Yorick and Lavache, pop up too, if only in flashbacks.
* Orr from ''Literature/CatchTwentyTwo'' is comically absurd, and nobody takes him seriously. Eventually the protagonist realizes that his erratic behavior was part of a plan to defect from the Air Force, and that Orr was hinting he should come.
* In Creator/IsaacAsimov's ''Literature/FoundationAndEmpire'', the court jester of Kalgan joins the protagonists. [[spoiler:It turns out that he was the [[BigBad Mule]], ''king'' of Kalgan.]]
* In Creator/GuyGavrielKay's ''Literature/{{Tigana}}'': The court jester is magically bound to the King, acting out his subconscious urges, but there's a [[TheDogBitesBack twist]].
* Beldin from David Edding's ''Literature/TheBelgariad'' and ''The Malloreon'' series; as a twisted, hideous hunchback, he can say and do just about anything he wants because everyone's staring at the hump on his spine. He's also an impossibly powerful sorcerer, however, and at one point magically disguises himself as a "standard" jester, nailing home the resemblance.
* Onimi from the Literature/NewJediOrder series is the slave jester to [[EvilOverlord Supreme Overlord Shimrra]] of the [[ScaryDogmaticAliens Yuuzhan Vong]]. His position as Shimrra's 'pet' allows him to mock the Elite mercilessly in a way no one else can, and he seems to take great pleasure in being as offensive as possible. [[spoiler:He's also the true power behind the Yuuzhan Vong throne, using MindControl to speak his wishes through the practically brainless Shimrra's mouth.]]
* The Fool, of course, in Creator/RobinHobb's ''Literature/{{Farseer}}'' trilogy. As noted above, being a court jester means you can speak your mind more freely than others ... but it should also be noted that this only works while your king protects you.
* ''Literature/TheReynardCycle'': Duke Nobel's fool, Pierrot. He's an [[{{Cloudcuckoolander}} odd man,]] and speaks entirely in the form of [[AnAesop Aesops.]]
* Bluebell in ''Literature/WatershipDown'', which is full of [[ArchetypalCharacter archetypal characters]]. A surprisingly rare example of this trope who doubles as PluckyComicRelief ''in-universe''; Captain Holly credits Bluebell with keeping him from going "[[DespairEventHorizon tharn]]" after [[WaifProphet Fiver]] was proved right.
* Christopher Moore's ''Literature/{{Fool}}'' stars a King Lear's jester, and his ability to speak truth to the powers that be is one of the biggest themes in the book.
* In the [[ChivalricRomance Chivalric Romances]] ''Gowther'' and ''Robert The Devil'', the title characters work as jesters for kings, in a position of penance for their many crimes; they appear three times as knights to save the kingdom but [[SecretIdentity remain the jester inbetween]].
* ''Literature/{{Ivanhoe}}'' has Wamba, Jester to Cedric the Saxon.
* Gideon Gleeman from the VideoGame/RuneScape novels Return to Canifis and Legacy of Blood. Though he looks like a harmless fool, [[spoiler:he's actually a very powerful mage tasked with protecting King Roald.]]
* Subverted with ''Literature/SebastianDarke''. Although he works as a jester, he isn't very funny. Things go from bad to worse for him when he performs drunk and unwittingly reveals the king's embarrassing secret (the secret is that [[spoiler: he's bald]]), which, predictably, the king is none too happy about.
* "Sir" Dagonet (he was knighted as a joke), jester to Myth/KingArthur. In ''Literature/IdyllsOfTheKing'' by Creator/AlfredLordTennyson, he mocks Tristam's affair with Isolt and says that only Arthur and himself really understand what the Round Table is about. Tristam tries swapping barbs with him, but comes off worse, and realises that arguing with a fool just makes him look foolish.
* Towser, the jester to King Prester John in ''Literature/MemorySorrowAndThorn'', who was the king's confidante and takes to drink after his master's death and succession by TheEvilPrince.
* ''Literature/ASongOfIceAndFire'' plays with this in all the usual ways George R R Martin plays with things (horrifically).
** Jesters or "Fools" aren't generally held in high regard in Westeros, being stuck somewhere between street performers/ mummers and the gladsome minstrels or bards nobody trusts. Yet, on the plus side, a badly judged shtick is unlikely to mean a fate ''as'' horrible as a too-clever WanderingMinstrel can (and, in this series, often does) earn for themselves. Also, many seem to find work as double-dipping spies; Moon Boy, Butterbumps, Dontos, Mushroom and others are pretty much taking coin from and notes for others as they crack jokes and caper about. Though, others like Jinglebell and Patchface? Probably not: they are what are called "lackwits" and are there basically to be the designated ChewToy of the powerful.
** Stannis Baratheon has a jester who was brought from Essos because of his reputation as an incredibly talented tumbler and wit; until the ship bringing him to Stannis's court foundered, leaving the boy severely brain-damaged. Now, well... Patchface is stuck playing nursemaid, thanks to creeping most adults out to some degree with his [[MadOracle nonsensical, inane "rhymes" few can take seriously]] and sloppy clumsiness.
** Joffrey's jester is an old man who used to be a knight until he got incredibly drunk and spoiled a tourney. Now he spends all his time riding a wooden horse, wearing mock tin armor, and drinking; he tries to use his position to good effect, but usually fails (see above re: drunkenness). Poor Ser Dontos Hollard.
** Historically, Mushroom survived the utter insanity that was Court during the [[SuccessionCrisis Dance of the Dragons]] and went on to pen the most scandalously lurid Targaryen "chronicle" which not even popular kings like Baelor the Beloved could suppress. As it turns out, being easily ignored as a background Fool gives you plenty of dirt to rake if most of the people you take the piss out of wind up far too dead to try dragon-burning you alive over your slanderous libel. Not to mention giving you a will to spread the dirt as evenly as you can over as many of the parties who likely annoyed you as possible.
** Finally, we have Tyrion Lannister, a highly intelligent dwarf who fits most of the tropes of the Jester and ''would'' have been a jester if he hadn't been born to one of the most powerful houses of Westeros. He uses the "privilege" generations have won to speak blunt truths to powerful people. But, he doesn't always escape unscathed.
* In ''The Ugly Princess and the Wise Fool'', the "wise fool" in the title is Jasper, a wise man who [[ObfuscatingStupidity pretends to be stupid]] to get a job as the king's court jester after the king bans wise men from his kingdom.
* Poet from Literature/ACanticleForLeibowitz fills the role of the Shakespearean fool, as he points out hypocrisies in the form of jokes that go over the heads of the priests.

[[folder: Live Action TV ]]

* {{Subverted}} on ''Series/BabylonFive'': The jester [[TooDumbToLive is mocking]] [[TheCaligula Emperor Cartagia]] behind his back during a monologue. The Emperor turns around in time to see this, and after giving the jester a moment to [[OhCrap dwell on this]], [[ActuallyPrettyFunny laughs it off]]. [[ZigZaggedTrope One scene later]], we learn that Cartagia [[KickTheDog had the jester killed.]]
* Jayne Cobb of ''Series/{{Firefly}}'' tends to play this role in the crew. His goal is usually just to voice his grievances and he generally does intend to insult other people. However, JerkassHasAPoint is a common reaction to his barbs: what he says is horrible, but it's usually acknowledged to be the pragmatic (if heartless) decision.
** Pointedly mentioned in ''Film/{{Serenity}}''
--->'''Simon:''' We'll get off the ship. River and I will get off at Haven. It'll be for the best.\\
'''Kaylee:''' Nobody's sayin' that.\\
'''Wash:''' Nobody besides Jayne is sayin' that.
* Similarly Cordelia, Spike, and Anya depending on the episode of ''Series/{{Buffy|the Vampire Slayer}}'' or ''Series/{{Angel}}''.
* Vila in ''Series/BlakesSeven'' plays this role too.
** In one second season episode , Vila actually has to perform as a jester. He also sees the old guy, who was locked up.
* ''Series/GameOfThrones'': Ser Dontos ends up as Joffrey's fool. Joffrey would have just drowned him in wine if Sansa didn't suggest this.
* Sommers from ''Series/TheSixWivesOfHenryVIII'', based on a historical person. He was the only one in the court who could speak frankly to Henry without fear of reprisal (and that's something Henry wouldn't even allow ''his own wives'' to do.)
** The same character also appears for an episode in ''Series/TheTudors'', where after Jane Seymour's death he is the only man Henry will speak to at all in his grief. At the end of he episode, Sommers is shown sitting on Henry's throne, wearing his crown, and chuckling to himself... but he doesn't appear again in the series.
** He also appears on ''Series/HorribleHistories'', where courtiers rely on him to tell Henry BadNewsInAGoodWay.
* Merlin on ''Series/{{Merlin}}'' plays this role to Prince Arthur, quick to call him an idiot (or a prat, or a clotpole) when he thinks he's being one, and getting away with it because of Arthur's barely-hidden affection for him. Arthur often gives as good as he gets, and at one point jokes that if he ever becomes king, he'll make Merlin into his court jester.


[[folder: Music ]]

* "The yellow jester does not play but gently pulls the strings..." [[Music/KingCrimson Court of the Crimson King]]. This Jester is also a ChessMaster is would seem.
* Music/{{Sum41}} has a song that uses the trope name. It seems to speak of a jester who has his own plans.
* ''Script For A Jester's Tear'', the first hit from Music/{{Marillion}}. The cover artwork of all of their [=CDs=] involves a jester or a jester's suit in it somewhere.


[[folder: Pinball ]]

* Taliessin, the court jester, musician and poet in ''VideoGame/GoldenLogres,'' who assigns quests to the Knights of the Round Table.


[[folder: Professional Wrestling ]]

* Long time All Pro Wrestling competitor Jeckles The Jester, also seen in Supreme Pro and Pro Wrestling Revolution. Has threatened to eat the hearts of his opponents but is surprisingly good with kids, thus often a fan favorite.
* One of the baby {{face}} Keystone State Wrestling Alliance Five Star Champions was simply known The Jester. A laughing face painted, wig wearing prankster with exotico tendencies.


[[folder: Theatre ]]

* Creator/WilliamShakespeare had such characters as Touchstone from ''Theatre/AsYouLikeIt'', Feste from ''Theatre/TwelfthNight'', and the Fool from ''Theatre/KingLear''.
* [[EveryoneCallsHimBarkeep The Jester]] in ''Once Upon A Mattress''.
* Jack Point in Creator/GilbertAndSullivan's ''Theatre/TheYeomenOfTheGuard'' is a {{Deconstruction}}. No-one listens to him, he doesn't know anything anyway, and he ends the opera unconscious from heartbreak.
* The AllThereInTheManual backstory of emcee Fleur in ''Theatre/{{Alegria}}'' reveals he was this to the now-lost ruler of the kingdom. As the only person the foolish, corrupt nobles could think to turn to, this brought out his true MonsterClown nature as he became their leader.
* ''{{Theatre/Godspell}}'' is based around this concept; although Jesus and his disciples are commonly mistaken for "[[HippieJesus hippies]]" by audiences because of their crazy way of dressing, they were originally intended to be "clowns" and are referred to in the script as such. Jesus is chief clown and teachers his disciples (who don clown makeup to signify that they are following him) about the world through jesting and slapstick, which they also adopt.


[[folder: Tabletop Games ]]

* Harlequin from ''TabletopGame/{{Shadowrun}}''.
* In ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}}'', the Laughing God was this to the Eldar pantheon. This is also the reason he is one of the only Eldar gods left. His mocking nature distanced him from the decadence that birthed Slaanesh and doomed most of the other Eldar gods. His worshippers, the Harlequins, operate in troupes that function as this to the other Eldar factions and dress the part.
* One of the 2nd edition ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'' expansion books had a Jester playable class. This was mainly for "theatrical" players -- it could taunt and distract enemies with insults, but lacked the combat abilities to survive the consequences. There's also a [[http://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/Jester_%283.5e_Class%29 homebrew 3.5 edition version]] that is quite a bit more capable, as well as a Dragon magazine version that [[MakeMeWannaShout physically damages people with cutting insults]].


[[folder: Video Games ]]

* Harley from ''VideoGame/ChronoCross''.
* Quaver in the VideoGame/{{Overlord}} games.
* Kefka Palazzo in ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVI'' is of the [[MonsterClown monstrous variety]] and probably one of the most beloved (read: feared) villains in the Final Fantasy series.
* Ouma Kokichi from ''VisualNovel/NewDanganronpaV3'' fulfills this role. He might be an unpleasant little guy and wears a ''straight jacket'', of all things, but his trolling tendencies and his antagonistic attitude make the other characters start to think, and his provocations end up making the others realize things they needed to know about their fellow students.
* Dimentio in ''VideoGame/SuperPaperMario'', another villain. [[spoiler:Much like Kefka above, he turns out to be an omnicidal monster, much worse than the game's main villain [[TragicVillain Count Bleck]].]]
* Death Jester from ''VideoGame/SeikenDensetsu3'', and Gourmand from ''VideoGame/SwordOfMana''.
* Cicero from ''VideoGame/TheElderScrollsVSkyrim''. [[spoiler:[[BewareTheSillyOnes Despite his cheerful-insane demeanor, he is secretly a member of the Dark Brotherhood, and is not to be trifled with.]]]]
* The ''VideoGame/DevilMayCry'' series has Jester, another [[MonsterClown monstrous, demonic clown]].
* ''VideoGame/{{Persona 4}} [[UpdatedRerelease Golden]]'' introduces the Jester Social Link that corresponds with [[ButtMonkey Adachi]] (each Social Link stands for a different [[TarotMotifs Tarot card]]). The arcana serves as an alternative look at TheFool card (which symbolizes the protagonist). Both the Fool and the Jester arcanas symbolize ignorance and freedom, but the Jester stands for [[ObfuscatingStupidity suppressed stupidity]] along with freedom misused for trouble-making and finding the easy way out of situations. [[spoiler: All of this foreshadows that Adachi is the serial killer the heroes are hunting down.]]
* [=NiGHTS=] from ''VideoGame/NiGHTSIntoDreams'' and its sequel, ''[=NiGHTS=]: Journey of Dreams''.
* Feste from ''VideoGame/DragonsDogma''.
* Umlaut from ''VideoGame/{{CarnEvil}}''.
* ''VideoGame/TownOfSalem'' features a Jester class, whose objective is to get the town to assassinate him. Many players achieve this by acting buffoonish and deliberately obnoxious.
* Appears as a class in ''VideoGame/DarkestDungeon'', acting as TheBard and, as expected, the PluckyComicRelief.


[[folder: Web Comics ]]

* A variation occurs with Lord Shojo from ''Webcomic/TheOrderOfTheStick'' where he is the actual ruler, but is surrounded by a DeadlyDecadentCourt who all see him as their PuppetKing as he [[ObfuscatingStupidity pretends to be senile]] to make them believe they are in charge, while he issues the decrees he sees as necessary without the court trying to kill him.
-->'''Lord Shojo''': When I rule in their favor they assume that they controlled me, when I rule against them, they assume that one of their rival nobles controlled me.
* A large part of why Mike of ''Webcomic/{{Shortpacked}}'' gets away with {{Jerkass}} behaviour is because he gives constructive, helpful advice in the bluntest, most painful manner possible. [[http://www.shortpacked.com/2011/comic/book-13/01-daddy-issues/asshole-2/#comment-27377 He isn't giving advice here, but it illustrates the point well.]]


[[folder: Web Original ]]
* Marco is the Royal Fool, Valona's equivalent of a Court Jester, in [[http://fooled-story.blogspot.com Fooled]]


[[folder: Western Animation ]]

* Eric Cartman from ''WesternAnimation/SouthPark'' often represents the most abhorrent viewpoint.
* Heloise in ''WesternAnimation/JimmyTwoShoes''. She doesn't really act like a fool or a clown, but she is the only one who dares to mock and criticize [[TheCaligula Lucius]] openly.
* In ''WesternAnimation/HappyNessTheSecretOfTheLoch'', one of the Nessies, Silly Ness, is dressed in jester attire. He even lives up to his name.


[[folder: Real Life ]]

* TruthInTelevision: [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanczyk Stanczyk]], the court jester of Poland, became a Polish national hero two centuries after his death, during the period when Poland was no longer an actual nation, for his ability to speak the truth in couched terms.
* By one account, King Phillip VI's jester was the only person in court who dared to inform him when the French had lost the naval battle of Sluys in 1340. He exclaimed "Oh, the cowardly English, the cowardly English!" and when asked why he replied "They did not jump overboard like our [[SarcasmMode brave]] Frenchmen!" This is featured in Literature/HorribleHistories, providing the page image.
* ''The Motley Fool'', a financial advising company best known for its newspaper column, plays to this trope. Unusual for the industry and befitting the moniker, their advice tends to be of the "invest in solid companies and funds and hold onto them for a long time" variety rather than promising easy money if you buy loads and loads of particular "sure thing" stocks.
* [[Series/TheDailyShow Jon Stewart]] and [[Series/TheColbertReport Stephen Colbert.]] When people complain about their status as sources of actual news, they're ignoring a few key factors. No, satire has ''[[SarcasmMode never]]'' had a meaningful impact on history. Thomas Nast was a figment of your imagination.
* King Matthias of Hungary had a legendary court jester who appears in several folktales and novels (though it's unclear whether they were all the same person). More notable deeds include proving that doctors are the most common profession by pretending to be sick, prompting the entire staff in the palace to try and cure him, impersonating the king and negotiating a highly disadvantageous treaty with the Turks, but including a clause that makes it inapplicable, and wrestling the jester of an enemy king, in a failed attempt at CombatByChampion.
* [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archibald_Armstrong Archibald Armstrong]], the court jester of James VI, who relentlessly castigated other members of the court; at one point, the duke of Buckingham threatened to have him hanged, to which he replied "dukes had often been hanged for insolence but never fools for talking."
* [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Sommers William Sommers]], court jester of Henry VIII, who frequently used his jests to call attention to extravagance and waste within the royal household.
* The Japanese equivalent of a jester, the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taikomochi Taikomochi]], doubled as an entertainer and a ''military strategist'' and was expected to fight alongside their lord in battle, making them a literal LethalJokeCharacter. The overlap in roles makes more sense when you realize that both require similar skillsets: Quick wit and the ability (and close relationship with their lord) necessary to speak truth to power.

[[DeathSeeker If he dies]], [[VideoGame/TroubleInTerroristTown he wins]].