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The Performer King

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For the love of God, applaud or heads will roll!

Now get down people and listen to me
Gonna tell you how I made history
You can call me Louis, I'm the King of France
Check out my story while you do your dance

Ye olde eras gone by could be rather miserable — the people at the bottom wallowing in their own filth and working day and night, the people at the top held by The Chains of Commanding, and everyone else... well, there wasn't anyone else.

The Performer King (also known as the Player King and the Acting Chief) knows how to break that monotony with a good show. He commands the masses through the power of pageant — dances with them, sings with them, makes them laugh, makes them cry when he dies on stage for the seventh time that week — and is generally well-liked for it. So long as the performance wasn't all part of some patriotic brainwashing plot and he didn't force them to attend and threaten to spear them through the sternum if they didn't like it.

In more extreme cases, kingdoms and sovereign territories may operate in "dramocracy", where the ruling class is composed of those who can entertain the people the most.

Sister trope to Benevolent Mage Ruler, Emperor Scientist, and The Philosopher King. Compare Sorcerous Overlord and God-Emperor. Not to be confused with Running the Asylum and Wag the Director.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Princess Millhiore from Dog Days, on top of being the reigning monarch of Biscotti, is also an accomplished Idol Singer.

    Fan Works 
  • Queens of Mewni: Zigzagged with Hesperia, the Singer of Dusk: while she's known for her musical talent, much of her actual works were done when she was merely heiress to the throne. When she was queen herself, she was mostly too busy actually reigning to perform, preferring to promote the artistic talents of others. Once she abdicated, though, she spent the rest of her life performing.

    Films — Animation 
  • Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas is the Pumpkin King, the ruler of Halloween Town. Since Halloween Town is a world populated with monsters with the sole purpose of managing Halloween every year (a theatrical holiday in its own right), Jack Skellington is himself a showman. He is the center of the Halloween Parade in the "This is Halloween" song sequence, he uses drama and ambiance to explain Christmas to the residence, is a Dance Battler and is very popular among the people.
  • Trolls:
    • Each of the various Troll Tribes has a culture based around a music genre. Following this, all the Troll tribe leaders are also often the lead performers in their tribes' musical numbers. Queen Poppy of the Pop Trolls is usually just the lead vocalist, but the leaders of the other main tribes take it further by actually playing an instrument (e.g. Queen Barb of the Rock Trolls), conducting (Trollzart of the Classical Trolls) or mixing (King Trollex of the Techno Trolls).
    • King Gristle Jr. of the Bergens (a non-Troll species whose culture usually doesn't get involved in music) is also shown to have taken up keyboard recitals after the events of the first movie in Trolls Holiday.

    Literature 
  • A singing picture from The Divine Comedy shows King David dancing and singing in front of his subjects with no shame whatsoever. Such forward and honest expression is used as an example of humility to the calculating and glory-driven who are in Purgatory for sins of Pride.
  • At one point in Heroics for Beginners, Prince Kevin thinks back to when he took his then girlfriend to a small jazz club, only for his father King Eric the Totally Cool to show up in his trademark Cool Shades and a saxophone to jam with the band.
    Kevin: Parents should not be cooler than their children.
  • Several characters from the world of A Song of Ice and Fire have done this:

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Adventures in Wonderland, the Red Queen has been known to perform for her subjects.
  • Galavant has a straight example and a subversion. The old rulers of Valencia used to hold events where they led their people in hours-long sessions of improvisational theater. The new conqueror Richard makes a few attempts to do something similar to help his popularity in the kingdom, but both his standup (where he mostly made jokes about how easy to conquer they were) and the ball he throws (with music provided by his executioners) fall completely flat.
  • Caligula in I, Claudius wakes up the title character and several others extremely early in the morning and leaves them waiting for hours, assuming the emperor has decided to have them killed. Then he comes out and performs a dance, with himself in the role of the goddess of the dawn. John Hurt did his own makeup.
  • The Monty Python German special Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus, King Otto of Happy Valley spends all day in his castle jamming on his electric piano and Scatting. He would have his subjects sing with him at random gatherings and eventually played the pipe organ at his daughter's wedding.

    Tabletop Games 

    Theater 
  • Played for Laughs in Amadeus where, while Emperor Joseph II is enthusiastic about music, he himself is a Dreadful Musician. This leads to confusion when he meets Mozart, who accidentally bows to Baron Von Sweiten, and has to be pointed to the piano where the Emperor is playing a piece that Salieri wrote. Badly.
  • Starmites: Diva, the queen of the banshees, enjoys performing, using her banshees as her backup singers.

    Video Games 
  • In The Elder Scrolls Online, Jorunn the Skald-King, who is the High King of Skyrim and leader of the Ebonheart Pact - earned his epithet for being a bard (skald) in addition to being king. He's seen singing in a scene of the book that came with the collector's edition of the game.
  • Mettaton from Undertale can be this in one of the neutral endings.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Long Live the Queen, you can train Elodie as one. She can potentially win the music contest at the tournament, and there's an ending where she can talk an invading overlord into calling off his armies by singing to him.

    Web Animation 

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time:
    • Marceline is often referenced as "Marceline the Vampire Queen" and usually found writing songs and performing them publicly on her bass. While she is no queen to vampires (having exterminated all of the other vampires centuries prior), her father is the Ruler of the Nightosphere, so the trope still technically applies.
    • Flame Princess takes up rapping, jamming with Finn in "Bun Bun" and with Neptr in the talent show in "The Music Hole", and rapping for the right to rule her kingdom in "Son of Rap Bear".
  • When Dave from Dave the Barbarian is temporarily made king of Udrogoth, he enacts laws that start of as well-liked but soon creates unrest in the citizens. While at first feeling vengeful for their insolence, he quickly decides that it would be better to win them back by inviting all of them to the one-person play "Oh Pastry". The play was so bad that when the Darklord Chuckles the Silly Piggie (having just usurped Dave) makes his first law that musical theater is banned, he is greeted with applause.
  • In He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2021), Man-E-Faces was a one-man acting troupe for the royal court of Eternos before he was cast out by King Miro. Man-E eventually became the self proclaimed King of the Lower Ward, providing for Eternos' downtrodden and frequently putting on plays for his "subjects" to roaring applause.
  • Prince Wu from The Legend of Korra really loves demonstrating the dances and pomp he's planning for his coronation ceremony. Although he comes across as The Load at first, his skills as a performer come in handy when he gives a suitably compelling address by radio to help evacuate a city. And even moreso when his singing helps command badgermoles to dig escape tunnels.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Horse Play", it's revealed that Equestria's ruler, Princess Celestia, loves theater and always dreamed of acting in a play, even though her royal duties have never allowed her to take the time to do this. On learning this, her former student Twilight decides to give her the starring role in a play she had been writing about Celestia's own early life and ascent to rulership. Celestia is overjoyed, and takes to the role with gusto... until it turns out that she's an incredibly bad actress.
  • In Star vs. the Forces of Evil, Eclipsa Butterfly and Moon Butterfly both know how to play the guitar. In "Cornonation", it is revealed that a part of the official Queen coronation ceremony (or in Eclipsa's case, her "cornonation" due to a typo) is for the Queen to sing an official song with the royal bard.
  • In The Venture Bros., it is revealed that the Sovereign, leader of the Guild of Calamitous Intent, is none other than British pop-star David Bowie. Subverted, as it is revealed that he actually wasn't David Bowie, but a shape-shifter that chose his likeness as his preferred form. Monstroso claims that the creature on the cover of Bowie's Diamond Dogs album is an unaltered photo of the Sovereign.

    Real-Life 
  • The French King Louis XIV (the Sun King) was well known for participating in ballets and theater in his youth, and was quite good at it by all accounts.
  • Several English kings participated in tourneys under different colors or in representations of Arthurian myth.
  • Roman Emperor Nero sang and acted on the stage, and also competed in gladiator races. Many old-school upper-crust Romans disapproved, believing that Nero was undermining the dignity of his office. (Pliny called him an "actor-emperor".) Actors were in the early Roman Empire considered a very lower-class and somewhat disreputable profession, and this was in line with Nero's general preference for the lower classes over the aristocracy.
  • Henry VIII (him with the wives) was a musician, writer, accomplished sportsman in various fields, and was well regarded as intensely charismatic and entertaining to be around... at least in his youth, as he infamously declined into a bitter, fat, ugly and paranoid psychopath as he aged.
  • Prussian king Frederick the Great composed Baroque Music.
  • Before every joke about Bill Clinton was related to his sexual improprieties, he was known for playing the saxophone (though the jokes are more along the lines of how quickly it was that Bill was ready to pull it out and start a jam session with musicians and somehow not come off as Totally Radical pandering or just that with the sax and sunglasses he looked the part of a jazz or blues musician and rarely about the quality of the music. Clinton was a really good player for a hobbyist), to the point that the theme song for Animaniacs had a line about it in their Theme Song (though this was more because "While Clinton plays the Sax" somewhat rhymes with "Animaniacs" when sung).
  • Two United States Presidents were in show business before holding elected office (Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump) and were household names before their career switch. In Reagan's case, most would agree he was a better statesman than an actor, even if they didn't agree with his policies. Some critics dismissed him as an actor playing the role of President, but he'd already been rather politically active during his acting career (including being president of the Screen Actors Guild 1947-1952 and on its board for longer) and had already served 2 terms of governor of California before running for President, so this didn't hold a lot of water. Debates about Donald Trump's Hollywood vs. Washington career are less clear cut on the matter.
    • The number of actors turned politician in non-presidential offices in American politics, plus the rise of career politicians behaving like celebrities has often led to jokingly calling Washington D.C. "Hollywood for Ugly People". The fact that the #Metoo movement caught a lot of politicians and celebrities in its accusations has led to some people pointing out that "Ugly" specifically means physically unattractive (or at least what passes for physically unattractive by Hollywood standards) and not metaphorical in any context. Both cities are filled with that kind of ugly.
  • King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia actually directed and performed in films. In addition, he was also a singer and composer. His son and successor, King Norodom Sihamoni, is also an artist, having had a career as a classical ballet instructor before taking the throne on his father’s retirement in 2004.
  • Sihanouk's neighbor in Thailand, the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, was an accomplished jazz musician in his own right and even composed songs himself.
  • Philippine President Joseph Estrada was an actor before becoming mayor of a Manila suburb, senator, Vice President, and President, and after his release from corruption charges, acted in one more film.
  • The Egyptian king Ptolemy XII (father of the famous Cleopatra VII) was referred to as Auletes (flute player) by disapproving historians, who did not like the idea of a king participating in musical contests.
  • Hugo Chávez, the president of Venezuela, had a TV show called "Aló Presidente" (Hello, President), where he would sing and tell jokes.
  • Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy was an actor and comedian before entering politics. Funnily enough, his most famous role in Servant of the People was as a teacher who unexpectedly finds himself becoming president.

 
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Bill Clinton

Before every joke about Bill Clinton was related to his sexual improprieties, he was known for playing the saxophone (though the jokes are more along the lines of how quickly it was that Bill was ready to pull it out and start a jam session with musicians and somehow not come off as Totally Radical pandering or just that with the sax and sunglasses he looked the part of a jazz or blues musician and rarely about the quality of the music. Clinton was a really good player for a hobbyist), to the point that the theme song for Animaniacs had a line about it in their Theme Song (though this was more because "While Clinton plays the Sax" somewhat rhymes with "Animaniacs" when sung).

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