Thursday, April 17, 2008


Licensed Fools

Part of the many layers of meaning in King Lear revolves around 'fools.' There are real fools, floridly psychotic Tom and, for a time, Lear who is also a fool, as we use that word, to leave property to his daughters before his death, and then there is the character of the Fool, with his many layers of meaning. Part of the interest we modern readers of the play have is related to the concept of the 'licensed fool,' the person who is given leave to speak the truth about anyone. We have licensed fools today, however, they generally only have the license for a short or at least well circumscribed time. Stand up comedians are a sort of licensed fool. Leno, Kimmel, Letterman, O'Brien, etc. are licensed fools for a period of their shows (not while talking to another human directly). Last night, at the radio and television correspondents dinner in Washington the TV personality, sans resume, Mo Rocca was the licensed fool able to criticize any and all. He was not without insight, but his time on the stage was pretty much free of anything approaching humor. Vice President Cheney was a lot funnier, which I think is kind of a supreme criticism for a comic.

UPDATE: And funnier still was Mitt Romney, although I didn't see him on C-SPAN II last night. Or so reports Michelle Malkin.

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