The King is surrounded by women, but his comfort is the Jester’s male humor, which the women of the castle can’t stand. The Queen persuades the King to give them—er, the Jester—a holiday. The temporary replacement, Mitch, is a big hit with the ladies, probably because his jokes are ghostwritten by his sister Miranda, who poses as Mitch’s servant. Afraid for his job, the Jester disguises himself as a servant and gets Miranda demoted to serving wench. Miranda goes on strike, Mitch is on his own, and his new material is no laughing matter. When it comes to jokes for this court, it turns out that two heads are better than one.
Cast size: 3 Males, 6 Females, 1-3 Extras M/F
CAST OF CHARACTERS
KING (M) a man who is surrounded by women & is desperate for someone to understand him.
QUEEN (F) she loves a good joke, which means she didn’t hear it from the Jester.
PRINCESS GABIGAIL (F) she loves to talk, and talk, and talk, and talk.
PRINCESS BARBIE (F) she has roughly the same personality and IQ as the doll.
PRINCESS HILLARY (F) she really hates sexist jokes—and that’s all she hears from the Jester.
JESTER (M) the royal Jester. After 10 years, he finally gets a holiday.
MITCHELL (M) a temporary Jester who doesn’t know really know jokes–or his audience.
MIRANDA (F) Mitch’s sister and joke-writer—she just wants the credit.
ROZZY (F) a scullery maid who, like all the women of the castle, needs a break from the Jester.
EXTRAS (M/F) Guards & Courtiers at the Royal Table (small speaking parts), pages.
A Tale of Two Jesters SAMPLE PAGES
FANFARE AND WELCOME
(When the guests have been seated, a second BRASS FANFARE will signal all entertainers to clear the hall. Lights up as JESTER enters the main stage.)
Wes hale, to our good company!
We welcome you most heartily!
Forget your cares; do not be wary.
The night is young; the mood is airy.
We’ve brought the ale and killed the boar; (Enter ROZZY.)
The year is sixteen twenty-four.
And now it is my great delight
To welcome you this merry night!
ROZZY: Jester? You’re still here? I thought . . . you would be gone by now.
JESTER: Well, the King asked me to welcome our noble guests before I left.
ROZZY: And then you’re leaving?
JESTER: (Confused.) Uh, yes, I just need to finish packing my things.
ROZZY: (Escorts JESTER side-stage.) Yes, because the King has decided that you need a holiday.
JESTER: He did indeed. (Beat.) Although it seemed to be more the idea of the Queen. And the Princesses. And the serving girls . . .
ROZZY: Well, after all, you haven’t taken a break since you arrived here 15 years ago.
JESTER: I’ve only been here 10 years.
ROZZY: Only 10? My how time . . . really slows down. (As ROZZY exits with JESTER.) Anyway, I wager that it will be a quiet week in the castle. But we sure will miss you. (MITCH and MIRANDA enter opposite side, looking around. Both are dressed in traveling clothes.)
MIRANDA: (Looking around.) Are you sure this is going to work?
MITCH: Of course I’m sure. This could be the big break we’ve been looking for. (Looks around.) Working for the King—can you believe it?
MIRANDA: Yes, that’s what scares me.
MITCH: Oh, what’s the worst that can happen?
MIRANDA: Well, you could be discovered, and it would be both our heads.
MITCH: Okay, there’s that, but I don’t plan on getting discovered. You just keep feeding me jokes, and things will be fine.
ROZZY: (Entering.) How now, good sir, good lady!
MITCH: Good evening! I am the replacement Jester. The Queen asked me to come immediately, so here I am!
ROZZY: Oh, thank goodness you’ve come. (Notices MIRANDA.) And, this is?
MITCH: Oh, uh, this is Miranda. She’s my . . . serving girl. (MIRANDA looks shocked at MITCH.) Yes. My serving girl. (Eyes MIRANDA to play along.)
ROZZY: Serving girl? How unusual. I’ve never known a Jester to have his own servant.
MITCH: Really? (Thinks fast, slips into pseudo-French accent.) Uh, oui, it’s all the rage in France. I’m surprised that it is not common practice here by now.
ROZZY: So, they’ve got servants for fools in France these days? That explains their system of government. (MITCH looks confused.) Anyway, as you can see, our guests have arrived, and the King is on his way. He will call for you soon, so you’d better be ready.
MIRANDA: (To MITCH.) I thought you said we were early?
ROZZY: Your quarters are that way. (Points off-stage.)
MIRANDA: Let’s go. (Exits quickly with MITCH in tow.)
ROZZY: Oh, great. A Fool from France. (Throws up her hands.) Talk about redundant. (Exits.)
After the first course has been served . . .
KING: Where is our Jester? I am in need of some mirth.
QUEEN: My King, don’t you remember? He is preparing for his long-overdue–
BARBIE: Way long-overdue–
HILLARY: Massively very long-overdue—
HILLARY: He’ll only be gone a week.
KING: Oh, surely he has time for just a few jokes before he goes. Guard, bring us our Jester!
HILLARY: But, father, surely we should not trouble–
KING: It is no trouble at all. (GUARD enters with JESTER then exits.) Look, here he is now.
JESTER: (Bows.) You sent for me, your highness?
KING: Indeed I have! Fill us with laughter before you depart.
QUEEN: We know you must be pressed for time—
BARBIE: And you really must hurry along—
GABIGAIL: And really, if you have better things to do, we would be happy to just sit all together and talk, you know, as a family. As a matter of fact, I heard the most interesting news about the Goose Girl. You know, all this time I thought she got her name because she owned a goose. Well, that isn’t it at all. Really, she got her name because—
KING: (Raising his voice.) A joke, if you would, my Jester! Please! (All LADIES hold their breath waiting for JESTER’s response.)
JESTER: Of course, my liege. (All LADIES let out a stifled groan.) Here’s a new one. Two blonde maidens fell down a hole. One said, “It’s dark in here isn’t it?” The other replied, “I don’t know; I can’t see.” (The KING laughs, but the LADIES are silent. KING stops laughing, looks at them, and they join the laughing, but the laughter is forced.) How much money is enough for a woman? (JESTER waits again.) Just a little bit more! (KING, and then LADIES’ forced laughter.) What takes up twelve parking spaces! Six coachwomen! (The KING is practically falling out of his throne; LADIES laugh while looking angry.)
KING: (Wiping his eyes.) Oh, good Jester, you continue to amaze me. Whatever are we going to do without you?
JESTER: Well, your majesty, I could delay my holiday—
QUEEN: That is, uh, Jester, you have been a faithful servant these past 20 years and–
JESTER: 10 years, actually.
QUEEN: Only 10? Really?
BARBIE: (Under her breath.) It sure seems longer.
HILLARY: Well, even ten years without a break is asking too much of you. You really must take this holiday. It has taken us months to convince the King to give us—I mean, to give you a break.
JESTER: Well, they say that absence does make the heart grow fonder.
KING: A truer word was never spoken. I miss you already, Jester.
HILLARY: He actually has to leave before we can miss him.
KING: What was that?
HILLARY: (Thinks fast.) I said I can’t believe how much I’ll miss him!
QUEEN: (To JESTER.) But not to worry. I’ve hired a temporary replacement for you.
JESTER: (Surprised.) You’ve hired a . . . replacement?
KING: A temporary replacement. Some rogue, no doubt. He came recommended by the Queen’s Great Aunt Agatha. (Aside.) As if anyone could make that harpy laugh.
QUEEN: (GUARD enters and signals the QUEEN.) What excellent timing. The guard informs me that our temporary Jester has arrived. Have the servants bring forth the meal, and we will send for him.
BARBIE: So, you can be on your way, good Jester.
HILLARY: Have a wonderful time!
JESTER: (Reluctantly.) Then I bid you farewell, your majesty. (JESTER bows and exits.)
The women like the new Jester (MITCH) . . .
KING: Guard! Bring forth the new Jester. (GUARD enters with MITCH. JESTER hides somewhere visible to the audience to observe MITCH.)
MITCH: You sent for me, my king?
KING: Yes, you’re on. Amuse us. Entertain us. (Stares threateningly at MITCH.) Make me laugh.
MITCH: Not a problem, your majesty. As a matter of fact, something amusing happened to me on the way to the castle. I ran into a young maiden attempting to revive a knight who had fallen senseless. I asked the damsel what had happened. (MITCH acts out the part of the DAMSEL and himself here).
DAMSEL: I was captured by a fierce ogre, and my knight came to rescue me.
MITCH: So he was wounded by his duel with the ogre?
DAMSEL: Oh, no. He dispatched the ogre with no problem. But then, a terrible dragon swooped down and carried me off in his talons.
MITCH: So the knight was scorched by the fiery dragon?
DAMSEL: Oh, no. My knight shot the dragon as it flew, but when the dragon released me, a hydra clutched me with his tentacles and started dragging me under the ocean.
MITCH: So the knight was crushed by the tentacles of the hydra?
DAMSEL: Oh, no. My knight severed the tentacles with his sword and saved me.
MITCH: I don’t understand. How is it, then, that this brave knight lies senseless at your feet?
DAMSEL: Well, when he rescued me I told him the knight who rescued me would have to marry me. That’s when he fainted.
(Pause. Then the LADIES all break out in uproarious laughter. The KING remains puzzled.)
KING: I don’t get it.
HILLARY: (Between laughter.) Don’t you see? He wasn’t afraid of the ogre, or the dragon, or the hydra—
QUEEN: (Also speaks while laughing.) But when it came time to make a commitment—
HILLARY: That’s when he got scared.
BARBIE: And he was on the ground. In his armor. (ALL stop laughing and stare at BARBIE.) You know, like a turtle on his back. Oh, that’s funny! (ALL continue to stare.)
GABIGAIL: I knew a knight who was afraid of commitment. He was courting me, well, not really courting, but he was coming around a lot to play Backgammon, well, not Backgammon so much as just sitting around eating and drinking and watching us do embroidery. What’s up with that? Embroidery isn’t exactly a spectator sport. And, you know, that was all fine and stuff, but it gets creepy after a while, this guy sitting in a corner staring at you as you pull a needle in and out of a cloth. So I finally asked him, where is this going? Are you just going to watch us cross stitch? I mean, the least you could do is say something every now and then. I tried to bring him out in conversation many times, but he never would say a single thing. I talked—
KING: (Interrupts) Now, about this joke. I still do not get it, but I did like the part about the ogre and shooting the dragon. Oh, and hacking off tentacles. That was good.
HILLARY: Then, father, you agree that this Jester will make a suitable replacement?
KING: Well, he’ll be fine. For now. (LADIES greet this news with cheers, which startles the KING and makes JESTER very nervous.)
The Jester is very worried . . .
JESTER: (Enters, talking to himself.) They love him! Egads.
ROZZY: (Entering behind JESTER.) No one says “egads” any more, Jester.
JESTER: Rozzy! You startled me.
ROZZY: What are you still doing here?
JESTER: Rozzy, you must help me!
ROZZY: You need help packing? Well, all right, I—
JESTER: My trip has been delayed.
ROZZY: (Casts eye toward the JESTER.) Delayed? (Beat.) You’re worried about the new Jester.
JESTER: No, I just—
ROZZY: Oh, no, no, no. (Starts to escort him off-stage.) We’ve worked far too long to get you to take a holiday and—
JESTER: (Shrugs her off.) Wait a minute. “We”?
ROZZY: (Awkwardly.) Did I say “we”? I meant “they.” The Queen and Princesses have been worried about—
JESTER: You said “we.” (To himself.) So, I wasn’t imagining it. Even the servant girls are anxious for me to leave. . . . Yes, all the women want me to leave. (To ROZZY.) Why do you want me to leave? What did I do? Am I sacked, then? They love the new guy!
ROZZY: Of course they do. And so do I. Why, I haven’t laughed this hard in, is it, 30 years?
JESTER: (Glares.) I’ve only been here 10 years.
ROZZY: Yes! 10 years.
JESTER: (Desperately clutches ROZZY.) What am I going to do?
ROZZY: What do you mean? Just take your holiday.
JESTER: But what if they decide to keep the new Jester?
ROZZY: (Aside.) I wouldn’t believe our luck.
ROZZY: Uh, I said you’re . . . starting to run amok. Now, calm down, Jester. Take the holiday, and we’ll see you in just a week. (Starts to exit.)
JESTER: But what will I do if I lose my job? I’ve got no place to go. (ROZZY hesitates. JESTER notices.) It’s the middle of winter. (ROZZY hesitates. JESTER lays it on thick.) I don’t have any warm motley. And how will I support my dear, old mum?
ROZZY: (She stops, sighs loudly, and turns back.) Oh, all right. Maybe we could get you on the inside, so that you can study and master his comic material. Then, maybe, we wouldn’t mind having you around as much.
JESTER: But I love my material.
ROZZY: You need new material. Trust me. (Beat.) Let me think. You need a way to spy on the new jester.
JESTER: Well, I could be his servant!
ROZZY: He’s already got a servant. (Pause.) He’s got a female servant!
ROZZY: Don’t you see? That goes against all propriety! All I have to do is point that out to the Queen, and then you’re in. You must be disguised, of course.
JESTER: You’re a genius! But what about this man’s servant? I hate to throw a woman out on the street.
ROZZY: In the middle of winter. She probably has a dear, old mum, too. (Glares at JESTER.) I’ll . . . find her a job in the kitchen.
JESTER: Just the thing.
ROZZY: All right. I will speak to the Queen while you work on a disguise. By this evening, you’ll be tucking this chap in bed and going through his jokes.
JESTER: (Following ROZZY off-stage.) Tucking him in?
ROZZY: Well, what, exactly, do you think manservants do? (They exit.)