Why So Serious? Court Jesters and April Fools’ Day

Court Jester April Fools Day : Mick Peck's Blog of an Auckland Magician

The custom of playing pranks on the first of April is observed in not only in British colonies but also in Northern America, France, Germany (where it’s called Narrentag), Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Switzerland, Russia (where it’s called Dyen Doeraka which means Dunce’s Day), and even in Japan.  In Scotland it’s known as Gowk or Cuckoo Day.

The precise historical origin of April Fools’ Day is unknown.  The earliest mention of an April Fools’ joke was found in a French source from 1508, and there exists a Dutch parody on the custom from 1539.  But these sources indicate that the custom was already well and universally established.

In France today, April 1st is called Poisson d’Avril.  French children fool their friends by taping a paper fish to their backs.  When the victim discovers the trick, the prankster yells Poisson d’Avril! – April Fish!

The traditional symbol of April Fool’s Day is the jester, or fool, who held a special place in medieval history.  They were considered insiders of the court, chosen for their sense of humour to provide entertainment for the king.

Jesters typically wore bright, eccentric clothing and distinctive cloth hats with bells on the end of each of its three points.  The points were a representation of a donkey’s ears and tail.  The jester also carried a sceptre which was a symbolic ornamental staff to represent authority.

Because jesters were given leeway to say anything “in jest”, they were sometimes the only members of the court able to voice an honest opinion about local situations.  While others fawned over the king, the jester was encouraged to speak the truth.  Because of his lower social status he didn’t pose a threat to the king’s power.  And because he was not part of the political intrigue of the court – he was after all considered a fool – the king often felt it safe to confide in his jester.  Because of this the jester had an important and influential role in medieval history.

The unique nature of jesters also contributed to their popularity among the general public.  Some became the subjects of stories and jokes, and some became famous in their own right.  King Henry VIII employed a jester by the name of Will Sommers, who gained such fame that he was the subject of literature and drama almost two centuries after his death.  King Charles I employed a jester named Jeffrey Hudson who gained the nickname “The Royal Dwarf” because of his height.  One of his infamous pranks, made possible by his stature, was to hide himself inside of a giant pie and then leap out, startling the people to whom the pie was presented.

The ancient traditions of the jester continue in modern times with the magician, the clown and the comedian.

Anyone for pie?

– Mick Peck, Full-Time Magician and Occasional Prankster

– Originally appeared in the April 2013 issue of Inside Entertainment magazine, the monthly membership magazine of the Variety Artists Club of New Zealand Inc.

Send in the Clowns – A Tribute to the Classic Comedians

John Kaplan Auckland Magic Lecture

Mick Peck with Auckland magicians, Kaplan magic lecture

Here’s an obligatory “hands on shoulders” photograph with magicians Alan Watson, Paul Romhany, John Kaplan and Richard Webster at John Kaplan’s Auckland magic lecture last week.

John is a busy professional magician from Vancouver, Canada.  He’s enjoyed a national career spanning over 25 years encountering nearly every performing environment – he’s done it all and become one of Canada’s favourite family entertainers.  John has shared the stage as an opening act with such artists as comedian Jay Leno and the pop group The Boomtown Rats.  John tours Canada every year performing his illusion show.

Ask him to show you his trick with a rat tied onto a stick.

An Indictment of Culture in New Zealand?

Casablanca Look Who's Talking Movie Posters

I rent movies and TV shows through an online DVD company.  As you browse their catalogue there is an icon to show the popularity of the various titles available.

The demand for CasablancaLow.

The demand for Look Who’s TalkingHigh.

The Illusionists to Visit New Zealand

The Illusionists Magic Show at the Civic Theatre in Auckland New Zealand

The biggest selling magic show on earth will appear on The Civic stage in May for a two week season featuring seven master magicians in The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible.

The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible launched in January 2012 with a sell-out season at Sydney Opera House reaching an audience of 31,000 in nine days, followed by a Mexico City eight-day season with an audience of 42,000. More recently the show packed out Adelaide Festival Centre and Queensland Performing Arts Centre, and will visit Auckland before a launching world tour from London’s West End.

The hand-picked cast of internationally renowned illusionists together create a blockbuster stage show featuring a stunning mix of their most outrageous and unbelievable optical illusions including nail-biting Russian roulette, jaw-dropping acts of levitation, mind-reading, disappearance and escapes.

This show sees the magicians take their cue from the showmanship of the great illusionists of the past – such as Houdini – and combine it with contemporary sets, costume design, technology and live band Z, best known as touring band for Hip Hop legend NaS, to create a spell-binding family-friendly blockbuster.

Tickets at Ticketmaster

One Minute Interview : Ponsonby News

Auckland Magician Mick Peck - Interview in Ponsonby News with David Hartnell

One Minute Interview in Ponsonby News.

Click the picture to expand the foolishness to full-size.

In the Press … Awesome Service Award

Auckland magician Mick Peck Awesome Service Award recipient

A tremendous honour to receive the Awesome Service Award for my birthday party magic show.  The Awesome Service Award is presented for providing inspirational customer service; nominations are made by happy customers and winners judged by Auckland Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Michael Barnett ONZM.

The nomination reads as follows :

“We needed a magician for my daughter’s 5th birthday that would be highly entertaining and value for money so we looked on the internet.  It’s always nerve racking to hire someone based on information from a website rather than word of mouth but that’s what we did.

It paid off for us in a big way!   Mick was punctual and extremely funny.  He not only had the kids eating out of his hand but he also had the adults in stitches too.  Loved the personal touches he added to the show eg pictures, vouchers etc especially for a large party (45 kids,  55 adults).

It should also be mentioned that Mick’s administrative skills are superb – he answered phone calls, emails and followed up with receipt promptly.  These are things that should never be taken for granted.  We have no hesitation in recommending Mick Peck the magician for this award – we had so many of our friends ask in admiration  ‘where did you find him?’  They were mightily surprised when we said we found him on the Internet!

We would dearly love Mick to win the Awesome Service Award because he definitely delivered impeccable service.  He made us look good!” – Gillianne Ray

Thanks to Gillianne for nominating me, Michael Barnett from the Auckland Chamber of Commerce and to everyone at the Awesome Service Awards!

Image courtesy Sunday Star Times

In the Press … Hey Presto! Two Awards

2011 news article with Mick Peck the magician winning two national awards