Entertainers Are Fools

I realised something one night while speaking to a woman who looked like Zoë Kravitz – my crush and future wife (a fact based on a Facebook survey I took three years ago).

It was going well, too, until she asked me, ‘So you’re basically an entertainer?’

The question was simple enough, and a yes would’ve not only sufficed, but impressed. And on the drive home, alone, seeing as Zoë Two had a boyfriend, it got me wondering: Am I an entertainer?

Yes, my work has been online and generated multiple views, I’ve had student films played in front of ‘sold out’ audiences at a Cinema Nouveau Ster-Kinekor and even posted pointless content on my Instagram feed and earned a few laughing face emojis, but I’m still conflicted on whether or not those moments qualify me as an entertainer.

Could you argue that an intern making coffee-runs for a crew on a film set counts as a contributor to the entertainment industry, or are they just an intern? Does that intern, who hopes to one day become the producer of the biggest contemporary blockbuster, have to earn the right before they can adequately call themselves partisan to audience entertainment?

The answer came to me a few days later in the form of the strangest epiphany turned analogy:

I’m a fool.

Let me explain.

From the mid-fourteenth century to the early seventeenth century, during the renaissance era, royal families hosted ostentatious and lavish banquets in celebration of milestones, religious holidays and special ceremonies, and invited prestigious guests, friends and other royal families from different lands, kingdoms and villages to join in on the feast.

It was during these ceremonies and celebrations that guests would be spoilt – they’d drink like fish and eat like pigs, given the abundance of food and alcohol served to them. But there was always one aspect of the banquet that needed to be catered to – entertainment.

Enter the village jester¹ or ‘fool’, whose sole job it was to humour and entertain guests.
Despite the condescending name I have massive respect for them – I fumble when retelling a joke I heard on a Dave Chappelle comedy special, so I can only imagine the courage embedded in a grown man wearing a skin-tight leotard and a hat with bells on it.

How that plays in my current stream of consciousness is how entertainment, by its very definition, may not be defined by its content, and it may not be defined by the title of the person responsible for an audience’s entertainment.

Entertainment, at its core, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Anything non-remedial can suffice as entertainment based on who it is for. Like the wheel, it may very well be one of the very first inventions. And anything that is created to connect, engage and humour in the vast sense, can be classified as entertainment.

Over time it’s taken on many forms. Lionel Messi and Daniel Day-Lewis are both professionals of utterly different planes of activity, but they both live under the convertible roof within the household of entertainment. While Messi is very much involved in real life entertainment through sports, Daniel Day-Lewis occupies a projection of reality through the art of performance and acting. But nonetheless, they both work to entertain people. We can be entertained by a 60-yard run and goal from Messi, as much as we can be entertained by a scintillating monologue from Daniel Day-Lewis himself (please go watch ‘There Will Be Blood’).

The influence of art isn’t based on self-gratification or bogged down by titles or reach. You count as an entertainer by the effect your work leaves on the people intended to see it. The art of entertainment has only evolved with time, and unlike the concept of ‘content’ it isn’t so much about what you give people to consume; it’s about the appropriate feeling your work inflicts on those people.

If, like myself and many others, you work within branding, advertising, and filmmaking, you’re the equivalent of the village fool – we arrive at the banquet with the sole purpose to entertain. We then perform or deliver the piece of work we hope engages you and based on our audience’s response, we’re hopefully validated, compensated and appreciated for our exhaustive efforts and putting our art forward. We’re all modern fools, slave to an audience who decide our relevance and influence as entertainers, what movie gets a sequel, what series returns, what ad is effective or what art piece is worth their money and what work deserve their applause.

I don’t assume anyone’s had a crisis similar to the one I’ve expressed in this article. And I think the most important thing is that it’s not really important if you get the title or the perks that come with being an entertainer. Like anything else, it needs to be earned not only through action but by merit. During the Renaissance, fools weren’t awarded purely by displaying a level of shamelessness by simply showing up in a leotard, they had to entertain audiences on top of that as well.

The spectrum of entertainment is vast beyond comprehension, and as it evolves we need to keep evolving with it, keep its integrity, and keep entertaining for the sake of passion and the audience. That’s where it shines best – when art looks to either connect or challenge people, or keep the creator hungry to continuously get the next laugh or elicit the next tear.

Village jester[1] A professional joker or ‘fool’ at a medieval court, characteristically wearing a cap with bells on it and carrying a mock sceptre.