Episode 181: A Dozen Uses for the Fool

On April 2, 2022, our episode on the archetype “the fool” aired while Kasie was in Savannah running 13 miles for fun. Here are the show notes:

Theme for the day

The fool or clown archetype: comic relief in story and film


  • What is the fool?
  • Where have we seen it before?
  • Does a story have to have it?
Photo by Hamid Tajik on Pexels.com

First, The South Carolina Writers Association continues to be the best way to build your writing career in the state. With dozens of chapters organized regionally – Chapin/Irmo, Columbia I, II, and II all here in the area – and virtual chapters aligned by genre – short fiction, poetry, and romance among them – you’re sure to find a supportive group to share your work and get help on revision. Critique groups are essential for growing as a writer and the SCWA is a supportive, encouraging environment. Visit myscwa.org to learn more. 

SCWA has opened its digital journal The Petigru Review for submissions from SCWA members only. On May 1, they’ll begin accepting submissions from non-members. They have also opened registration for the Fall Conference in Pawley’s Island, South Carolina. Ever been to a conference at the beach? It’s the best! Make plans to come and register at myscwa.org/events

We spent some time talking about the Academy Awards from last Sunday night. But don’t worry, we don’t dive into “the slap.” We stick to the nominees for Best Picture and the length and subsequent exhaustion of Drive My Car. Do yourself a favor and just read the story. It’s from this collection by Haruki Murakami.

We recorded this episode on my (Kasie) birthday (March 29) so I could go run a half marathon with my sister in Savannah on Saturday April 2nd. As sometimes happens when we do a show just three days after the last one, we had no show notes. So these are the resources and observations we were cobbling together while we brainstormed the topic out. Enjoy!

Today we’re talking about the fool, or the comic relief. We’re working off this blog and its definitions and examples. Some highlights:

  • The fool crosses social norms – challenges what is acceptable and pokes fun so characters aren’t taken so seriously
  • The fool characterizes other characters – how they treat the fool demonstrates their own character
  • The fool acts as conscious – think Zazoo in Lion King, this is a somewhat silly character who nonetheless reminds our protagonist to do the right thing
  • The fool is an invitation to play – the silliness or levity of the clown can remind us to allow ourselves to play; sometimes characters need this when things get really intense.

We went down a little Shakespeare rabbit hole because on the question of, “does every drama need comic relief?” Shakespeare’s answer seems to be “yes.”

Using this list from Masterclass.com, we talked through some legitimate examples and how those characters were used to do the following:

  • Act as foil to the protagonist – be the thing he can’t be
  • Deliver information the protagonist wouldn’t otherwise have
  • Point out something the protagonist is overlooking
  • Nudge the protagonist to make a decision or follow a certain path
  • Serve as the audience’s proxy to learn things and/or ask questions about things everyone else in the story already knows.

This video gives another breakdown of this archetype as a plot device.

What would a Shakespeare-heavy show be without Cliff’s Notes? So here’s the breakdown of comic relief in Shakespeare.

This link from the television trope website brings us terms like “plucky” to describe the fool. They can stay standoffish and out of the action.

We’re back live on April 9th with some business advice. It’s a more practical show about selling books and running an author business.

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