There is a scene in the hit TV series Game of Thrones where King Joffrey, newly installed as King, requests the court musician to play a song he composed about the late King Robert. After the musician has played this comedic song based on the former King’s life, Joffrey offers him the choice between losing his hands or his tongue. Such is the life of comedy musicians…or was.
They say that fiction replicates fact and, as life at the real Royal Courts was always supposed to be merry, it can be assumed that comedy musicians lived life on the edge, not knowing if their compositions would result in thunderous applause or the hangman’s noose.
The role of comedy musician, present seemingly from day dot, has in many ways not changed; however, the acceptance of said role has.
Arguably, freedom of speech is something that many people living in the western 21st century world take for granted, because we simply do not know what it is like to not speak our mind. We feel quite comfortable to express that we think the Prime Minister is crazy, or that a new tax is unfair, or that the exploits of someone in the public eye are curious/downright weird. We can say that, and we probably don’t even stop to consider what consequences were faced by our ancestors if they muttered such treasons.
One could suggest that the comedy musicians in medieval times were just as brave as the knights who defended kingdoms, given that they were courageous enough to speak the truth, even if it was in a humorous ditty. The saying “Many a true word spoken in jest” had to come from somewhere right?
Nowadays, consumers pay to see comedians such as Tim Minchin, and in previous years Victor Borge or Jerry Lewis deliver comedic music commentary on any number of subjects, with very little risk of consequences other than the possibility of the audience jeering or heckling. The comedy musicians are well aware of what material will elicit reactions, as Victor Borge stated “Ladies and Gentleman, this number is a number during which most people cough”.
Tim Minchin was slightly more cynical when summarising his own artistic commentary suggesting that “you’ve probably worked out by now that all our songs are ridiculously long to make up for the total lack of content”!
Thankfully he doesn’t have to face King Joffrey!
Author: G. McDonald for Jamhouse Creative
© Jamhouse 2014