Patricia Nelson Limerick, CU’s official Fool, on why society needs humor

Listen Now

Photo: Patty LimerickIt's April Fool's Day and, as you read this, you may have by now encountered pranks and mischief. You may have had to suffer a fool or two. There used to be a time when being a fool was a full-time job -- of sorts. Centuries ago fools -- some clad in jangling hats -- played an important role in medieval society.

Society today could use a few good fools, says Patricia Nelson Limerick, a professor who directs the University of Colorado Boulder’s Center of the American West. She's biased in her opinion on the subject. That's because she holds the position of University Fool. And, no, this article is not an April Fool's Day joke.

Photo: Patty Limerick as foolFools, Limerick says, point out problems in an open and humorous way. The tradition of the fool lost its place in the world. People believed fools weren’t as necessary, Limerick says, and they simply fell out of style. She works to show people how humor is essential to public discussion even today.

She’s planning a presentation tonight about the role of humor in society and launch the Center for the West’s Humor Initiative.

Some of Limerick's limericks

The West has been lucky, it’s true.
It did not grow Old; it grew New.
As it got older,
It got fresher and bolder.
Don’t you wish that could happen to you?

We have gathered to pause and reflect
On the concept, “politically correct.”
While the right of free speech
Protects freedom to screech.
We’ll still make a claim on respect.

Education requires talking
With respect, not with scorn or with mocking.
Thus, it's time to defect
From the politically correct,
And to open the doors we've been locking.