The Fools of April

Forgive, O Lord, my little jokes on Thee,
And I’ll forgive Thy great big one on me.

~Robert Frost, “Cluster of Faith,” 1962

Tobias BeckwithWhile there are several stories of how April Fool’s Day came into being, I like to think it is a successor to the medieval “Feast of Fools,” which, in its turn was successor to the Romany Saturnalia fests. At the Feast of Fools, the social order was inverted, for a single day. A “Lord of Misrule” or “Pope of Fools” – often a beggar — replaced the reigning bishop for the day, and the traditional rulers of both church and secular society were widely ridiculed. Society was, for a single day, turned topsy-turvy, with those normally at the top of the social network now at the bottom, and those normally at the bottom – beggars, thieves and cripples – suddenly at the top. Originally celebrated around the first of January, the Feast of Fools apparently traded place with “New Years,” with the advent of the Gregorian Calendar, which shifted the “First of the Year” from March 25 to January 1 in the year 1582.

Today, we celebrate April Fools by playing pranks…tricks and practical jokes that serve to puncture our complacency about the “reality” of our world. And so the trickster magician has long adopted April Fool’s Day as his or her own. For the Trickster, every day is a “fool’s” day, meant for doing and playing tricks that will cause the rest of society to think twice about the “reality” they accept so easily….but April Fool’s Day celebrates the acts of the trickster!

I don’t know about anyone else…but I’m not particularly fond of tricksters. They make me uncomfortable. You never know when they’re serious about something, or when you should be expecting the unexpected. I suspect the real Tricksters among us are quite comfortable with that. Causing discomfort is their job. Leaving people off-balance and questioning the status quo is their prime function.

Bob NealeNo one I know does this better than our friend Bob Neale. Bob creates and writes up magic pieces that don’t have a nice, neatly tied up ending. He dares to puncture our smug bubbles of comfortable belief, and to question things we think of as unquestionable. He dares to be dark – not in the blood and gore theatrical or the “romantic spooky” ways of so many bizarre magicians – but by being unafraid   to deal with the social and psychological issues that make us all a bit uncomfortable. Issues like making the decision of who gets to live, and who will die. Issues like what happens when we make bad decisions and must live with the consequences. Issues like, what if there is no happy ending at the end of my story?

We like to think of the Trickster as a “merry prankster,” happily oblivious to the reality of what goes on in the world, or the consequences of their indiscretions. I suppose that, on one level, that is the role of a certain kind of fool…the innocent who treads, blissfully unaware, through life. I have to say, I find Bob Neale’s kind of Trickster to be far more potent – and, to tell the truth – fun, than those blissful innocents. Bob’s trickery often does make you laugh – but it never lets you off the hook to forget about the subjects it mocks. Instead of distancing us from our troubles, this kind of tricksterism helps us experience life directly and honestly. He’s really my favorite kind of Fool!

And so, on this April Fool’s Day, I salute Bob Neale…and urge those of you who don’t know his works already to do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of any of Bob’s books. At first, you may find yourself distraught by the magic he presents there. If you do…well, dig a little deeper. Try performing some of the pieces and watch what happens. Pay attention to the intensity of the experience for your audiences and the discussions you find yourself having afterwards. If you have the courage to really engage with Bob’s magic, I think you will find it to be a truly life enriching, deepening experience.

Bob is truly “my kind of Fool,” and I’ll bet he’ll be yours, too.

So: Happy April Fool’s Day, Bob!

And on to business:

April and May will find Jeff McBride on the road…possibly to a venue near you. We are particularly excited that he will be featured at this year’s Saint-Vincent Magic Convention from April 19th to April 22th. In addition to Jeff, this year’s convention will Juan Tamariz,  René Lavand, The Great Tomsoni, Xavier Mortimer, Dean Gunnarson, Fielding West, Eric Jones, Danny Cole, Andrew Mayne, Mark Mason, Dani Da Ortiz and more. And, if you’ll be there, you can attend one of the Jeff McBride Super Sessions (find here more information:

Wishing you all a delightful and trick-filled April!

Tobias Beckwith

PS: You can buy several of Bob Neale’s books at our

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