The role of the Fool has deep origins in human society. In the past, kings and queens recognized the value–really, the necessity–of appointing Fools who would speak openly and even festively of uncomfortable matters that would otherwise proliferate and fester. By breaking the spell of caution, timidity, and fear that held others under its power, Fools dissipated and dispelled a society’s accumulation of bad luck. Composed of the world’s strangest blend of wisdom and nonsense, this tradition fell into disrepair because of a mistaken notion that Fools were no longer needed in democracies. The Center of the American West does not believe this is true!

On April Fool’s Day, 2015, Patty Limerick, Official University of Colorado Fool (and also Official Fool Emerita of Yale University and Harvard University), spoke on the “Fool’s Enterprise: A Personal History.” It also served to kicked off the Center of the American West’s Humor Initiative, an enterprise conceived to celebrate those individuals whose skills and temperaments support the central conviction of the Center of the American West: A dose of good humor is essential to constructive public discussion, and not coincidentally, to public health. The centerpiece of this initiative is the Distinguished Visiting Fool for a Day Award, which will be presented once a year on the CU Boulder campus.