Justinius the Comedian
(814 - 839)
Justin of Corfe was a comedian from what is now Dorset. He called himself Justinius because it harked back to the 'cool' Roman occupation of Britain. He also dressed only in black because he also thought it was 'cool'. Most people who knew him thought he was a complete twat, but they did laugh at some of his jokes.
He travelled through the kingdom of Wessex for about six months, moving his one-man comedy show from village to village. He gradually gained a following of nervous but happy fans. They were nervous because Justinius made his career out of lampooning the King and Royal Family.
He used jokes such as: -
'What do a horse turd and the King have in common? They both stink and have many annoying parasites buzzing around them all day.'
'Once upon a time there was a fair and just king…no, do not laugh. I said stop laughing…I already told you this was a fairy tale, did I not?'
'What do you get if you cross a chicken with an ass? Prince Cerdic.'
'When all else fails, take your problem to the King, because at then you can be laughed at and patronised by the highest authority in the land.'
He called himself an 'underground' comedian to differentiate himself from the common jester-style comedian who wore silly clothes and made weak jokes using puns on words (he insisted his all-black attire was not at all silly).
King Egbert went to see Justinius disguised as a commoner to see what all the fuss was about. The King was quite comfortable with the idea of satire and a certain level of poking fun at the kingdom's leaders. He had conquered Mercia some years earlier and felt his kingdom was secure. He was, however, disturbed by Justinius' quite personal themes. He was also disturbed at the ease with which his subjects dissolved into laughter when his manhood was questioned.
Given Justinius' growing popularity, the King summoned him to his court to have a quiet word and offer some wise advice about his future. Justinius chose to ignore this advice. King Egbert summoned him once more to reinforce the advice he had previously given. Justinius replied that he could not compromise his art just because the authorities were pressuring him.
Egbert suggested that he was being unreasonable and that his head was not in the right space. The King ordered this remedied by having it removed and put in the space he thought best. This happened to be in a coffin.
King Egbert made a proclamation that he had no problem with underground comedians and was not an unreasonable sovereign, provided of course that such comedians were at least six feet underground. He laughed so much at his own joke that he had a seizure and died, giving Justinius the last post-mortem laugh.