Shakespeare knew what he was doing when he wrote his fools. From Feste in Twelfth Night to the Porter in Macbeth, some of Shakespeare’s funniest and wisest lines and narration come from the “Fool”. Modern day television shows, as well as authors through the ages, have cleverly incorporated this trope for the enjoyment of all. My particular favorite is Xander from Buffy or Joey from Friends, but there are so many others that I cannot name them all. However, this isn’t just a manifestation of literature and media. We all have that one person in our friend group – and if you don’t, I suggest finding one. They might not be as intelligent or capable as everyone else in the group, but we love them anyway. When it comes to friend group roles, these are the reasons why you need a fool!
1. Comic Relief
Comic relief is not just a literary tool, but a real life boon. For one reason or another, sometimes we are in a bad mood or our whole group of friends are stressed out. It happens. So that one friend that can make everybody laugh is important: this is their moment to shine. Laughter is the best medicine, after all. From breaking up the monotony of a tragedy in a Shakespeare play to cheering us up after a break up, or just making us laugh during a bad hair day, the Fool is always good to have around when you’re down.
2. Surprising Wisdom
Just because someone isn’t the brightest bulb in the group, doesn’t mean they can’t make an effective point or that they haven’t learned the meaning of a word or life through means other than book smarts or common sense. Often the “Fool” in literature or media is used as an outcast observer who then shares their wisdom to the surprise of all. This is sometimes used as a comic bit, because the way they express this knowledge may not be conventional, but it is often accurate. Don’t take your friends for granted, whether or not they have a GPA to match your own.
3. The Zeppo: Not Useless, But Unsung
Zeppo was the name of the youngest Marx brother and was often known as the “useless one”. Therefore the term “Zeppo” came to mean the useless person in any set group, at least by the mid-nineties when Buffy was around. In one of the episodes in Season 3, Xander is labeled the “Zeppo” of his friend group because he doesn’t have any sort of “superpowers”. What this episode explores is the fact that Xander does help a lot, actually, in ways that are unnoticed by the group. Therefore, he is one of the unsung heroes of the group for a long time. The group only really starts to take notice of how helpful he is in later seasons when their personal lives start to crumble. If it can happen to Xander, it can happen to anybody. Just because you, or your “Fool” friend, isn’t the best and brightest within the friend group roles, doesn’t mean you or that person aren’t integral to the group. Everyone in a group is important for different reasons. Don’t underestimate them or yourself.
4. Ego Boost
This may not be a nice one to think about, but it’s true. Whether it’s because the “Fool” of the group realizes that they don’t meet par with their friends and end up complimenting them a lot or if you feel like you’re helping out an outcast, either way you feel better about your friend group roles when this person is around. This doesn’t mean you’re actually a bully or a horrible person for thinking you’re better than somebody else, it’s just a subconscious thing that we do as humans. Trust me, this is a much nicer way to treat people than bullying or speaking to them condescendingly because you think you’re better than them. Remember: it’s better to be Lumiere than Gaston!
5. Lowest Common Denominator
None of us are that far from being the lowest common denominator. Could be a few bad days in a row or a brick of bad luck to make us hit rock bottom and feel like we’re the least capable person in the world. Having someone else there to cheer us up, give us wisdom, and make us feel smart and competent is great because it not only keeps us humble, but they give us courage and strength through their moral support. Just knowing that they exist in our lives is an amazing relief in good times and bad. Surprisingly, they’re often the most supportive and strong people in our lives, which we might not realize until we need to lean on them. The fact that they let us is why we cherish them.