Commercial Exhibit's Irreverent Royal Jester Suspended
Sep. 05, 1989
LONDON (AP) _ The court jester at the Royal Britain Exhibition made unkind jokes about the royal family and the commercial museum's managers, not amused, told him to stop or get the sack. He was suspended Tuesday.
Kim Keble-White said James Lovell, a 24-year-old actor, could have his job back if he cut the offending material from his act.
Lovell, who traveled to and from work in tricorn hat, bells and quartered red and green outfit, was not available for comment after the announcement, but said earlier Tuesday he would not alter his performance.
In somewhat medieval syntax, Lovell said he realized his boss was irritated, ''but Lord fool him for being thus inflamed, for I am the fool, and therefore for him to get inflamed by my foolery makes him a fool, for sure.''
''He is acting with artistic pique,'' declared Keble-White, marketing director of the exhibition, who said the young jester had been ''doing a super job'' before turning his wit on contemporary targets.
Keble-White said some of Lovell's jokes ''are a little bit tacky and he doesn't know exactly where to draw the line.''
For example: ''What is small, silent and lonely and lives in a stable? Captain Phillips.'' That is a jibe at shy, horse-loving Mark Phillips, whose separation from his wife, Princess Anne, was announced last week.
A parody on the eccentricities of Prince Charles, heir to the throne, was another feature of Lovell's act for visitors to the exhibition on British royalty through the ages.
He did a three-minute monologue of Charles talking to a sunflower. It was inspired by the prince's revelation some years back that he talked to his plants to encourage growth.
Executives of Unicorn Heritage, which owns Royal Britain, say Lovell was an excellent jester until pointing his japery beyond medieval royalty.
''I said to James, 'We'd love you to carry on, old chap, but it must be jokes of the period,''' Keble-White said in an interview.
''I am nervous that some of the jokes could be offensive, and we want to prevent people from coming here thinking we want to win some cheap laughs.''
Lovell responded: ''I've been making a few little rudies. They come out because I'm a spontaneous jester, my liege, I don't write my riddles down. I suddenly think of something and if I think of Fergie as a big red thing then that's, alas, what she is.''
Fergie is the nickname for the Duchess of York, whose hair is red and whose waistline is avidly watched by the tabloid press.
Lovell worked as a clown and stage actor before taking the role of Will Somers, court jester to Henry VIII jester, in January.
He acknowledged on London Broadcasting Corp. radio that his duty was to behave as a medieval clown, but added: ''I am a jester, my liege, and I, a jester, is licensed to say whatever I wish, so if they don't like it they can right royally stuff it.''
Keble-White said he had received no complaints from Buckingham Palace or the 500,000 people who have visited the exhibition in London's financial district since it opened in August 1988.
In depicting British history through royalty, the commercial museum features the lives of 52 kings and queens.
It has dummies in period dress and enlargements of contemporary newspaper front pages with stories on royalty. Visitors can vote on whether the press treats royals fairly, and Keble-White said the tide is running against the press.
Buckingham Palace cooperated in setting up the exhibition, he said, ''so it's important we not fall from grace'' through Lovell's antics.