#2. The Barber-Surgeon
They don't exactly advertise the fact these days, but not too many centuries ago, barbers were in the habit of cutting a lot more than hair. I'm not talking about Sweeney Todd-style people-cuttin' shenanigans here, mind you. Hold on, that's a lie. That's precisely what I'm talking about, only without all that serial killer stuff. Mostly. Probably.
In medieval times, medicine was still in the stage where mercury was treated like aspirin and too accurate a diagnosis could get you burned as a witch. Warfare, on the other hand, was going places -- a ton of technological advancement in castle and siege technology made sure killing each other for some king or other stayed fresh and varied. This presented a problem: The finest military minds were busy injuring each other, but the finest scholarly minds were mainly focusing on doodling killer bunnies in the margins of manuscripts. What's more, surgery -- a medical profession that is fairly important in the field of battlefields -- wasn't really a thing yet. Doctors didn't want anything to do with cutting up human bodies, because it looks like you soldiers have got the monopoly on that shit, thank you very much.
At some point, someone realized that barbers, of all people, seem to be pretty proficient with cutting stuff that's in close proximity with the body. Then, that someone decided, "Fuck it, let's make those dudes rummage around in people's insides. It's basically the same thing, isn't it?" And thus the venerable profession of barber-surgeons was born.
"I still have the bone saw, but these days I only use it when someone jokes that I charge an arm and a leg."
It sounds ridiculous, but pretty much every culture where barbers have been a thing has at some point seen fit to hand them a bigger knife and promote them to cut masters supreme. From medieval Europe to China to ancient Egypt, a barber was your go-to guy if you had a toothache, or needed an amputation, or needed some veterinary work done. Their skill set was impressive even by modern multitasking standards: At one sitting, you could get your boils lanced, nails manicured, and errant testicles removed. I have no idea why you'd want to do that last thing, but if the situation ever arises, the barber-surgeon is your guy.
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"Would sir prefer a ... lower shave?"
The reason I'm thinking these barber-dentist-veterinarian-surgeon-beauty technicians should be brought back is simple: convenience. We have smartphones that can do like 32 billion important functions at once, why should we be limited to a ridiculously expensive, inconvenient trip to the hospital whenever our gall bladder starts acting up? Barber-surgeons are a time-tested method that people have been using for close to three millennia -- surely they're good enough for our measly modern medical emergencies. Bring a few thousand friendly barbershops that also take care of your ruptured spleen back in the game, and you'll never need to see a hospital again.
(Of course, they should probably be licensed. You don't want to slump into the barber's chair for your pedicure/wisdom tooth removal/haircut to find you're about to be operated on by a 7-foot-2-inch meth addict called Chainsaw Bob.)
A simple trip to the nearest barber-surgeon would get all of your surgery-requiring medical emergencies taken care of in no time, styling you up like a right motherfucker as they do. Sure, you might still be dripping spinal fluid as you exit the store, and you're pretty sure you asked the guy to cut off the left arm, but at least you're going to look fabulous at the funeral.
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Yes, I'm totally championing the return of the jester, arguably the most annoying character in the history of things that are not Jar Jar Binks. These fuckers were basically the Joker without the murder-y charm; their very existence was a thing of bells and puns and stupid faces, something that a modern dickjokesmith such as myself should hate with every fiber of his being.
Or was it?
The thing people often forget about jesters, fools, and the various other professions that used to serve the same function is that the job took some serious skill. A good funnyman (especially one who knew how far he could take the joke before someone with the power to order him killed took serious offense) was extremely hard to find, and potential candidates were scouted like NFL quarterbacks. As such, the "lowly" position of a court jester was a prime example of meritocracy: If your dick jokes could turn the air the right shade of blue, you were in, regardless of whether you were the bastard of a muckraker or a high-level servant of the court.
"It's a talent game, bitches."
This "best of the best" process obviously placed considerable pressure on jesters' shoulders, but it also gave them some serious power, if they chose to wield it. A court jester sat at the table of his lord and was pretty much the only person in his inner circle that was not only allowed, but downright obligated to spout out whatever bullshit popped into his head. This gave the jester unparalleled access to the lord, and if he knew what strings to pull, the crust of his antics could hide an iron fist. Basically, the best jesters could be the equivalent of a vice president with a diploma from the Tyrion Lannister School of Insult Hurling and the freedom to punch the president in the dick whenever he does something stupid.
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"I'm counting 357 punches today."
"Is ... is this negotiable?"
With that in mind, it would be pretty intriguing to see what function a court jester could serve in the modern world. Everyone knows today's politics game is skewed in enough ways to give M.C. Escher a headache. Would the world not benefit if a mandatory jester was included in every "court"-government to lighten the mood and blurt out the inconvenient truths? Even if it wouldn't bring the ridiculously-removed-from-the-common-people leaders' ears closer to the ground, it would at least make press conferences a whole lot more entertaining.
And hey, if the politicians wouldn't listen, we could always tweak the fools to deliver their message in a slightly more ... effective manner.
"Sir, this is your 5:30 reminder of all the ways you've stepped on the nation's collective dick."
Pauli Poisuo is a Cracked columnist and freelance editor. Yes, he has this neat clown costume he's been dying to use. Why do you ask?