Alex the Jester

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MARCO WERMAN: I'm Marco Werman. This is The World. To answer today's Geo Quiz we first have to introduce you to Alex Feldman. He's better known as Alex the Jester and he's just back from a week-long trip to Russia. The US State Department sent him there as a cultural ambassador. Alex first of all tell us where you went and what the highlights were.

ALEX FELDMAN: I went to Moscow where they had a fine theatre where they have theatre clowns and then they also wanted me to visit some of the less mentioned people � the orphans � you know there's a lot of Russian orphans. So I went to some of their orphanages. And I was actually bracing for the worst and was uplifted by what I saw.

WERMAN: So let me ask you first of all Alex, what did the State Department expect from a Boston area jester to accomplish in Russia?

FELDMAN: Well they noticed that a jester that can make people laugh in any language and just about wherever you go you've seen a joker on a deck of cards so they recognize that character. It's not like I'm a mime. I'm not doing some imaginary wall or anything but I'm speaking to people heart to heart.

WERMAN: So tell us about the orphanage you went to. You said you were uplifted. It was encouraging. What did you see and what kind of dialogue did you have with the kids who were there?

FELDMAN: I saw that art was on all the walls and I was thinking my performing spot would be quite compromised. But au contraire it was like they had a good drama teacher who had actually done drama at the very theater I had worked it � the Practica Theater. So I saw that while we are discovering in America how arts can heal and rejuvenate I think it's old news in Moscow.

WERMAN: How did the kids react to you? I mean your Russian is so-so right?

FELDMAN: They were very respectful and weren't screaming like I thought. You know sometimes I get kids � . But then it turned out they get all the classical music. And there's lots of instrumental pieces in my show that they could really feel in their hearts.

WERMAN: You also involve the ancient court ritual of speaking gibberish. I mean obviously I don't understand that here. Do they understand any better?

FELDMAN: Oh you don't understand it. Just look at me. Look at my face. Marco [SPEAKING GIBBERISH]. Marco is smiling right now.

WERMAN: Okay so I get that. How about the Russian kids?

FELDMAN: The Russians had more longer faces to be honest with you. I didn't see as much laughing out in the street. It didn't seem as lighthearted. So I'm going I hope I can you know do my job and you know break them up. My first minute was a little bit quiet. And then I engaged someone who was starting to laugh and did a number with her and all of a sudden I was laughing that I had been nervous. Kind of like, oh. And then they could almost feel me get all like ah and then they were laughing and then I started going on this improv that was so clearly unplanned it sort of had this resonating, vibrating thing that went on to the end of the show.

WERMAN: This is interesting though because you know Court Jesters throughout the ages have you know had to juggle and entertain and they also have the ear of king. So you here you are sent by the State Department I'm wondering if you spoke with any officials.

FELDMAN: I didn't do any official interviews. But at the end of the show I talked about how hard it was to get a work visa.

WERMAN: A work visa to go to Russia?

FELDMAN: My work visa got held up and it finally came in. And so at the end of the show I was miming [SPEAKING JIBERISH] Putin, Vladimir Putin. And so that Maria had somehow contacted Putin to bring me over. So � .

WERMAN: That was your contact friend from the embassy.

FELDMAN: Right. And then I was like acting like a dumb American. I was looking out the corners of my eyes going like is there going to be KGB coming out? And it turns out so much has happened in the last 20 years they're not worried about KGB or anything like that. At least not at the level we might have thought.

WERMAN: And what happens when in the middle of your Gibberish you mention the name Vladimir Putin several times then people might think you're making fun of him. Was that uncomfortable?

FELDMAN: This is the perfect thing for jesters. This is why jesters have been able to do this. Because when you're doing Gibberish and you mention a high and mighty and you might even appear to be mocking them they say what were you doing making fun of Vlad and you go I didn't say [SPEAKING JIBERISH] I went [SPEAKING JIBERISH] which means he is bright and his wife is beautiful.

WERMAN: Alex before we let you go let's answer our Geo Quiz. Tell us about the subway station in Russia you visited. It's one of Moscow's Soviet Era designed subway stations right?

FELDMAN: To translate it into English it's called Revolutionary Square. You know my hand couldn't stop pushing the record button on my video cam. I was so taken by the marble lobbies and you know how they're lit? By hanging chandeliers. And there's lots of bronze sculptures of heroic figures you know bravely facing the headwind. But many of them had dogs. You know average-sized dogs. And one had a snout that gleaming bright against its otherwise dark bronzed appearance. And I quickly saw why it was so bright. Passerby one after another would pet the snout hoping that they could get good scores on their exams or meet their true love. So it was a very lucky thing to touch the snout. Not lick the snout. But touch the snout.

WERMAN: And that lucky snout sits in the Revolutionary Square subway station in the Moscow Metro. Alex Feldman AKA Alex the Jester thank you very much for coming in and on our way out you're going to entertain us with just a little bit of magical court music from your trio � that would be the trio of recorders � all three of them in your mouth at the same time.

FELDMAN: Indeed. I'm just stretching my mouth. [NOISES WITH MOUTH]. It's all stretched now so I cram all three in at once.