noun1 : a subordinate clown or acrobat in old comedies who mimics ludicrously the tricks of the principal 2 : one who acts the buffoon to amuse others 3 : a foolish, eccentric, or crazy person
My brother’s friends are an unpredictable bunch of zanies.
“The Man … invites us to listen in as he plays his cherished two-record album of ‘The Drowsy Chaperone,’ a fictitious 1928 romp featuring wall-to-wall music and a cast of zanies.” — From a theater review by Tony Farrell in the Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia), November 11, 2013
Did you know?
Zanies have been theatrical buffoons since the heyday of the Italian commedia dell’arte, which introduced those knavish clowns. The Italian “zanni” was a stock servant character, often an intelligent and proud valet with abundant common sense, a love of practical jokes, and a tendency to be quarrelsome, cowardly, envious, vindictive, and treacherous. Zanni, the Italian name for the character, comes from a dialect nickname for Giovanni, the Italian form of John. The character quickly spread throughout European theater circles, inspiring such familiar characters as Pierrot and Harlequin, and by the late 1500s an anglicized version of the noun “zany” was introduced to English-speaking audiences by no less a playwright than William Shakespeare (in Love’s Labour’s Lost).