The First Viola Joke?

September 24, 2009 at 07:34 PM ·

 I found this in a program note the other day:

"The violinist Francesco Geminiani arrived in London in 1714, one of the many expatriate musicians who settled in England in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries..... As a young man Geminiani was appointed head of the orchestra in Naples, where according to English music historian Charles Burney he was "so wild and unsteady a timist, that instead of regulating and conducting the band, he threw it into confusion", and was demoted to playing the viola".

So there you have it! They felt the same way about viola players in Italy three hundred years ago.

Replies (31)

September 24, 2009 at 10:42 PM ·

Why does violists always get laugh at ???  Maybe it was the fist "joke" but I wouldn't take the risk to say it beside any violist taller than me...  : )



September 25, 2009 at 01:00 AM ·

I LOVE viola jokes.  Thank you!


P.S.   more viola jokes

September 25, 2009 at 03:05 AM ·

And the world's shortest joke ladies and gents,


September 25, 2009 at 04:51 AM ·


Here's another one:

A violist attended a friend's son's piano recital. After the recital, the friend came up to the violist and asked, "so what did you think of the recital?" The violist replied, "it was great. I especially likeed that piece near the end with all of the trills in it."  He was referring to a nicely performed version of Beethoven's "Fur Elise". ! ! !  

September 25, 2009 at 05:53 AM ·


three viola players walked into a bar.




You`d think -one- of them would have seen it.



September 25, 2009 at 10:57 AM ·

This joke is so japanese :)

September 25, 2009 at 11:51 AM ·

Buri - LOL!!!!!

September 26, 2009 at 05:26 AM ·

Here's a true story.  (I tell it all the time, so if I have told it here, I apologize but I'm going to tell it again anyway.)

Years ago our orchestra was playing... something, I think it was Mendelssohn #4.  Whatever.  The conductor stopped and said "Can I just hear the violas at letter D" (or wherever it was)  So they played, and it just sounded... strange.  So he asked to hear it again, and again it sounded strange somehow.  He was just about to ask for the passage a third time when the assistant principal violist gasped and said "Oh!  wrong string!"  (That's why it sounded strange - she was playing in parallel 5ths with the rest of the section.)  The conductor's mouth fell open.  Then he closed it and had them play it again, and it sounded fine.

September 26, 2009 at 07:09 AM ·

I read the jokes on the page that Bruce cited, and I've heard many of them before, but instead of violists, they were aimed at banjo players, accordion players, or lawyers.  I like the lawyer jokes the best.  Ever since my divorce, I've had feelings about lawyers.  In fact, for a long time I collected lawyer jokes.  I think that a lot of jokes are aimed at banjo and accordion players because they are "in your face" instruments.  Why are violas / violists singled out?  I don't appreciate jokes about them.

September 27, 2009 at 11:17 AM ·


You're right; we shouldn't denigrate a person just because they happen to play the viola. (And for those of you who play the viola, "denigrate" means to put down, insult, or make fun of).

I work with lawyers on occasion as an expert witness, mostly in divorce cases, so I feel your pain; it is a very, very difficult experience. But I hear lawyer jokes, too, and mostly from the lawyers. The best one I heard was that the Devil appeared at a lawyer's office and said, "If you do what I ask, you will have an incredibly successful career, become rich, and die peacefully in your sleep at the age of 85. All I ask in return is your soul, as well as the souls of your wife and children." The lawyer responds, "What's the catch?"

:) Sandy

September 27, 2009 at 12:03 PM ·

Best recording of the Walton Viola Concerto?

Music Minus One.


What do you do with a dead viola player?

Move him back a desk.


Ah you can just go on and on with those...

September 28, 2009 at 05:32 AM ·

Bruce - great resourse! I don't think that collection has this one:

A guy in his late 30's decides that he wants violin lessons, and approaches a teacher. The teacher says: "at your age I think you'd be better off on viola - what do you say?" The guy says "OK", gets a viola, and comes for a lesson. The teacher teaches him the 1st finger and says "you're catching on very well! Next time I'll teach you the 2nd finger." And the next time he teaches him the 2nd finger and says "very good! Next time I'll teach you the 3rd finger." And at the 3rd lesson he teaches him the 3rd finger and says :"fine - next time I'll teach you the 4th finger..."

But the guy doesn't show up for his 4th lesson. Comcerned about his promising new pupil, the teacher calls him and asks "what happened to you - are you OK?" The guy says "Oh yes. It's just that since I've learned the 3rd finger,  I've been so innundated with gigs, that I don't have time for any more lessons!"


A precedent was opened for lawyer jokes as well. Here's one (hopefully) not too well-known:

A rabbi, a swami and a lawyer took a road trip across the U.S... In the middle of nowhere at one point, on a lonely road surrounded by corn fields, their car breaks down. It's almost sunset, and they don't know what to do, when one of them spots a farm house. They decide to walk to it, explain their situation, and ask if they can be put up for the night.

The farmer is sympathetic but explains: "I have a very small place. Two of you can sleep here, but one of you will have to sleep in the barn. The rabbi volunteers and says "I'll go; it's OK". But after a short while, there's a knock on the farmhouse door. It was the rabbi, who says: '"there are some pigs in the barn. Technically, I'm only forbidden to eat them, but I just don't feel comfortable sleeping with them. Would one of you guys go instead?" The swami says "it is no difficulty. I will go", and he goes. But shortly there's a knock on the door again. It was the swami, who says "there are being some sacred cows in the barn, and I'm not wishing to be sleeping with them." The lawyer says, "OK, OK, I'll go!", and he goes. But in a little while, once again there is a knock on the door...

It was the pigs and the cows!

September 28, 2009 at 01:49 PM ·

Raphael, lol!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  


September 28, 2009 at 02:00 PM ·

When I was once in India, I remember these huge lizards walking around the ceiling and the walls....

September 28, 2009 at 11:36 PM ·

How many violists does it take to change a viola string?
Answer: Three -- one to attach the string, one to hold the peg, and the third to turn the viola.

Why did Berlioz make the orchestra parts so loud between the viola solos in Harold in Italy?
Answer: To keep the soloist awake.

In what way are violists and violinists alike?
Answer: They both hate to practice (but the violinist does it).

Why don't violists write jokes about violinists?
Answer: They can't spell "violinist."

Why don't violists take their music home to practice after rehearsals?
Answer: They're afraid of losing it in the shower.

Why do violists always have an easy time memorizing the viola part?
Answer: Have you seen the viola part?

How do you make a violist feel inadequate?
Answer: Request the he (or she) play "Twinkle" through to the very end.

Why is Paganini considered the greatest violist who ever lived?
Answer: Because he tried it once.

September 29, 2009 at 10:32 AM ·

Uugh.... good I don't play viola.....

Why do they call viola bratsche in german?

Cause that's the sound it makes when you sit on it, hehe

September 29, 2009 at 11:11 AM ·

I don't think I've seen this one on a website... I just remembered it though... heard it in an orchestra years ago... stop me if you've heard this joke....


There once was a last chair violist from the Smalltown USA Philharmonic who found a lamp. Somehow, he figured out that he should rub the lamp, and out popped a magical Genie. The Genie said he would grant three wishes to the violist.

The violist asked the Genie for himself to become the best violist in his orchestra. Poof! At the next rehearsal, he was Principal violist of the Smalltown Philharmonic. Well, the violist was very pleased. After a month, though, he grew restless.

The violist rubbed his lamp for a second time, and out popped the Genie. "Make me an even greater violist... the best violist in the world!" Poof! The violist was magically transported to Europe, where he discovered that he was principal violist of the Vienna Philharmonic (Wiener Philharmoniker). The violist was elated. He performed in this role for about a year, and almost forgot about the Genie.

Finally, the violist again grew tired of his exploits. He rubbed the lamp for a third and final time. Again, the Genie appeared. "This is good Genie... but I want to become an even better musician than this... I want to be better than the best violist in the world - so make it happen!" Poof!

Suddenly, the violist found himself back with the Smalltown USA Philharmonic. He now had a violin in his hands! He was the last chair second violin of the Smalltown Philharmonic.



September 29, 2009 at 12:56 PM ·

Cute. But how are we supposed to stop you if we heard that one before you've told it? You don't play the viola, do you?

Just kidding; yours was a good one.

September 29, 2009 at 11:42 PM ·

@ Luke, that was so funny I have to swipe boss plays viola....wonder if he would appreciate that joke.

September 30, 2009 at 03:22 AM ·

Bratsche...It wouldn't be so bad if it only made that sound when you sat on it! ;-)

October 4, 2009 at 04:49 PM ·

Bruce, I don't know what's funnier: the fact that the violist was playing on the wrong string, or that your conductor couldn't say what was wrong (assistant principals generally sit right under maestro's nose, do they not?).

Now that is killing two birds with one stone.

October 5, 2009 at 08:33 AM ·

"Bruce, I don't know what's funnier: the fact that the violist was playing on the wrong string, or that your conductor couldn't say what was wrong (assistant principals generally sit right under maestro's nose, do they not?)."

The maestro himself must be a violist. Given that this must be the case, I'm surprised he learned how to keep a beat well enough to conduct. Bravo, I say, to this maestro. It takes great patience to overcome such an immense handicap (viola playing).

May 29, 2012 at 06:55 AM · Why is it the violists feel the need to change viola jokes into violin jokes. Could it be that they feel inferior and need to boost their egos? ;-)

Cheers Carlo

May 29, 2012 at 06:59 AM · Lol, Ellie, I guess we had that coming. I've always wondered why it takes so long to screw in a light bulb!

May 29, 2012 at 12:07 PM · VIolin Joke:

-How many violinist does it take to change a light bulb?

-11. 1 to do it, and 10 to say they did it in high school

Viola Joke (beware it is a bit dirty)

-What is the difference between a violist, and a prostitute?

-A prostitute knows more than one position.

May 30, 2012 at 03:55 AM · I thought the punch line was going to be that the prostitute actually makes a useful contribution.

Has no one yet said that the first viola joke was the first violist?

May 30, 2012 at 04:10 AM · Sandy lolol

May 30, 2012 at 05:53 AM · Talking of lawyer jokes, here's a rude one ...

What's the difference between a lawyer and a hooker?

The hooker stops screwing you once you are dead.

November 11, 2012 at 11:02 PM · I have it on good authority that this is by far the earliest viola joke ever, recently deciphered from a cave painting. If it's not the best, don't blame me; blame the Neanderthals - there's a reason they went extinct.

Ug says to his cave-mate Mug: "uh-oh, sounds like there's a saber-toothed tiger prowling around." Says Mug "that's no tiger; that's Grug practicing on a saber-toothed viola in the next cave!"

OK, stop throwing things. That viola barley missed me!

November 11, 2012 at 11:09 PM · I think Francesco Geminiani, also known by his best friends as "Jim" might disagree with you. Was the sabre toothed viola carbon dated?

November 12, 2012 at 03:24 AM · It seems that there was a saber-toothed tiger lurking around after all. Annoyed by Grug's practicing, he ate him and his viola. Fortunately, the tiger used the bow as a toothpick and discarded it. It was a carbon fiber bow, and very amenable to carbon fiber dating!

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