Offended by...

October 1, 2016 at 11:43 PM · Me as a Cello, Viola, Violin player. I'm offended by Viola jokes... Deeply.

As if were the worst string players in the world



Replies (99)

October 1, 2016 at 11:48 PM · Is that because you don't understand them?

Cheers Carlo

October 1, 2016 at 11:49 PM · No. Its because I take jokes seriously. Whether its a Make-Fun-Of or Sarcastic joke... I take them seriously.


October 2, 2016 at 12:13 AM · I think they're really stupid, too.

October 2, 2016 at 12:48 AM · Don't take them seriously, or at least ignore them. By experience, I know that is no sense to get angry by jokes, the only one affected is you, the others will not care about that.

October 2, 2016 at 01:02 AM · What is the main requirement at the "International Viola Competition?"

Hold the viola from memory.

October 2, 2016 at 01:14 AM · Edlix (or Martha, not sure your real name) You could always learn a few violin jokes to come back with. Here's a start:

How many violinists does it take to change a light bulb?

Ten. One to change the light bulb and nine to brag about how they could have done it faster and better!

October 2, 2016 at 01:33 AM · Rebecca, I thought the punch line was one to hold the light bulb, and the world revolves around him/her.

October 2, 2016 at 02:25 AM · Viola jokes are phenomenal, and you should enjoy them, just like everyone. I laughed so hard the first time I heard the violin joke:

What's the chromatic scale?

12 violinsts playing the same note


October 2, 2016 at 02:42 AM · Firstly I am Martha. This is a shared account that's named to my brother. So Occasionally he uses it... And again I use it too.

My brother is never the least annoyed or offended by those viola jokes.

"Firewood... I meant viola." Are you serious? -.- It isn't funny.


October 2, 2016 at 03:06 AM · Viola jokes (like most ethnic, regional or other us/them humor) say more about the character of the person telling them than they do about the viola.

At the same time, viola jokes aren't worth getting into a micro-aggression stance over. They are an historical phenomenon that rose with the rise of the vla from obscurity to well-earned status, and prob'ly indicate envy as much as anything.

October 2, 2016 at 03:17 AM · MAYBE, if I were a viola, I could get upset about viola jokes. I am not a viola, and I think they are funny, sort of like light bulb jokes [How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but the light bulb has to really want to change.] Peace.

October 2, 2016 at 04:52 AM · The secret to tolerating viola jokes is to know with your whole being just how glorious it sounds to play a viola Only violinists make viola jokes because they are jealous. Cellists do not make viola jokes because they know that cellos burn longer than violas - and when they are not burning they are heavier and riskier to carry.

October 2, 2016 at 06:40 AM · I think it is possible to have a sense of humor about everything, if done carefully. I think the subject of string players is particularly easy to have a laugh about.

October 2, 2016 at 06:50 AM · I used to also be a viola player as well as violin. I tell viola jokes. (Yesterday to some students who did not understand them!)

Maybe we should do some conductor jokes. (OK - they are no joke).

Man being shown around a brain bank in the year 2050. May want a new brain -the surgeon shows him a brain belonging to a famous architect - $200

Then one belonging to a famous writer - $500

Then a special brain - price? $50,000

Why suddenly so expensive asks the man? Well, says the surgeon, you see, it belonged to a conductor - and it's never been used!

October 2, 2016 at 10:40 AM · Call the PC police if you must. I'm gonna keep telling 'em!

Now here's a 2nd violin joke I sometimes tell - but only when I myself play 2nd: How many 2nd violins does it take to change a light bulb on a ceiling? Zero! None of them can reach that high!

October 2, 2016 at 11:35 AM · A very funny joke Peter and Raphael. I play occasionally with a husband and wife that play banjo and they always have a few fresh banjo jokes to tell me because I laugh so much at them. I think it is an essential trait to learn to laugh and be able to poke fun of ourselves and not be so thin skinned and serious all of the time.

October 2, 2016 at 12:38 PM ·

October 2, 2016 at 01:11 PM · Did you know that the Dont etudes have been transcribed for the other string instruments? Viola: Cant; Cello: Wont; Bass: Shouldnt

I'm a career 2nd violinist and I thought Raphael's joke was funny. (Also occasionally play viola)

October 2, 2016 at 02:44 PM · That 10 hour walking video was well done. Now I need to see more vids like that for banjo players, lead rock guitars, drummers and karaoke singers.

Oh, I almost forgot oboist.

October 2, 2016 at 03:34 PM · You could always ask people to say them more slowly :-)

Cheers Carlo

October 2, 2016 at 06:07 PM · The OP wrote:

"Its because I take jokes seriously. "

Uhm, couldn't that be a major part of the problem? Are you seeking external fixes for internal issues?

October 3, 2016 at 12:44 AM · My violin playing is already a source of amusement but I respect the viola jokes tradition. I need all this entertainment for the sake of my sanity.

October 3, 2016 at 04:51 PM · Saw an advert recently: "Famous string quartet seeking two violinists and a cellist."

That said, I've never known anyone who took viola jokes seriously. As it happens, I know several violists who usually tell the funniest jokes themselves.

October 3, 2016 at 05:02 PM · OK, enough already. Let's stop picking on violists. I read a Bob Newhart quote some time ago, which I think went like this: "I don't like country music. Now, I don't mean to denigrate people who like country music. And for those of you who like country music, 'denigrate' means to put down."

And it was Sir Thomas Beecham who, at a rehearsal, told a trombonist that he should now "apply that antique drainage system to your face."

And it was also Sir Thomas Beecham who was asked by a woman with a young son what musical instrument she should start him on, since she hated the sound they make the first couple of years. And Beecham replied, "The bagpipes, because they sound exactly the same after you've learned how to play them as when you start."

October 3, 2016 at 05:13 PM · Beecham met an young lady after a concert - she said "oh, Sir Thomas - that was a wonderful - would you be Godfather to my baby (she was pregnant - or up the spout if you prefer).

He said "Why bring God into it ...!"

October 4, 2016 at 03:20 AM · "Now here's a 2nd violin joke I sometimes tell - but only when I myself play 2nd: How many 2nd violins does it take to change a light bulb on a ceiling? Zero! None of them can reach that high!"

You got me Raphael that was great.

We mustn't forget the greatest viola video of all time here folks,

October 4, 2016 at 03:54 AM · Bailey, I cringed.

October 4, 2016 at 05:56 AM · He found a good use at last!! (wink)

October 4, 2016 at 11:21 AM · Thanks, Baily and Mary Ellen re my joke.

Recently - true story - at a recent orchestra gig where I usually play first, the contractor, who had somehow over-booked the 1st section and under-booked the 2nd asked me if I'd mind helping out in the 2nds for this concert. I said OK and took my 2nd seat. One of my regular colleagues in the first section came to the rehearsal a few minutes later and expressed surprise to me at where I was sitting. "Oh, you know what happened?" I said "In my rush to leave my house, I accidently grabbed my SECOND violin. So when I got here, there was nothing I could do!"

October 4, 2016 at 12:01 PM · Raphael - when I was about 12 I thought second violin was a different instrument! I was soon put right on that one.

October 4, 2016 at 03:34 PM · John Dally, the 2nd violinist of the Guarneri Quartet told this story: He was at a post-concert reception after he and his colleagues performed, when a lady came up to him and asked if she could see his instrument. "I've never seen a second violin up close before" she said!

October 4, 2016 at 04:51 PM · As with ethnic humor, the intention of the person telling the joke can make a difference. Still, I sort of like (some) viola jokes. Not only do we get a great instrument, but comedy, too. My first gig was as the solo violist in the NYC production of Gerald Busby and Craig Lucas' Orpheus In Love, a chamber opera about Orpheus as a viola player. For about ten minutes in the first act, I played unaccompanied while a singer sang viola jokes and insults at me!

October 4, 2016 at 04:57 PM · Shouldn't that have been "Awfulness" instead of "Orpheus"?

Cheers Carlo

October 4, 2016 at 07:16 PM · Viola jokes are just childish and dumb.

October 4, 2016 at 07:28 PM · Oh lighten up. I've heard top violists who said that they found many of them to be very funny. If political correctness gets hold of even the string playing world I may have to move to another planet. I hear that planet Pluto is forming an orchestra. But there, they tell violin jokes. No wonder it got down-graded!

October 4, 2016 at 07:33 PM · Viola jokes are just childish and dumb.

Oh dear, how silly!

Yes, people are far too uptight about this. Boring people don't want any fun in this world. Humour is vital to staying sane.

October 4, 2016 at 08:47 PM · Yes, it is a joy to be around funny peope and I also enjoy the different types of humor that pop up quite often here and brings a smile to my face.

October 4, 2016 at 09:01 PM · Raphael, I believe the proper term is 'dwarf planet'! :D

October 4, 2016 at 09:26 PM · I am an extremely touchy (but not "top") violist, so I like to get the viola jokes in first myself. Self deprecating Gallows Humour. (Of which we Brits are fond.)

October 4, 2016 at 09:44 PM · My favorite Viola joke is from this video:

"We all know Viola's are better than Violins because they burn longer. But why do they burn longer? Because they're still in the case."

October 5, 2016 at 10:49 AM · Marty Dalton

October 4, 2016 at 09:01 PM · Raphael, I believe the proper term is 'dwarf planet'! :D

I believe the PC term for Pluto is "girth challenged"!

October 5, 2016 at 11:27 AM · @Marty Dalton: I sent an email to the Norman Public school email you have posted online, please respond back ( its about the pieces that you said yu had).

Thanks! :)

October 5, 2016 at 01:41 PM · I can not believe this.

October 5, 2016 at 02:18 PM · If everyone stops telling viola jokes, nobody will know that violists exist!

October 5, 2016 at 08:00 PM · Raphael. Dwarf = vertically challenged

I like it that when you look at the discussion forum menu this topic is shown as "Offended by... viola". It seems that even has got it against the viola. I guess that just saves time...

Cheers Carlo

October 6, 2016 at 09:47 AM · When you loose one sense your other senses get enhanced. That why people with no sense of humour have an increased sense of self-importance...

October 6, 2016 at 03:24 PM · Frieda, you exlain it very well.

My own take on this thread: Thanks for the humour! Greatest medicine.

Some people need to take themselves less seriously, and practise with more forgiveness towards themselves. Then they'd have more self-confidence, and wouldn't feel offended... But now I'm being too preachy. Sorry!

October 6, 2016 at 08:18 PM · "Difference between comedy and tragedy: Tragedy is when I get a hangnail. Comedy is when YOU fall down a man hole!" - Mel Brookes, noted violist - or comdedian, I forget

October 6, 2016 at 08:36 PM · Occasionally I'll take my viola to a bluegrass jam. When one of the fiddlers makes train sounds, I give him back a ferryboat horn.

October 7, 2016 at 06:07 PM · What makes up a string quartet? A good violinist, a bad violinist, a former violinist, and someone who hates the violin..

October 7, 2016 at 07:25 PM · Very true!

October 7, 2016 at 07:38 PM · True, but who plays which instrument and where in the group?

Cheers Carlo

October 7, 2016 at 10:18 PM · @M E who's to say the good violinist and the one who hates the violin aren't the same person...

October 7, 2016 at 11:55 PM · Is that why, unlike Menuhin, Oistrakh, Shumsky, etc., Heifetz never got to perform on the viola, he was too keen on tennis for his violas' own good?

October 8, 2016 at 09:09 AM · He was also too busy playing the violin and getting through all that repertoire!

October 8, 2016 at 11:50 AM · Good one Mary Ellen :-). Good to know that I have a place in a string quartet (e.g., "bad violinist").

October 8, 2016 at 12:12 PM · Being a career second violinist, I can tell that joke. :-)

October 8, 2016 at 03:44 PM · @Mary. Hats off to you! I am not clever enough to play second, you really do need a seriously good brain! I have played second enough to know my limitations. I am more suited to running around at the top of the fiddle in blissful ignorance in the firsts.

Viola may well be a combination of the worst traits of 1sts and 2nds, neither the technical facility nor the brains ;-)

Cheers Carlo

October 8, 2016 at 04:32 PM · No, not quite right - those without brains are usually conductors ...

October 8, 2016 at 04:41 PM · The only thing funnier than viola jokes is accordion jokes. Where should I begin?

October 8, 2016 at 04:58 PM · @M E Do you prefer playing the second parts? If you were given the opportunity to audition for principal/co-principal first in your orchestra, would you go for it?

October 8, 2016 at 04:59 PM · Sarah - Accordion to me I would think just try a few squeezes. Or if not just squeeze a few in but don't bellow too loudly ...

October 8, 2016 at 08:24 PM · "@M E Do you prefer playing the second parts? If you were given the opportunity to audition for principal/co-principal first in your orchestra, would you go for it?"

No. I have gotten to play concertmaster on rare occasions when all three of our concertmasters are out (typically for an undesirable pops concert) but our concertmaster is in a different league from me as a player. Anyway, I enjoy playing the second violin part and leading the second violin section, and I'm very good at it.

And thank you for not asking me if I would consider "trying to get into the firsts," which I have actually been asked and to which my response is always "yes, if I ever decide I want a pay cut and a demotion."

October 9, 2016 at 09:14 AM · Sarah. I had to look for some accordion jokes after you mentioned them. Many were tired re-hashed viola jokes, then I found this one for you...

This guy walks into an antique store and notices a brass rat sitting on one of the top shelves. He asks the clerk, "How much for that brass rat?". The clerk says "Well sir, it's 25 bucks just for the rat, and 50 bucks if you want to hear the story that goes with it. Take my word, you'll want to *hear* the story." The guy says "No, I believe I'll just take the rat for 25 bucks."

So, this fella takes his brass rat and heads down the street. Right away he notices that a *real* rat is following him, so he makes a quick turn down the next street. He passes an alley, at which point about a half-dozen rats come out and start following him. This guy is getting pretty panicked at this point, so he starts heading out toward the outskirts of town. When he passes the town dump, *hundreds* of rats stream out and follow him. Our hero is beside himself at this point, so as he passes the river that winds around town, he tosses the brass rat right in the drink. Every last one of the real rats follows the brass rat into the river and drowns.

Relieved, our protagonist heads back to the antique store where he got the brass rat. "I knew it!", says the clerk, "You're back to hear the story about the rat, aren't you?". "No sir", says the guy, "I just wanted to find out how much you're asking for that brass accordion I see you've got up there."


October 9, 2016 at 08:23 PM · Well I'm deeply offended that so far there have been no bass jokes (or did I miss them?) - so here's one:

A guy was playing bass at a wedding reception. Next thing you know he's furiously chasing some kid all around the banquet room. A guest stops him and says "what are you doing? What's the matter with you?"

bass player - "that kid turned down one of my pegs!"

guest - "OK, he shouldn't have touched your instrument - but did he break anything?

bass player - "I don't think so - but he did turn down one of my pegs!"

guest - "Yes, I got that. But why are you so mad?"

bass player - "Because he won't tell me which one!!"

October 10, 2016 at 03:45 AM · I've actually heard that as a viola joke. ;-)

October 10, 2016 at 11:58 AM · Yes, that was originally a viola joke, but it got converted to a bass joke by an overly sensitive violist :-)

October 10, 2016 at 12:14 PM · Perhaps I was in the wrong clef!

October 10, 2016 at 05:27 PM · How many light bulbs does it take to change a..........


(Wait a minute....)


How many minutes does it take to.........


(I think I haven't been practicing this joke enough)

October 10, 2016 at 06:05 PM · @Sander. Told like a true violist.

Cheers Carlo

October 11, 2016 at 11:30 AM · How many light bulbs does it take to change a violist?

None. They're only light bulbs; they're not miracle workers!

October 11, 2016 at 03:24 PM · Most all the viola players I know think they are funny. They are usually given when a viola player does something wrong, but everyone knows it is a joke. People that give viola jokes don't single out viola players, for the joke around with all the players. Just in the viola's case, jokes are about being a viola player while jokes perhaps about violinist make fun of what ever they did.

October 11, 2016 at 05:15 PM · I am a viola joke: I applied to play viola in a freeway-style orchestra; and they "put" me in the 1st violins. All those leger-lines! (For a while I had to pencil in (not play) the higher notes an octave lower..)

I think I made the mistake of (a)holding my viola up, (b) playing in tune, and (c)vibrating on all four fingers, so they took me for a violinist "moonlighting" on viola. Which ain't the case.

October 12, 2016 at 01:51 AM · My favorite:

Why are viola jokes so short?

So violinists can remember them.

October 12, 2016 at 07:29 AM · Some of them are long. Like Harold in Italy...

October 12, 2016 at 11:17 AM · Good one! Apparently, Paganini felt the same way: he commissioned it, then refused to play it!

October 14, 2016 at 10:21 PM · I was having a chat with a friend who plays Viola and she related that she went to audition for a chair with a local community orchestra. When the conductor saw the viola case he simply pointed and said: "There's your desk." She was disappointed because she had prepared for an audition and wasn't even asked to open her case - just assigned a desk.

October 15, 2016 at 12:17 AM · Why don't violists suffer from hemorrhoids? All the... are in the 1st violin section.

October 15, 2016 at 12:28 AM · George, if it's like things in my neck of the woods, it's because violists are relatively rare and not to be turned away.

October 15, 2016 at 10:51 AM · Which reminds me of my favorite viola joke:

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. Concerned 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 inundated with gigs, that I don't have time for any more lessons!

October 15, 2016 at 11:15 AM · I just see a lot of immature people that think they're funny, sue me!!

October 15, 2016 at 11:46 AM · I see a small number self-righteous people with no sense of humor. So sue ME!

And while I'm at it - how many PC people does it take to change a light bulb?

NONE! You shouldn't try to change anyone or anything. You should respect the individuality of everyone and everything - unless they are being politically incorrect! Also, you shouldn't call them light bulbs. You should call them "otherly shaped light emitters". Why? Because we said so.

October 15, 2016 at 12:21 PM · Insulting people because you think they're different than you is the lowest form of humour, viola jokes are barely one step up from denigrating jokes about someones race or colour of their skin.

The OP started a thread about how offended she was by viola jokes, and what do our more insensitive readers do, give her even more examples of bad bad viola joke humour, Its all about insecurity, puffing oneself up at the expense of others.

As an earlier poster so wisely said, telling viola jokes says more about the joke tellers insecurities than it says about violists.

October 15, 2016 at 12:28 PM · YOU should become a monk, Lyndon, and join a monastery with no electricity and computers, and give us all a break.

October 15, 2016 at 12:46 PM · I already was a monk, at a local Cambodian Buddhist temple, while there I didn't hear any viola jokes........

October 15, 2016 at 12:49 PM · So why didn't you stay there and give the world a break?

October 15, 2016 at 01:09 PM · Perhaps violas are telling 'people' jokes behind our never know. ;) Peace

October 15, 2016 at 03:06 PM · Martha - you didn't actually say why you were offended by viola jokes. That information would be useful. Just in the same way that telling viola jokes say a lot about the joke teller, the recipient's response can say a lot about them too.

Anyway, here's a little lightener for you (to a violinist) :

"Your rhythm is so bad you'd need a calendar to keep time."

"Your have a tone that could cut glass."

"(... although hearing that tone is somewhat masked by your persistent per-phrase grunting.)"

"Your violin is always out of tune. Even when there are no strings on it."

"Your 'subtle, elegiac and evocative' interpretation of these fine works are as clear and overt as the unknown assassin who had his zip code embossed on every bullet."

"While playing the Divertimento from Faure, in the fast passages, you asked me what I thought of your execution. I can only say I hope it will be soon."


October 15, 2016 at 03:15 PM · Very good Jim! You had better not start on conductor jokes though!

October 15, 2016 at 05:43 PM · What is the difference between a symphony orchestra and a cow?

The cow has the horns in the front and the ...hole in the rear.

October 15, 2016 at 06:46 PM · BTW, I don't THINK I'm funny; I KNOW I'm funny. How do I know this? I have a certificate of authenticity from a major joke dealer in New York to prove it:


157 7th Avenue, New York, NY


This is to certify that we have examined FILL IN THE BLANK - er, we mean Raphael Klayman and find same to be of moderate height and weight, not altogether hideous in appearance, original in most of his parts, in fair to good condition - and in our opinion, bolstered by the client's fee to us, he is posessed of a moderately tolerable sense of humor.

Yours, etc.

Jacques Joquet

So there!

October 15, 2016 at 09:36 PM · All jokes should be banned, lest someone take offense.

Next, we can ban all violin playing by someone who has studied less than two years, since some also find these sounds offensive.

After that, we can work on banning accordions. ;-)

October 15, 2016 at 10:15 PM · I don't think this is how the OP expected this to go. She seems to have disappeared. Makes me wonder: How many violists does it take to change a violinist?

October 15, 2016 at 11:46 PM · I'm confused as to how people are finding offense in bad humor...

October 16, 2016 at 02:06 AM · What I'm a little concerned about is that here we are, nearing the end of this thread and we haven't had a chance to poke fun at the hurdy-gurdy and the sackbut. But then again, need we say more?

October 16, 2016 at 02:24 AM · I'm offended by people who get offended at every turn and can't laugh at themselves...

Yes, I like the viola, though I don't play one yet. :)

October 16, 2016 at 02:50 AM · We never got to the erhu, either, so here's a true story: I have a number of instruments in my collection that for me are mostly for decoration - including a beautiful Italian mandolyra (a mandolin shaped like a lyre) a Greek baglama (a small relative of the bazouki) a Russian balalaika (more or less in the guitar or lute family with a triangular sound box) an Indian sitar with no strings or bridge (hmmm... is there a joke in there somewhere?) a small Tibetan trumpet and a Chinese zhang - a multi-reed mouth organ.

One day I saw an erhu advertised in Craiglist for only $60. An erhu is a Chinese fiddle with only 2 strings tuned to A and D. When a master plays it, it can be amazing. With a beginner, well, it's like a beginner on the violin.

I contacted the owner who told me his story: He took some lessons on it but even after some time he could only produce sounds that were like cats screaming and fighting. When I heard that I said to myself: "I must have this instrument!"

Wait a minute...cats screaming and fighting...isn't that just like a...

October 16, 2016 at 02:57 AM · The account above ended abruptly when a huge Monty Python shoe came down out of nowhere and crushed the narrator.

October 16, 2016 at 02:59 AM · And thus concludes the curious case of the PC Police vs the Viola Jokesters.

(Way to hog the last several posts, Klayman!)

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Find a Summer Music Program
Find a Summer Music Program

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Business Directory Business Directory Guide to Online Learning Guide to Online Learning

Dominant Pro Strings

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases


Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin



Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine