Viola jokes (seriously)
What is it with the viola jokes? Perhaps it's me, but they seem mean-spirited and I see some who seem to believe the jokes. Is it just me? Curious to hear thoughts on this. Very curious how this dynamic developed.
Possibly because violinists don’t mix with drummers?
I've never had much interest in them. A lot of viola jokes are just a generic structure that can be and is used on pretty much any instrument. https://i.pinimg.com/originals/1e/cd/cf/
Good point Gordon, personally I find them a turnoff, but that isn't my usual style of humor. It's been perplexing to me why they seem so popular though perhaps they just seem that way to me as I find them rather irritating so I will notice them more.
Serial jokes can get nastier and nastier as time passes and people strive too hard to follow what might have started as an amusing idea. My teacher, a violist, told me a few viola jokes when I first met her 5 or 6 years ago, but two-set have taken it too far.
As a British-schoolboy-humoured violist I enjoy exchanging them with fellow violists; best to get in first!
If you want to take this topic seriously and know the truth...
On the positive side, without viola jokes even fewer people would ever know such an instrument exists!
Some are funny enough, some not really. For me, the motivation of the person telling them counts for a lot. For example, the same joke told by a friend would be unacceptable told by Paul N. above, as he clearly believes a load of anti-violist nonsense.
Paul N. - I challenge you on the statement that cello is easier than violin.
The world would certainly be a better place if jokes were much more prissy, and carefully checked for universal accuracy and truth before saying them. (sarcasm)
I always love a good joke or funny line (I write them occasionally). But I, too, have never quite understood why we pick on violists. If you're going to make fun of a player of a musical instrument, I might suggest the following instruments: church organ (which seems a kind of misnomer), recorder (invented before electricity), kazoo (which actually should be played by an animal), and piano (which should always be played softly).
The reason less solo rep (concertos) is written for the viola is simply because the viola does not have the same practical range as either the violin or the cello.
I suggest the one musician who has got to be at the top of the tree in the mastery of the mechanics of a complex instrument must be the church organist - coping with up to five keyboards plus a pedal board, more stops than the eye can take in at a single glance, and having three staves of music to read. Oh, and the ability to improvise at the drop of a hat and to be prepared to change key (also at the drop of a hat) when - and not if! - the congregation's singing drifts flat.
Violin is just a little viola. I mean "violino" actually means small viola. So it is really the viola that is the sparkle from where the power emerges. -;)
David Burgess said:
In school orchestras, where these jokes are most often heard, the violas tend to be worse, for several reasons. Among them:
When I was a kid it was oboe jokes, not viola jokes. The oboe is a freaking hard thing to play too.
Scott Slapin, I do not have to believe what I said, I have experienced that myself and I know it. That's why I said those are facts. If you want you can tell me which one of those are not facts, but you are not going to find anything "nonsense" as you called. I can fact check:
Those awful Two Set kids have taken it way too far.
Sounds like the Tunbridge Wells Conservative Association discussing, well pretty much anything they don't approve of. Futile but actually quite funny.
Paul N., You *know* (not believe!) these things to be true based on your limited experience and what you've read into that. This is the point I was making related to this particular thread; you *know* violinists (i.e. conveniently you) to be superior to viola players, and therefore you're the exact sort of person I wouldn't accept viola jokes from.
I don't remember anyone in my town's youth orchestra with an ego, except for a girl called Jo whose father was an oil company accountant or executive. The only thing scarier than her ego was her French horn playing. Luckily she also played the flute, and in that section was where the director, strangely, needed her most, lol.
Regarding violas in school orchestras which Andrew Hsieh posted about:
Scott Slapin, you got all wrong, once again. I do NOT think violinists are superior to violists. Never ever said that. What is being superior even mean?
I think there is kind of a universal bias against inside voices. Lots of material written for violin and cello. And when more material gets written, the objective (often enough) is to write something that is more complicated, more difficult, etc., because you know there will be players who can rise to that challenge. So this is why we have so much really crushing rep written for the violin and the cello.
Interestingly, I don’t recall students ever making viola jokes when I was in school. The occasional viola jokes came from the adults. Perhaps that has changed with Twoset.
Paul D., I think that for most of its history the viola was largely a doubling instrument, in the way that piccolo trumpet for trumpet players is today. People studied the violin at conservatory (often degrees in viola performance weren't offered) and switched afterward; that was still the standard route in the first half of the 20th century. It still is a common path today, but many more violists today switched earlier on or even started on viola from the beginning. 20th and 21st Century viola rep. can be expected to be quite difficult technically, but much before (Paganini, Rolla, Ney etc.) and it's the exception.
It's a hangover from times when the viola really was a "cinderella" instrument. My best friend at school was practically my twin, academically and musically, until he switched from violin to viola. I very much doubt it was his idea and even today I doubt that many players actually start out with that intention. In chamber music it's been a long time since I joined with anyone who played viola exclusively or first-and-foremost, but the ones who did were the greatest connoisseurs of viola jokes.
I have never met a violist who was offended by viola jokes. We can take it. But try telling an oboe joke - the oboe players are NOT amused! Most viola players have enough self irony to appreciate the jokes and take them for what they are: Jokes!
I'm with Scott here. It is all about the intention of the joker. And that is also the danger or difficulty. I am a woman and blond and I really like blond (and) women jokes. They are hilareous as are violist jokes...as long as the joker doesn't mean any of it and has a lot of respect for women, blonds or violists. I think that is a very thin line and is also different in the eyes of the listener. But I also think that we all become too serious on the internet and humour in general disappears because always some individual or small group is offended and nobody has the met je to make an innocent joke with respect any more
Just to clarify, I have zero experience in school and youth orchestras -- I started learning violin in my last year of high school and switched to viola a year and a half later. But I knew a lot of people in my high school's orchestras because I sometimes played chamber music with them as a pianist.
I like viola jokes but I like jokes anyway. I mainly play violin but I have a small viola that I just love and have even given a name. I have unfortunately lost my language learning ability (there goes my big retirement project in languages) and the alto clef remains a mystery though I continue to try to work on it. I enjoy playing violin pieces a fifth lower and also playing some folk pieces. I give patio recitals for my neighbors who are not very discerning but pleasant and appreciative. My viola is by definition a student instrument but I get great pleasure out of it and that's what counts. So bring on the jokes! You can even joke about me!
If you are a good violinist and fan of viola jokes, what about telling a viola joke to Pinchas Zukerman? Or to Vengerov? Or Julian Rachlin?
Luis, I don't know any of those people. I'm not a good violinist so I like violinist jokes too! Jokes are jokes because they can't possibly be true, otherwise they are not jokes but something else.
Bo, Two-Set does bother me in their excessive seriousness. I was uncomfortable watching the episode when the tall fellow (I forget their names) gave the other one a viola for his birthday and he was clearly not amused. There's some arrogance there, like they've forgotten what it is like to just be starting out. I will always be at best intermediate but that's fine with me. I just don't like to see mean put downs. And the thing about "perfect pitch," please...
The intention of the joker is not the only variable here. Imagine, now that you all talk about Twoset violin, that a teenage girl watches them for fun, because they are funny and trendy. She learns that there are these viola jokes and she assumes that they exist because viola must be easier than playing triangle. She is not into classical, never has been, completely ignorant musically. So she goes to school and starts copying and saying some of those jokes to that friend of hers that she knows is in the orchestra.
Pious disapproval is everyone's right but what would you suggest as a countermeasure - ethical guidelines?
I play the triangle in a reggae band. I sit next to the drummer an ting.
How about this to keep us all modest: Know any violinist jokes?
There's a Jewish curse: May your neighbour's child take up the violin!
Hear the one about the violinist who also played the viola badly?
What about violin makers' jokes?
It must be hard nowadays to be a humourist and not offend someone.
TwoSet has toned down their viola jokes (and other instrument jokes, and not just their recent health break, but even before that). There was a time when it was really getting out of hand, and they must have eventually noticed, or been advised, that what with being an example for millions of young impressionable people on international social media and all, they needed to watch themselves. When was it that had they backed off, I don't know, but I recall it came up on this forum some time ago. Joking has of course existed since long before internet, and in today's hyper-connected world, it's just that things travel faster and become digitally immortalized, for better or for worse. I've certainly said or done questionable things in youthful past that I've matured from.
They haven't entirely given up on saying "viola" and cringing, etc., however. It's still part of their go-to repertoire.
There is a technique to the triangle. For one tune, switching from amplified violin to percussion in a Latin band, I used a Cajun style triangle and announced; "I told them I went to Julliard and they handed me a triangle!" Actually I didn't get past the security guard at Lincoln Center so I went to the gift shop and bought stuff with Julliard logos.
Hence my word choices of "toned down" and "backed off" (intensity is "less than" but is not 0).
Mengwei, I haven't seen them for a while, it got tiresome and I moved on.
I'm a violinist but I love the viola, it's mellow tone. The tenor of a string quartet and that's one place where it is more soloistic and demonstrates a lot of technique. And what about the Walton and Bartok viola concertos.
I love the darker voice of the viola. My teacher, who is a violist, bluntly said my hands are barely large enough for the violin when I asked about playing the viola. Given my ear will likely always be stronger than my sight reading, at this point I wouldn't take on a second clef anyway. Keeping track of the treble cliff is challenging enough for this woman!
In the last months before TwoSet toned it down, I saw several school music teachers complain that the number of students interested in playing viola had declined precipitously in just two or three years; some had asked their students why and were told it was TwoSet.
Two Set makes money off of these mean jokes. It's their business model.
The only thing I truly hate about viola is the alto clef.
Back to my original post that started this thread, I don't mind actual jokes, and I've heard some funny viola jokes - just recently as a matter of fact. It comes down to the spirit in which they are given, and many viola jokes I've heard have had that mean spirited edge to them - TwoSet isn't the only culprit in this. Hilary Hahn was able to influence them enough to back off, but the original attitude is still there.
Catherine, yes, I completely agree with you. You can tell the motivation behind their telling the jokes wasn't only to entertain their audience but also to reinforce a hierarchy.
If my hands weren't so small, along with my significant shoulder and neck issues, I would consider adding either the viola or cello. I'm told I would need to attempt to use my 3rd for my 4th on the cello, LOL. At 62 it doesn't seem wise to move in a direction that I know wouldn't be kind to my body. Pity, but that means I can enjoy listening to both viola and cello rep for the joy of listening. That is not a bad thing at all!
I'm another e-string hater who went over to the dark side after finding that (when I was setting up a string group in the high school where I worked) it was the only orchestral string instrumentstill intact (hmmm. Is that cause noone played it!). Took it homme over summer so I could learn the evil clef and fell in love.
Cello playing position is said to be more "ergonomic" than violin. I can't say I disagree but whenever I...don't play cello for a while, my upper back/shoulders/arms get tired (and I lose my calluses) at the next session. It's also partly what one is accustomed to. Several of my violin parents have taken up cello although the exact reasoning is unclear: for example, cello perceived to be adult-friendly, they like the sound, don't want to put themselves in "direct" "competition" with their children. One of them plays a 3/4 size and another has shoulder issues that we as two non-medical people do our best not to exacerbate (she knows what she can and can't/shouldn't do more than I).
I don't really know why it's not standard that a violinist plays viola. We could be just like sax players that switch between say soprano and tenor with ease, maybe playing flute and clarinet too!
I totally agree that all violinist should play the viola. After playing the viola for a while the violin feels so easy to get around on. Like a toy instrument. But please no transposing. But the clefs (all three of them) could have been an octave apart instead of a seventh......
I was somewhat fortunate in being first introduced to the viola as a solo instrument -- the first concerto I ever heard live was the Walton! So even though I started on violin, I intended to switch as soon as I got my hands on a viola; the only reason I started on violin was that I was able to rescue an old family violin that had gone unplayed for 20 years.
"We could be just like sax players that switch between say soprano and tenor with ease."
I'm somewhat surprised that I cannot find a solo viola piece from Dvorak. But I played his Terzetto and he knew how to write for the instrument for sure.
I've got the complete Bashmet RCA recordings (9 CDs). I didn't look at the track listings before buying it. There's no baroque, which is a pity.
Maybe Dvorak didn't do much viola stuff because they don't go as high as he likes to send the violins. Even then, when we played his symphony no. 8 we violas spent a lot of time in 5th position and had to go to 7th at one point.
I told my doctor a proctologist joke:
Sander, A visual joke, a man asks his proctologist how are things. He responds with the okay sign. Okay, enough of this rabbit hole!
Sander, I think he'd only have a reason for not laughing if he'd heard it too many times before.
Running jokes, like a runny tummy?
Piles of 'em!
I was, after all, an analytical chemist. It's actually misspelled, the field is named for me, annalytical chemistry. There are also entire groups of compounds named for me such as annalgesics and annaesthetics.
John, there is also a chemical species that is commonly called BARF lots more silly things. But BARF did not arise through the rigors of systematic nomenclature, like "arsole" did.
John: NO proctologist ever heard that joke before, because I'm the one who made it up. Good point, though.
Sander, I've "made up" quite a number of jokes, but the chances are somebody I don't know about made them up before me, like that of a UK Prime Minister putting an arm round his spin doctor's shoulder, whom he's just appointed as a European Commissioner, and saying to him, "Now -, the thing about the European Commission is that it's not enough for corruption to be done: It must be seen to be done". I had never seen or heard of the political cartoon in which it featured, and I have no idea whether, in time, I or the cartoonist thought of it first. Doesn't matter, really, to each of us it was original.
No problem; the viola will do that to you.