Informant is a 21 year old student at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. He studies musical composition and business. A self-proclaimed pun-enthusiast, he also likes to frequently crack jokes. As a musician, many of these are music jokes. One of his favorite types of musical joke is “viola jokes”, a genre of musical jokes that makes fun of violas. He shared one of his numerous viola jokes, seen below:
“Why should you never drive off a cliff with four violas in your car? … Because you could easily fit two more!”
More information on this genre of jokes was gained through unrecorded discussions with the informant. Apparently, violas and violists are the butt of many jokes among musicians. This has arisen out of the joking conception that violists are just former violinists who were not good enough to make it as a violinist. This misconception could have arisen for several reasons: 1. Many violists did actually start out as violinists. Violin is a more common instrument for children to start with. It is a good foundation for other stringed instruments. 2. There is a lot more solo repertoire for violinists and they have a more prominent and audible part in the orchestra. Why would anyone voluntarily give that up to play viola? 3. Viola is a middle voice in the orchestra and their lines can sometimes get lost in the texture, especially when everyone is playing. Therefore, mistakes of former, “bad” violinists, would not be heard in the viola section.
This joke takes the violist joke genre a step further and makes fun of the instrument itself. It encourages the destruction of as many violas as possible, even through the most ridiculous means (driving off a cliff with them in their car). From my discussion with the informant, this theme of ridiculousness is common throughout many ‘viola jokes’. This is to show that no one really thinks that violists are inferior and that everyone does appreciate them and the part they play in the orchestra. It is just light-hearted fun.