Viola jokes

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Viola jokes are jokes directed towards violas and viola players. Viola jokes are thought to have originated in the 18th century, when viola parts were often simple and thus amenable to untalented musicians.[1][2]

A story from Italy in the early 1700s is thought to be the origin of many viola jokes, despite its being a true story:[3]

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.

Viola jokes take many different forms, some only understandable by musicians and people acquainted with musical terms, others requiring no specialist musical knowledge; some jokes make fun of the viola itself while others make fun of violists, while some jokes are directed in the opposite direction: jokes about musicians who tell viola jokes.[4]


  1. ^ Cottrell, Stephen (2004). Professional Music-making in London: Ethnography and Experience. Ashgate Phublishing. pp. 144–146. ISBN 0754608891.
  2. ^ Marissen, Michael (1999). The Social and Religious Designs of J. S. Bach's Brandenburg Concertos. Princeton University Press. p. 61. ISBN 1400821657.
  3. ^ Johnstone, David. Grand Encyclopedia of Viola Jokes (PDF). p. 59. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-08-24. Retrieved 2014-08-01.
  4. ^ Carl Rahkonen (Winter 2000). "No Laughing Matter: The Viola Joke Cycle as Musicians' Folklore". Western Folklore. Western Folklore, Vol. 59, No. 1. 59 (1): 49–63. doi:10.2307/1500468. JSTOR 1500468.

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