Not real racism, but racism based on what instrument you play, or part you sing. What is the definition of a half-step? Two flutes playing in unison. What do clarinetists use for birth control? Their personalities. What did the banjo player get on his theory exam? Drool. Why did the soprano spend the night on the porch? She lost the key and didn’t know how to come in. Why did the violist put his instrument on his car’s hood? So he could park in handicapped spaces.
I was at a music festival this past summer, and at a party some of the musicians began telling viola jokes, including many I had not heard. Some of these were side-splittingly funny. What I cherish about this humor is that it’s like family humor: Dad’s like this, Mom’s like that, you know how the cousins get…but it’s a family nonetheless. All the instrumental jokes seem to be by other musicians in the same ensembles, or from other collaborative situations. Flutes are like this, trumpets are like that, and you know how the violas get… Didn’t Garrison Keillor say recently, in one of his monologues, that watching the viola section play alone was like watching the blind play basketball?
Pianists are somewhat neglected in this genre of humor. Because pianists tend not to play much in ensembles—at least ensembles like orchestras and concert bands—we don’t get as much love or loathing. The closest thing to a pianist joke I’ve seen is found in a description of the various members of a Jazz band, an internet classic called “How Jazz Works,” from Bill Anschell’s “A First-Timer’s Guide to Jazz Jam Sessions.” Here is the piano excerpt:
Pianists are intellectuals and know-it-alls. They studied theory, harmony and composition in college. Most are riddled with self-doubt. They are usually bald. They should have big hands, but often don’t. As adolescents, they were social rejects. They go home after the gig and play with toy soldiers. Pianists have a special love-hate relationship with singers. If you talk to the piano player during a break, he will condescend.
This, as we say in my house, is very hurtful.
Translation: it is TRUE, TO THE POINT, DEAD ON, COSMICALLY ACCURATE.
I’ll have to interlineate.
>Pianists are intellectuals and know-it-alls.
Sigh. One strives to be an intellectual and is accused of being a know-it-all. I guess some people didn’t stay in grade school long enough to know there’s a difference. Know-it-all beats don’t-know-any-of-it, anyway.
>They studied theory, harmony and composition in college.
What’s the problem here? The studying part? Sorry for showing you brass players up.
>Most are riddled with self-doubt. They are usually bald.
OW! This is really below the belt. I can’t decide which of these hurts more. I’ll plead guilty to baldness.
>They should have big hands, but often don’t.
I knew we’d hear from the piccolo section.
>As adolescents, they were social rejects.
It wasn’t that bad, really. Females, particularly singers, hang around the piano. (You do TOO envy that.)
>They go home after the gig and play with toy soldiers.
This one is an oddity from the Brahms biography, and weird or not we’re all grateful to be lumped in with him. Anyway, my mother felt that even toy soldiers were too dangerous…
>Pianists have a special love-hate relationship with singers.
Hate-hate. Unless you married one, in which case it becomes a yes-Dear relationship.
>If you talk to the piano player during a break, he will condescend.
He will condescend any time!
Yeah, I know—comedy is hard. I miss riddles like those all the other instruments and singers have, though. Here’s a challenge: please post any riddle-type pianist jokes in the comments section. If they’re TOO disgusting I reserve the right to yank them off, but I’d sure like to know what’s out there.