Chapter 2 Accordion Jokes: A Folklorist’s View
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2 Accordion Jokes A Folklorist’s View richard march How many accordions can you fit in a phone booth? One hundred and one, if you chop them up fine enough. What’s the difference between an onion and an accordion? People shed tears when you chop up an onion. What’s the difference between a concertina and an accordion? An accordion takes longer to burn. What is a bassoon good for? Kindling for an accordion fire. If you throw an accordion, a banjo, and a bagpipe off the Empire State Building, which one hits the ground first? Who cares? A friend of mine spent the night in a rough section of town. He had to park out on the street, and he left his accordion in the back seat. The next morning he was shocked to see the car’s window was smashed. He looked in and discovered that now there were two accordions in the back seat. Peopletelljokesalmosteverywhere,andasafolkloristtrainedinthe1970s,tape recorder in hand, I collected them at parties, at work, and in taverns. Of course, nowadaysthejoketellersaremoreactivethaneveratcollectingjokesthemselves, usingtheInternet.IGoogled“accordionjokes”andquicklyfoundseveralversions of the preceding jokes. Jokes denigrating the accordion and a few other musical 40 richard march instrumentsseemtobewidespread.Thecommonthemeofsuchjokesisthatthey expressanintensehostilitytotheaccordion—itoughttobesmashed,choppedup, or burned. Owning an accordion is such a misfortune, it seems, that only having two of them could be worse! Aside from jokes gleefully cheering the destruction of accordions, there are these that emphasize accordion music’s unpopularity: This accordionist plays a New Year’s Eve gig, and afterward the club owner says, “Great job! Can you play again next year?” The accordionist replies, “Sure. Can I leave my instrument here until then?” What do you call an accordionist with a beeper? An optimist. What is the accordionist’s most requested song? Play “Far, Far Away.” What do an accordionist and a true music lover have in common? Absolutely nothing! Why did the chicken cross the road? To get away from the accordion concert. A couple of jokes combine the music’s unpopularity with an extension of the gleeful destruction from the instrument to the accordionist: What’s the difference between a road-killed skunk and a road-killed accordionist? The skid marks in front of the skunk. What do you call twenty-five accordionists buried up to their necks in sand? Not enough sand. While these jokes all indicate a popular distaste for squeezeboxes and their players, the mention of bassoons, banjos, and bagpipes in some of the jokes suggeststhattheaccordionisn ’ttheonlyinstrumenttobethebuttofthistypeofjoke. Indeed, when I Googled “bagpipe and banjo jokes,” there were even more jokes devotedtotheseinstruments.Itwasnotsurprisingthatfrequentlytherewerethe identical joke motifs—the chopped up and burned banjos and bagpipes and their optimistic players with a beeper. Most of the time you could fill in the blank with an instrument’s name and the joke still was coherent. Only a few of the abundant jokes are instrument-specific, referring to physical characteristics such as the accordion’s bellows: 41 Accordion Jokes What is an accordion good for? Learning to fold a road map. What do you call a group of topless female accordionists? Ladies in Pain. Why are politicians good accordion players? They’re used to playing off both ends against the middle. I found even fewer jokes that refer to the structure or shape of the banjo or the bagpipes: Why did the Boy Scout take up the banjo? It makes a good canoe paddle. An octopus came into a bar where a lot of musicians hang out and said to the bartender, “I’ll bet fifty dollars that I can play any musical instrument in the house.” So a guitarist handed him a guitar, and he played it just like Segovia. A trumpeter handed him a trumpet, and he played it just like Miles Davis. Finally, a Scotsman handed him a bagpipe. The octopus started poking around at it but didn’t play it. “Aha,” said the Scotsman. “You can’t play it.” “Play it?” retorted the octopus. “I was trying to have sex with it, if I could figure out how to take off its pajamas.” Thoughonlyafewjokesrefertothespecificshapesoftheinstruments,anumber of jokes are based on the notion that the sounds they produce are horrible. I found the following jokes applied to banjo, bagpipes, and/or accordion: How is a cat like an accordion? They both make the same sort of noises when you squeeze them. What is the difference between an accordion and a South American macaw? One makes loud obnoxious squawks, and the other is a bird. There...