kbsitegraphicexc01One of those astonishing conversations I would have with folkies, back when I was working that side of the street, was when one of them would tell me that the casual bigotry that is behind some humour is essential for those jokes to work.  Oh they would do backflips and handsprings in order to get that little piece of nonsense to be true.  I specifically remember the banjo-god telling me that racially bigoted humour could only work without being offensive if you took out the specific people insulted and put in an imaginary race.  I didn’t have the heart to suggest to him that the very idea of race is considered an imaginary concept in science, but such was my time wandering around the peoples of social significance.

One odd little backwater of humour is musician jokes.  Which is only really funny to my ear when it’s a musician telling a joke about players of their own instrument.  And of course, because viola players will have heard every viola joke there is, the one they remember will be scathingly funny.  I’ve probably told you about being in a shuttle van full of musicians who each told their favourite joke about their own kind.  Shortest bus ride I’ve ever taken, laughing hard the whole way.

But there’s a better, kinder class of musician joke.  Somehow telling it at our own expense, and yet riffing off both our experience and our pre-conceived notions around that instrument.  An example?  Well, okay.  So I walk into a session the other day, typical assortment of lots of guitars and one or two mando-things, I haul my upright bass around the corner to see what’s up, and there at the other end of the room is another upright bassist, already in progress.  Most excellent, although it’s a little like showing up to a party wearing the same outfit.  Only louder.  The other player sees me, I see them, our eyes meet, and without thinking, surrounded as we are by umpteen guitars, I say, “Oh good, there’s two of us, now we have them outnumbered.”

No vulgar slams, no rehearsing bigotry in gentler guise.  Just a touch of self-deprecation, and a slightly skewed world-view.  And I am no expert on these things.  So how hard can it be?

But first, the job is to believe it is possible.