So I was flicking the radio dial as I was sat at the lights. I had been on BBC Radio 2, the mindless default station for our generation. Steve Wright was on. Wright has specialised in smug self-satisfaction for as long as I can remember but on the other hand he’s not Radio 1 nor is he the afternoon play on 4 with a lace antimacassar and a Rich Tea biscuit. But there are many, many moments with Wright when you have to leave the room; these most typically include passages where he interacts with a guest. Dishing out the usual fawning obsequiousness to some Hollywood actor plugging a film is one thing, but this afternoon he was feigning an interest in the musical direction of one Olly Murs, a cheery chappy, who, even by X-Factor winner standards, is quite terrible. I could suggest a musical direction for him alright: try singing upside down in the bath mate.
So I mindlessly listened to some R3 baroque music for a minute. It was coming to its end and naturally enough the presenter came on and then the next presenter came on and they started bantering. So they have this on Radio 3 now, I thought. Well, well (there would be few things that would be worse to have to put up with than Ken Bruce ‘bantering’ with the Welsh woman who does – or rather doesn’t do – the traffic [she can never get round to doing it for banter] were it not for the daily incursions of Chris Evans, Jeremy Vine and John Humphries into my ear). This Radio 3 banter was of a slightly higher order than Ken Bruce, however, and finished with the new presenter saying that he was to be interviewing this viola player later and had been warned (by the viola player herself) that if he wanted to try any viola jokes ‘they’d better be good ones’. This opened up a whole new world to me. I never even knew that there were viola jokes, much less that there would be qualitative distinctions within the oeuvre. Here’s one I can make some sense of:
Why don’t violists play hide and seek?
Because no one will look for them.
And here is a link to a whole symphony of viola humour. It seems that viola players have a reputation for being failed violinists, that the viola makes a racket, and that, in general, if you met a violist at a party you’d avoid them as if they were Steve Wright in the Afternoon.