"Many players facetiously perpetuate the myth of the incompetent violist and consequently are possibly the worst perpetrators (and, I suspect, originators) of jokes. They are one way of enlivening our sometimes rather prosaic professional existence. Life in that grey area in front of the conductor can do with brightening up, and the quantity of jokes at our expense partly compensates for the paucity of good tunes allocated to the violas - they provide a certain amount of notoriety, however spurious.
You see, the viola still suffers from something of an identity crisis. Contrary to popular conception of the instrument, it's not "just a big fiddle", and its range is a fifth lower than the violin, and not (according to the jibe) "as far as you can kick it".
Although the viola and viola-players may be unjustly maligned, occasionally something happens whcih fuels the fires of mythology. Some years ago, during a trip to Belfast, a viola-player left his instrument unattended. On his return he was horrified to discover that the suspect package had been blown up by the security forces in a controlled explosion."