The 12-inch pianist

Today’s Scenes From a Multiverse:

Size doesn’t matter. Or: Size matters. In any case, an allusion to an old joke.

Wikipedia on the bar joke, with the relevant part boldfaced:

A bar joke is a very common and basic type of joke. The basic syntax of this type of joke is “A man walks into a bar and <something happens here>”. The initial perception of the joke is that a man is walking into a bar to have a drink, but this only lasts a few seconds as the punchline is quickly uttered. This joke has gained an incredible amount of variants over the years. It is often used by comedians and people telling jokes to their friends.

Variants: The bar joke has a large number of variations. The types of variations include puns or word plays (the man walks into a bar and pulls out a tiny piano and a 12-inch pianist, followed by any number of different punchlines; or man with dyslexia walked into a bra), or replace the man with woman, a famous person, people of various occupations, animals (a duck walks into a bar, orders a beer, and tells the bartender, put it on my bill) or inanimate objects (a sandwich walks into a bar, orders a beer, and is told by the bartender, we don’t serve food here). Sometimes the unexpected happens: “A man walks into a bar. Ouch!”

Another major variant involves several men walking into the bar together, often with related professions, such as “a priest, a minister and a rabbi.” In effect, this is a merger between the “bar joke” and jokes involving priests, ministers and rabbis (or Buddhist monks, etc.) in other settings. This form has become so well known that it is the subject of at least one joke about the popularity of the joke itself: “A priest, a minister, and a rabbi walk into a bar. The bartender looks at them and says, ‘What is this, a joke?'”

Here’s one version of the joke, from commenter Twip (1/19/09) on an xkcd forum (I’ll get to xkcd in a moment):

There’s an old joke that goes:

There is this guy who walks into a bar and notices a man 12 inches tall playing the piano. He asks what it is all about and the barman tells him he’ll tell him later.

So he asks the barman for a drink and the barman says, ‘Before you get your drink you get to rub the magic beer bottle and make a wish.’

‘OK,’ says the guy.

He goes to the bottle and rubs it and, boom, out comes a genie, who says, ‘You have one wish.’

The man thinks about it and then wishes for a million bucks. A cloud of smoke fills the room and when the smoke clears there are a million ducks crowding the bar.

He tells the barman, ‘Hey, I didn’t want a million ducks.’

The barman replies, ‘You think I wanted a 12-inch pianist?’

Illustrated on the site:

Played with in a cartoon by Matt Kahn:

Alluded to in this RotteneCard:

(A merkin is a pubic wig. I don’t know a joke involving monkeys and merkins, however.)

Also alluded to by Bart Simpson:

Finally, magnificently reversed in an xkcd (#532):

So the guy asked the genie for a 12-inch pianist — and got a 12-inch penis instead. Size apparently matters to the woman.

2 Responses to “The 12-inch pianist”

  1. Jeff and Akbar explore their sexuality | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] A blog mostly about language « The 12-inch pianist […]

  2. Robert Coren Says:

    It took me a moment to get the central joke because I say /pjænɪst/, like any literate person.

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