View Full Version : "Ukuleles are like puppy dogs..." Now Wait Just a Minute Here!

11-27-2010, 01:16 PM
I'm kind of torn in how I feel about something that was said last night as I was getting up on stage at an open mic night. Now, I should start by saying that the emcee intended absolutely no offense, and perhaps I am making something out of a minor thing just to raise a point... but I'd like to get some feedback and opinions from the UU community.

So, after noting how happy he is to me, he says, ". . .you've got that cute...y'know ukuleles are like puppy dogs, aren't they? They just make you smile!" Note my jaw drop in the video at the word "cute"...

See, yes, I don't disagree with him here. Ukulele's DO just make people smile...but at the same time, who takes puppy dogs seriously? Sometimes, I want to be taken seriously. Maybe I'm just having a personal dilemma, but I ask you: How do you feel when someone reacts to the ukulele as if it were akin to a puppy dog? Do you lick their face or growl at them?


11-27-2010, 01:46 PM
Well, if I'm going to be absolutely honest, I'll have to admit that I've drawn a short series of comics on this very subject. Before you all leap on me and try to kill me, please consider the fact that the comics are making fun not of the ukulele itself but of how people tend to react to it. I don't think it says anything about the uke itself that people tend to equate it to a puppy or think of it as a tiny, adorable guitar. Also, I would rather have the "Awwww, how cute!" reaction than the contemptuous "You play the ukulele? Oooooookay, then" that one of my students sent my way last week. At least the people who see the uke as a musical puppy are approaching it with a relatively positive attitude. They may very well come to take it more seriously once they hear what it can actually do.

If you're interested, the relevant sequence of (five) comics starts here (http://www.masseycollege.ca/alumni/westofbathurst/westofbathurst101103.html).

11-27-2010, 02:02 PM
Kem - those were hilarious!

Joko - I wouldn't read too much into it. Sounded like he was trying to complement you and the instrument - sometimes non-players don't know the buttons exist, let alone that they might be pressing them.

Hey, I'd rather play a puppy dog than a cat...or bagpipes!

BTW, how drunk did some dude have to be to look at a cow's udder and wonder if he could make music by blowing into it? :)


11-27-2010, 02:10 PM
Kem... how absolutely appropriate your comics were. Right down to the puppy dog reference. Those were hilarious! Tell me the uke did not get thrown into the fires of Mordor.

Hippie Dribble
11-27-2010, 02:14 PM
Hi Joko

hmmmm...mixed feelings about this one.

I do agree with much of what Kem just said. It is a little frustrating that the ukulele in some quarters is still associated with pure novelty stuff, and not taken seriously as a musical instrument. But I do think that perception is changing.

From personal experience, I found that initial reactions were like those you describe, but I've found, over time, these perceptions gradually change. The other side of the equation too, is that I often like to play novelty songs on the uke for people, so to some degree I'm perpetuating that stereotype myself. How best to balance this? Play 'em a Lyle Ritz or Jake Shimabukuro DVD? Play them a nice jazz-tinged instrumental and watch the eyebrows raise!

Whatever the reaction, in the end it's about the happiness it brings to us as players. We can't let tunnel visioned perceptions of our beloved instrument get the better of us. I love the uke for the pleasure it brings me. If others get it, fine. if they don't, fine. I'm gonna keep playing while there's still breath in me. And in defense of the "puppy dog" label...that's a big reason why I love the uke: because it is cute, it is cuddly, it is loveable, diminutive and humble.

To play uke is a statement in itself, almost an anti-statement, saying "I don't really care what you think". C'mon Joko, you know you want to give 'em that big sloppy lick! *woof* *woof* :)

11-27-2010, 02:21 PM
Kem... how absolutely appropriate your comics were. Right down to the puppy dog reference. Those were hilarious! Tell me the uke did not get thrown into the fires of Mordor.

You raise a valid point here. Would you fling the One Uke into the Fiery Chasms of Mount Doom in order to save Middle Earth?

11-27-2010, 02:33 PM
Eugene.. you got me. That is part of the appeal. Maybe I'm trying to play my cake and eat it too.

Kem... Hell no! I charm Sauron with a rendition of "Somewhere Over the Pits of Mordor"

11-27-2010, 04:17 PM
Joko, I wouldn't worry, it was a great performance anyway. And, let's be honest, as much as we uke enthusiasts would love for our instrument to be taken seriously, it rarely is. Even though the uke has been showing up in popular music, it's not the main instrument of any band on pop radio, and when it does show up, it's as a novelty. The uke is never taken seriously. Which is perfectly okay with me, when no one expects anything out of your uke, you can get up and blow them all away! :D

11-27-2010, 06:45 PM
I wouldn't take it too personally. It didn't seem to me that he was trying to insult you.

Chris Tarman
11-27-2010, 06:46 PM
You raise a valid point here. Would you fling the One Uke into the Fiery Chasms of Mount Doom in order to save Middle Earth?

I might throw one uke in... as long as I got to choose which one and still got to keep all the others!

Uncle Leroy
11-27-2010, 07:35 PM
It is our responsibility to educate the masses via the Uke.

Harold O.
11-28-2010, 05:56 AM
In the movie The Cotton Club, Gregory Hines' character is a dancer at the club and he's talking out loud one night about trying to beat up the bouncer at the club. One of Hines' bruiser buddies tells him to stick with what he knows and the situation will be dealt with. Hines concludes by saying, "I'm going to kill him with my tap shoes."

Point being, you gotta run what you brung. You're up there to entertain. So entertain. If you get a five song set, play a silly song, a love song, a Hawaiian song, a familiar oldie, and something more "serious" to show the range you and the ukulele are capable of. But mostly, entertain and have a good time. If you are having fun, the crowd will as well and you'll spread more good for the ukulele community. The ignorance will be dealt with.