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Polka Dork

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"Let's polka!"
Jon Arbuckle, Garfield

A character's coolness factor is often demonstrated by what music they prefer—whether it's the popular guy who likes popular bands, someone out of touch who still listens to disco (or older music), or a complete dork who likes polka. This trope is about that dork.

He probably also plays the accordion. Since the accordion, and polka, are often associated in the US with an aged demographic, it's certainly not going to be cool for a young person there to admit to enjoying them.

Not to be confused with an Accordion Man. Compare to Quirky Ukulele. Contrast with French Accordion and Accordion to Most Sailors.

Note: In recent years, especially with the popularity of "Weird Al" Yankovic, who made this part of his comedic persona, and Mexican norteño music, as well as the advent of Steampunk as well as "nerd" culture, there has been somewhat of a reversal of this trend (even Christina Hendricks proudly plays the accordion!) and it borders somewhat on the verge of becoming a Dead Horse Trope.


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  • Coors had a commercial where the spokesman cleared out a bar by playing polka music on the jukebox. They pulled the ad after a Polish-American group complained it was offensive and culturally insensitive to Poles.
  • Pepsi had an ad in 2000 that advertised earning points from their products that could be redeemed for free music downloads, set to polka music. The implication was that listening to their artists was a far better option.

    Anime and Manga 
  • In the original Japanese dub of the Soul Eater anime, Maka is laughed at by the others when it's revealed she's a fan of polka music (it never comes up again, since it's just meant to be idle chatter while Chrona's having a crisis of conscience). The English dub changes it to Country.
  • Not surprisingly, polka is a favorite of Poland from Hetalia: Axis Powers. Like, totally.

  • Offbeat comedienne Judy Tenuta's stage personality was that of a quirky accordion player crossed with a brash and bawdy "love goddess".
  • Pete Barbutti, famed for his "tuning the piano stool" bit, has an entire routine based on the "cordeen," including a lengthy joke about an accordion teacher who turns out to be a complete fraud.

    Fan Works 
  • In A.A. Pessimal's Discworld adventure Strandpiel, Assassin Johanna Smith-Rhodes briefly considers mass inhumation when a group of musicians crash the baptismal party for her daughter, armed with accordions, and start playing old Vondalaander tunes to dance to. But being in a mellow mood, she shrugs and lets them get on with it. note 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Airplane II: The Sequel: When the moonbase commander is shown shuttle-pilot Ted Striker's record, it's far worse than he feared: it's an LP of Striker's favorite polka hits, complete with a cover picture of Striker playing an accordion.
  • Arizona Dream: Suicidal Yandere Grace, played with a smoldering pout by Lili Taylor, seems to feel it's her mission in life to play The Streets of Cairo on her accordion until she's driven everybody else in the house bonkers. It's her favorite passive-aggressive weapon, whether it's to make herself busy when somebody else wants to scold her, or appear innocent right after her latest act of sabotage.
  • In Fargo, there is a shot of a polka band poster in a teenager's room. It's not as much a comment on the teenager, as much as one on Minnesotans in general being dorky, or at least square.
  • Good Morning, Vietnam: Air Force DJ Adrian Cronauer's nemesis, Lt. Hauk, firmly believes US' soldiers' morale will be boosted by three hours of polka music in the mornings... when Cronauer is taken off the air, GI's are dismayed by his uber-square replacement, and morale duly plummets.
  • In Groundhog Day, "Pennsylvania Polka" is playing in Punxsutawney town square on the morning of Groundhog Day. All the locals love it, and Rita's getting into it. When she tells Phil that the locals have been partying like this all night long, he just replies, "They're hicks, Rita." And, after hearing said polka for the umpteenth time, even a kind-hearted viewer might be inclined to agree with Phil.
  • In Home Alone, Kevin's mother's desperate journey to get back home to her son—amidst more conventional transportation options being booked full for the holidays—was aided in its last leg (from Scranton, Pennsylvania to Chicago) by Gus Polinsky, "The Polka King of the Midwest" and his band, who planned to get back to Milwaukee by rental van. He asked her "You don't mind riding with a bunch of polka bums?" and she indicated she was grateful for the ride. The band played polkas the whole way back to Chicago.
    Gus Polinski: I had a few hits a few years ago. That's why I just... "Polka, Polka, Polka"? "Twin Lakes Polka"? "Yamahoozie Polka," a.k.a. "Kiss Me Polka"? "Polka Twist"?''
    Kate McCallister: These are songs?
    Gus Polinski: Yeah. Yeah, we... some fairly big hits for us.
  • In My Favorite Year, "Anyone who plays the accordion professionally" is on Benjy's list of people who cannot be funny. When K.C. completely muffs the joke he gave her to tell, he hands her money. When she asks what's it for, he replies "Accordion lessons".
  • Downplayed in The Polka King: Jan Lewan is obviously called this by his domineering mother-in-law, but he's respected and even considered a celebrity by the other people in town, with a steady influx of requests to play polka at parties and selling his music. This stands out in very stark (and tragic) contrast to his attempts to live beyond his financial capacity and the stupid thing he does to fund it.
  • In Revenge of the Nerds, Judy, one of the Omega Mu sisters, scrapes out a rendition of "So I Say I Gotta Be Me" on the accordion. It's not quite the life of the party, but it's almost the death of it.
  • Weird: The Al Yankovic Story: Inverted. Polka is (satirically) portrayed as a hip and rebellious counterculture in the film. Al's father is convinced that accordions are the Devil's squeezebox, going as far as to assault an accordion salesman and destroy Al's when he gets one. As a teenager, Al hides polka mags in his textbooks and goes to "polka parties" where he jams out on an accordion.

  • The resident nerd Waldo Butters in The Dresden Files uses "Polka will never die!" as his Battle Cry.
    • That being said, he uses his polka getup—which includes a wearable bass drum—to help Dresden pull off a magic feat that impresses the Erlking.
  • In Discworld, accordion playing is one of those things that will attract Lord Vetinari's displeasure, as well as attracting mockery from ordinary Anhk-Morporkians. When The Disc's first Newspaper is set up in The Truth they cover the Ankh-Morpork folk music group and note:
    Sacharissa: Twenty-six people are mentioned by name.
    De Worde: As accordionists?
    Sacharissa: Yes.
    De Worde: Won't they complain?
    Sacharissa: They didn't have to play the accordion.
  • From The Devil's Dictionary:
    Accord (n): Harmony.
    Accordion (n): An instrument in harmony with the sentiments of an assassin.

    Live Action TV 
  • Bernard Black in an episode of Black Books once tried to serenade a woman by playing the accordion. Given his usual social awkwardness plus an exceptional heatwave giving him delirium, the end result naturally blows up in his face.
    "I can't play the guitar. I can't play this either, but you can't tell."
  • Ghoulardi's disdain for Parma was based in part on their love of polka.
  • Night Court: When Dan's parents come for a visit, the reveal that in his youth he was an accordion player in a polka band. This embarrasses Dan greatly.
  • Arnold J. Rimmer in Red Dwarf counts polka music as an art form, albeit not one on a par with his all-consuming love of the Hammond organ and easy-listening music played thereon. Rimmer's dork status is well documented.
  • In the episode "Hollywood Babylon" of Supernatural, a poster is shown for a movie called Hollywood Polka Party with a lot of the cast playing accordions. The poster are lampooning bad Hollywood films and include other fake movies like The Revenge of the Monster Truck.
  • In the TV series Family Matters, ubernerd Steve Urkel loves to polka and plays the accordion.
  • SCTV parodied "champagne music" shows such as The Lawrence Welk Show with a pair of brothers named Yosh and Stan Schmenge (John Candy and Eugene Levy) from the fictional Baltic state of Lutonia who hosted a polka show (the audience consisting of immigrant senior citizens). Their segment occasionally also featured the "Lemon Twins" (there were three of them), a parody of Welk's "Lennon Sisters".
  • Everybody Loves Raymond features Cousin Gerard, the epitome of this trope. He even plays accordion at Ray and Debra's vow renewal.
  • In Jessie, Luke of all people turns out to be this in the episode "Panic Attack Room". He goes to the panic room in private to play an accordion set, and is quite embarrassed when others find out about it.
    Ravi: I am telling the whole school! Even band geeks would want to throw you in a locker.
    Stuart: The accordion is the pocket protector of instruments. And that's coming from a guy who rocks the piccolo.
    Jessie: Luke plays the accordion! Nerd alert!

  • Lawrence Welk. While wildly popular with the older crowd, his music was considered square and dorky by the younger generation and even by his contemporaries and has often been parodied. (Example: Stan Freberg's "Wun'erful, Wun'erful!"). Even in polka circles Welk was considered considered kind of bland, since he played the more staid German-influenced polka style, as opposed to the livelier Slovenian style favored by stars like "America's Polka King" Frankie Yankovic.
  • Used as a signature Running Gag by "Weird Al" Yankovic, who does polka versions of popular music; nearly every one of his studio albums features a track of over a dozen pop music hits set to polka, and he's done original polkas of contemporary topics such as Pokémon and Hamilton. Needless to say, Al is highly skilled with the accordion, as he's been playing since the age of seven. This started when a traveling musician came to his family's house selling music lessons (either accordion or guitar), and his parents chose accordion so there would be two world-famous accordion-playing Yankovics besides Frankie (who they weren't actually related to).
  • Used as a gag by Da Yoopers occasionally, usually with Jim "Hoolie" DeCaire dressing in nerdy clothes. He also plays a nerdy lead in "Desperation Polka", about a nerd who is so desperate that he dates (and marries) a fat ugly woman.
  • Averted with Doctor Steel; he played the accordion and was pretty damn cool. Although definitely quirky.
  • The Klipwerf Boerorkes, very popular in South Africa, are a group of musicians, average age about fifty, who play instrumental versions of Afrikaner music, and whose act inescapably involves a lot of polka music. Sometimes they achieve the double by playing it on accordions. What can stop it from being unbearably cheesy is that the best of it carries a sort of infectious joy. Try this.
  • When Banda El Recodo, which plays a Mexicanized form of polka called banda sinaloense, premiered in Europe, nobody could believe that this was what cool people in Sinaloa listened.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Garfield's owner Jon Arbuckle likes polka music and he also plays accordion. He is perennially shown to be about as unhip as someone can be. In one comic, his idea of getting "wild" was shouting "LET'S POLKA!" while putting on an impossibly tacky suit. The series has taken so many pot shots at the accordion that real-life accordion enthusiasts have actually gotten pissed off.
    Jon: I framed a picture of my hero, Cyrillys Damian, inventor of the accordion.
    Jon: Just before his execution.
    Garfield: There is justice in the world.
  • Several early Peanuts strips have Schroeder cringing at the popularity of polka music among less sophisticated listeners. Despite being a virtuoso classical pianist before being old enough to go to kindergarten, he even lost a talent contest to a guy who "played the accordion real fast."


  • In a song from the musical The Will Rogers Follies, Will explains the different levels of show business, from the "big time" down to the "small time." The only thing lower than small time? "Accordion players."
  • The musical Bandstand features this exchange:
    Donny: You know the difference between an accordion and Hitler?
    Davy: Nope.
    Donny: One perpetrated years of oppression and humiliation on the Polish people. And the other's Hitler.

    Web Animation 

    Western Animation 
  • Animaniacs:
    • Used in "Good Idea, Bad Idea" skit. Good idea: Playing the accordion at a polka festival. Bad idea: Playing the accordion anywhere else.
    • In one episode, Slappy Squirrel's quiet meadow is colonized by the Woodstock hippies. Slappy takes the stage armed with an accordion and announces into the mike: "Hey, everybody! Let's polka!" Not even Chirping Crickets remain to listen.
  • In Biker Mice from Mars, polka music is used to subdue Modo's bike Lil' Hoss.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Cheese Sandwich, voiced by Weird Al, is essentially him in pony form. Accordion-playing polka music pony.
    • Pinkie Pie. She carries a huge one-man band around on her back and the Cheese Sandwich episode points out how similar she and Cheese are.
  • In Phineas and Ferb, resident nerd Baljeet has mentioned going to polka lessons. His 2nd Dimension counterpart, Dr. Baljeet, briefly plays the accordion for a gag.
  • Doug: Vice Principal Bone has an impressive collection of yodeling trophies. He once punished a student by making him polish them all. His love for polka is played for laughs and makes him look like a total square to his students. Kind of subverted when the kids' favorite rock band The Beets works yodeling into one of their songs.
  • Another Weird Al shout out was Wreck-Gar of Transformers: Animated, where he was treated as a bit of a loser and a simpleton, and his decision to break out an accordion and play a polka for no reason was not taken very well by neighborhood Grumpy Old Man Ratchet.
  • The Garfield Show: One episode describes Jon as one. Garfield considers the accordion as the world's second worst instrument.note  The episode also features a garbageman saying he took that job because it brings more respect than playing an accordion.
  • The Cleveland Show has Cleveland attempting to sabotage the popularity of Kenny West by setting him up in a polka band with his dorky son Jr and other outcast musicians. Subverted as Kenny is so cool he manages to give polka mass appeal by giving it a hip hop twist.
  • The second California Raisins animated special combines this with Disco Dan. The Raisins are trying to make a comeback and enlist the help of a devious manager, who among other things convinces them that Disco Polka is "the hottest new craze". The result? "Stand up everybody, it's the Disco Polka Man!"

    Real Life 
  • During the Continuation War of 1941-44, the Finnish army, already respected and feared by the Russians, added an extra-dangerous weapon to the armoury. In the fighting around Viipuri, a Finnish city captured and annexed by Russia in the Winter War of 1939-40 and recaptured by the Finns in 1941, the Russians attempted to defend the area with experimental radio-controlled mines. The Finns realised the radio frequencies controlling the weapons could be scrambled by counter-broadcasting. They chose to play a polka tune, Säkkijärven Polkka, on an eternally repeating loop. For six months straight. The effect this had on the Red Army is not recorded.