In the original song, Leonard Cohen clearly laughs when singing about the monkey and the plywood violin. It can be heard here.

However, in live shows (e.g. in London) he's not laughing at that point in the song.

The only reference I've found online to the laughter is here:

The items are the monkey and the plywood violin. A monkey is what an organ-grinder needs (remember an organ-grinder isn't a proper musician, but simply turns a handle that makes the pianolla play); a plywood violin is a toy. Thus, the items that have been sent to the singer are thinly-veiled insults (hence the hollow laugh)...

Which makes total sense, but this does not explain why in the live show he's not laughing. Can anyone find any explanation to this? Or think of a good reason?

1 Answer 1


Perhaps because to laugh the first time may be spontaneous but to laugh every time feels contrived, and laughter come across better as the former than the latter.

  • Well it crossed my mind too, but since that first time is recorded in a studio, it's not really spontaneous. If anything, it's the other way around: live show is more spontaneous. Sep 25, 2020 at 19:50
  • 1
    @ShadowWizardisEarForYou not necessarily - Adele said "just the guitar, 'kay?" which was picked up by her microphone before they properly started the song, and they left that in. Oct 4, 2020 at 17:16

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