“Dad, can I call you later?”
“Why not call me dad?”
“Did you hear about the cheese factory in France that exploded?
There was nothing left but de Brie!”
STOP! Please just make them stop!
I don’t mean it. I love dad jokes. I love the way my kids put their fingers in their ears when I start telling them. I love to hear the groans begin as my captive audience, strapped into the back of the car, senses the gears slipping into reverse, which means I’ll say, “ah, this takes me back” for the 83rd time.
What makes a good dad joke?
The simple answer is that there is no such thing as a good dad joke, or at least not if you’re doing them right. Dad jokes are meant to be nuggets of cringe-inducing wordplay; simple, silly, mindless puns that bring a smile to the faces of dads and a grimace to the faces of their children.
They’re a kind of weaponised humour, because my children know very well that I’ll be trotting out bad dad jokes for as long as they remain under my roof. Just wait till my daughter brings her first boyfriend back (at the age of 27, if I have anything to do with it). “You look alright Dave/Ben/Brian/Fred,” I’ll say, as they nervously shake my hand. “But I suppose you must be at least half left.”
At that point Dave/Ben/Brian/Fred will run screaming from the house. Or at least that’s the plan.
Dad jokes: the science
Is there a serious side to dad jokes? Not really. But when experts discuss the phenomenon they tend to agree that bad jokes from good people are a positive thing, whatever the reaction of ungrateful, humourless offspring.
Research carried out by Professor Sam Shuster at Norwich University Hospital, and published in the British Medical Journal, showed that male humour tends to be more aggressive, and more belittling, than its female counterpart. That’s because it’s driven by testosterone.
But when men first become dads, testosterone drops, which may be why the jokes become more playful, silly, and awful. Or maybe it’s because the jokes are directed at small children, rather than blokes in a pub. Who knows?
There is a theory that dad jokes may help your child’s linguistic development, because they tend to centre on word play and – in their (slightly) more sophisticated form – the subversion of language for comedic purpose.
Dad jokes: playing for laughs
“Dad jokes are as important as cuddling. If you can’t be silly with your children then what’s wrong with you? It’s the one person or group you get to be an absolute dick with and get away with.
“One of my proudest moments was my son making up his own rubbish joke. I felt I’d achieved something. Humour is a universal bond, terrible or not.”
He’s undoubtedly right. Your kids may groan at your lame attempts at humour, but I bet they appreciate a silly, playful, clownish dad, at least some of the time.
What makes a great dad joke?
So what DOES makes a good one? Comedian Rich Vos (@RichVos) says it’s all down to mining your unique life as a dad:
“Dads have their own personal experiences, so to make it funny and original is the key. My kid had lice from school – my joke was that you feel bad as a parent making a 10-year-old sleep on the porch for four nights.”
Canadian actor and comedian @Andrew Phung explains the three fundamentals of a great dad joke:
1. The Jump In: A really good dad joke is inspired by someone else’s conversation. The dad is nearby, maybe a passenger in the conversation. In my mind Dad is off to the side, reading a paper, watching TV, on his phone, napping, etc.
They can be talking about anything, but the dad isn’t really a focal point of it. But, as they discuss that topic, dad pokes his head in, or “jumps in” with his “joke” or “take”. The element of surprise really adds to the dad-joke effectiveness and overall disappointment from others.
2. So Obvious It Hurts: A dad joke punch line needs to be so obvious to a point that a rational person wouldn’t make the joke. Another angle is that it needs to be so obvious that you thought of it and said in your head “that’s silly, no one should say this.”
But someone should say it, Dad! A good example is “Hey kids, you know what I think about Rap music? Add a “c” to the front and that’s what I think of it…ha ha CRAP music”. It’s so obvious that it’s bad and kind of hurts.
3. The Lonely Dad: The third element and in some ways the most important is that only dad can think it’s funny. Once the joke is delivered, Dad needs to immediately laugh at his own joke while others look at one another unsure of what just happened but all agreeing that it wan’t funny.
If others laugh, that’s a joke, that’s comedy, but if only dad laughs, it’s a dad-joke!”
So come on dads, put your shame aside and tell us your best (worst) dad joke? The best (worst) ones will be used to embarrass children up and down the land from now until eternity, again and again and again and…