Don’t think of dad jokes as lame. Think of them as weaponized anti-humour designed to prepare children for the eye-rolling realities of adult life.
That’s according to the latest research, though unlike a corduroy pillowcase it hasn’t made any headlines.
To understand the dad joke, writes Marc Hye-Knudsen in his paper Dad Jokes and the Deep Roots of Fatherly Teasing, you need to examine both the joke and the dad (because if it’s told by someone else, it’s a faux pa.)
The joke is generally a pun, a form previously ranked as the most middling variety of wit because it highlights a similarity between words but not ideas. If your horse is named Mayo and sometimes Mayo neighs, you’ve set your listener up for something substantial but haven’t delivered.
Current humour theory is big on benign violation of norms — something is out of place, but relax, it’s OK, we can laugh about it. The dad joke is a pun so inoffensive, it barely grazes the norms and thus doesn’t qualify as humour. But by breaking the rule by not breaking the rule, the dad joke leaps into anti-humour. Which is as remarkable as a dry-erase board.
In fact, the dad joke does offend a particular audience: The easily embarrassed adolescent. Not only is their father telling a bad joke, but he’s directing it at them as though they would actually appreciate it! As if! And the father is not sorry; even if the joke were told in dots and dashes, it wouldn’t qualify as re-morse code.
Now take the dad, please. Hye-Knudsen argues that while mothers do the majority of just about every parental duty in a traditional family, the one area where dads excel across the animal kingdom is rough-and-tumble play. Verbally, that means teasing. So while the mom might share silly puns with the seven-year-old, she’s more likely to cut it out when she hears the 11-year-old groan. But like a cowboy finding his way at night using a saddle light, the dad just keeps going.
Why does he do this? Because he sees it as his job, as one overly articulate father explains, so his kids “will gradually build up a strong immunity to judgement and embarrassment, and actually feel empowered to be themselves.” And so that when the world tells your child to stop acting like a flamingo, your child can put their foot down.
Quick quips; lightning
“I bet your father spent the first year of your life throwing rocks at the stork.”
— Groucho Marx
“All a child can expect is that its father be present at the conception.”
— Joe Orton
“My mother hated me. She once took me to an orphanage and told me to mingle.”
— Phyllis Diller
In the field testing of Get Wit Quick No. 102, the 7-year old asked if I really had a horse named Mayo and the 10-year-old wondered if he’d ever ketchup. Shout out to all the fathers wondering what the opposite of in is. When you walk by what’s left of a cut-down tree, tell your kids you’re stumped. Elements of Wit: Mastering The Art of Being Interesting is the cure for dad jokes, or is at least full of cured dad jokes. If you know that the opposite of ladyfingers are Mentos, tap the❤️ below.