When a dad joke walks into a bar, the room will likely fill with groans. These cringe-worthy jokes are often rooted in puns, and have become synonymous with dads, who frequently share them with their kids.
But what makes a dad joke, and why have these trite jokes become so popular? It turns out that a dreadful pun can be funny if delivered correctly, and with the right tone. A lot of factors come into play.
For one thing, dad jokes are often easier to deliver than other forms of humor. They’re the low-hanging fruit of comedy, requiring only a quick burst of wordplay and a few eye rolls to be hilarious. They also offer fathers a unique way to interact with their children, often at times when the child may be least expecting it.
In addition, when used to teasingly embarrass a child, dad jokes may serve a pedagogical function. By exposing their children to mild embarrassment in a playful manner, parents teach their children how to withstand minor attacks on their self-esteem and emotions without becoming overwhelmed or acting out. This can be especially useful for children who are just entering adolescence, a sensitive sociocultural processing period (Blakemore & Mills, 2014).
So next time you hear a dad joke, don’t roll your eyes—and don’t dismiss it as unfunny. Despite their ubiquity, bad dad jokes actually can be quite good—and they’re certainly better than some other types of comedy out there.