Dad jokes are the cheesy puns and one-liners that fathers around the world can’t help but tell. These corny jokes make kids laugh and adults groan.
They might seem like the least-surprising type of humor, but it turns out that dad jokes are more than just bad jokes. They reveal a lot about how humour works and about the way that we view our relationships with our fathers and sons.
A key feature of dad jokes is that they are often so unfunny that they become funny. This is because they violate the norms of joke-telling by appearing so lame that they are funny in and of themselves. In other words, they function as a kind of weaponised anti-humour.
Another thing that makes dad jokes so special is the way they connect with a long-standing tradition of fathers playing with their children. This is a behaviour that we see across a range of non-human primates and has been shown to have positive effects on the development of the brain.
The emergence of dad jokes also seems to be a response to modern social pressures to be more ‘present’ with our children. This, combined with the association of dad jokes with fathers, may explain why these bad jokes are so popular. Despite their groans and eye-rolls, the dad joke is a valuable part of a tradition of playful teasing that has been going on for millennia. We should all be grateful for that.