Bad Dad Jokes

Essay

Groan. A group of kids in the back seat of a minivan participate in an uncoordinated but remarkably synchronized eye roll at the exact moment their father finishes off another corny quip that lands uncomfortably into the airspace of his unamused teenagers. The Dad joke has made another unwelcome visit to a land where adolescents rule and where puberty and disassociation trumps any reasonable attempt at humor. Unless the humor is from someone who is cool. Dad, unfortunately, is not cool.

The Dad joke can come in many forms, usually from family members but also from friends, neighbors, teachers, and the occasional well-meaning but poll-driven politician. But Dads best signify the anatomy of the occasional bad joke. A joke that is almost always met with a groan with the exception of the one or two weird people in the room who aren’t afraid to sneak in a good chuckle and lift up the ego of the joke teller.

Before Dad had a captive audience of children or a partner that enjoyed the silliness that helped bring them together into institutionalized marriage, he was the Bachelor. Bachelor dad learned that humor offered a disarming, connective magic that let the opposite sex know, “hey, I’m delightful and safe.” Contrary to some Men’s magazines, oversized pectorals and raw definition while seemingly attractive only offers short-term gains (I’m talking about sex) when humor and charisma are left out of the equation. So, over time the Bachelor dad finds a formula for humor that works and feels comfortable that has less potential to fill Madison Square Garden but makes him and the ones he loves feel pretty good.

But whither the charisma of Bachelor dad all grown up as Dad in a world filled with responsibility, routine, and respect?

His observations and ideas continue to shuffle about until a delightful thought emerges that must be shared. Yet no one really cares. So after a few jokes bomb, the thoughts stay in his head occasionally making an appearance every few months when he’s willing to take a small risk because there’s a good chance this one will land well. And maybe if someone is willing to laugh, he can feel a little young and spirited like he once was before minivans and water cooler banter.