How to Deliver the Perfect ‘Dad Joke’
As a society we have come a long way in preparing men for the challenges of fatherhood, from the emotional and physical demands of dealing with sleep deprivation, down to the logistical challenges of changing a diaper. Still, research has shown than many soon-to-be-fathers are still feeling ill-equipped in one key area of fatherhood — namely, the ability to construct and deliver a good ‘Dad Joke.’
Many fathers, who take the other challenges of fatherhood in their stride are struggling with this one key aspect. Take father-of-three, Desmond,* for example. “I can feed kids, clean kids and manage kid’s behavior but I feel embarrassed that I can’t seem to put together a good one-liner,” confesses Desmond, “I just don’t know where to go for help.”
Desmond’s plight is an all too familiar one. Gary* is a new Dad who, just like Desmond, struggles with Dad Jokes. “It’s as if, when you become a Dad, you’re just expected to know how to make terrible jokes that no one else will find funny except you. I know that, as a Dad, I’m supposed to be able to do this. Like, it’s supposed to come naturally.”
These fathers both requested that their names be changed for this article, for their own protection. Who could blame them? There is a certain stigma attached to ‘Dad Joke Dysfunction’ as it’s now being labeled. It’s no laughing matter. Some Dads just can’t seem to make a Dad Joke, no matter how hard they try.
“It’s just another gender stereotype that men have to live with,” Says Gary. “It’s like Dads are expected to be able to know how to change a flat tire, fix things around the house, and deliver a well-timed Dad Joke on cue.”
It’s Time To Speak Openly
Sadly, Desmond and Gary are not unique. Their thoughts echo the sentiment of many fathers, and it’s time to have an honest, open conversation. Too many men are suffering in silence, ashamed to admit that their sense of humor has not adjusted to the demands of fatherhood.
In 2019, The Merriam-Webster Dictionary added “Dad Joke” to the official English vernacular. But, when are we going to get serious about helping Dads master Dad Jokes?
That is why I have written this easy three-step guide. It is designed to help fathers — new and old — who suffer from Dad Joke Dysfunction. Let’s set out together on the road towards healing for many an embarrassed father.
Entry Level Dad Jokes
Are you anxious about where to start when it comes to Dad Jokes? Let me put your mind at ease. Entry level Dad Jokes are really easy to deliver if you can simply train yourself to recognize the opportunity to crack one.
There are two very simple cues to look out for. Firstly, if your child ever tells you that they “feel like” something, this is an opportunity for an entry level Dad Joke. Seize the moment! For example:
Child: “I feel like a cheeseburger”
Dad: “Well, you don’t look like a cheeseburger”
The great thing about this timeless gag is that you can use it over and over again — whenever your child feels like anything. It never gets old. It also doubles as a great strategy for dismissing your child’s unreasonable requests for extra toys, fast food and money.
The second cue to look out for is any time you hear your child express their need for something by prefacing it with, “I’m.” For this example, let’s assume your child’s name is Jane:
Jane: “I’m hungry!”
Dad: “Oh, I thought your name was Jane. Hello, Hungry!”
Your child will laugh at this so hard that they will probably forget all about their hunger. That means you’ve been both uproariously entertaining and managed to save some time and effort — two birds with one stone.
With these two Dad jokes alone, you can bluff anyone into believing that you’ve got a handle on what is required of you as a Father. But, why stop there? It’s time to move on to intermediate Dad Humor.
Intermediate Dad Jokes
Any time your child asks you a question, there is potentially an opportunity for a dad joke. This is because the key component of intermediate level Dad Jokes is to avoid answering a question by providing a nebulous misdirection instead. Here are some examples:
Child: “Dad, can you put the dog out?”
Dad: “I didn’t realize the dog was on fire!”
Or, how about this one:
Child: “Dad, can you put on my shoes for me?”
Dad: “I would, but I don’t think they’d fit me!”
Or even this one:
Child: “Dad, I’d like to get a haircut.”
Dad: “Just the one hair? I can do that for you!”
Remember, the key to an intermediate Dad joke is to give your child a hilarious one-liner instead of an actual answer. This will delight them so much, they will likely forget the fact that they are frustrated about not receiving a straight answer.
Another intermediate strategy is the art of anti-humor. Many Dads fail to realize that sometimes deliberately being unfunny can actually be funny. Take this joke, for example:
Question: “What did one farmer say to the other farmer?”
Answer: “How’s your farm?”
On face value, you would say this joke isn’t funny at all. In fact, it’s not even a joke. However, the trick to making this funny is to allow the pause that follows to gestate for exactly the right amount of time before breaking into uproarious laughter. Your children, who don’t really understand what is funny about it, will likely assume that they have simply missed something hilarious and, trusting your past history of reliably delivering witty repartee, will likely join in your good-humored chuckle. Best of all, nothing will make you prouder as a father, than the moment you hear your child repeating the same unfunny joke to a school friend later.
Advanced Dad Jokes
Once you have mastered both entry level and intermediate Dad Jokes, you are ready to try your hand at advanced level Dad humor. Learning an advanced skill like this is akin to learning to water ski. You won’t master it straight away and you can expect a lot of thrills and spills along the way.
As an introduction to advanced Dad Jokes I refer to Samuel Johnson. In 1755, Samuel Johnson, wrote and published A Dictionary of the English Language, sometimes published as Johnson’s Dictionary, which is among the most influential dictionaries in the history of the English language. He was once famously quoted as saying:
“To trifle with the vocabulary, which is the vehicle of social intercourse, is to tamper with the currency of human intelligence.”
Now that you’ve read this, you are to completely disregard it. This rule doesn’t apply when making advanced level Dad jokes. The best approach to advanced Dad humor is to butcher the English language to within an inch of its life. Trust me. Your children with thank you once they’ve finished rolling around the floor laughing.
When it comes to unsophisticated word play, you can’t go past the spoonerism. The purposeful confusion of “smart feller” and “fart smeller,” and “pheasant plucker” with… well, you get the idea, always gets a laugh. You can’t overuse the spoonerism.
But why stop there?
The upper echelon of Dad Jokes — the pun — is the highest and purest form of humor possible. The great thing about practicing puns on your children is that they are unlikely to kill you — at least not while they are little. The same can’t be said for the general public.
To successfully deliver a pun, exploit all the different possible meanings of a word or the fact that there are words which sound alike but have different meanings.
For example, every time I drive past a graveyard with my children (granted this is not very often), I always use the line, “Look kids! There’s the dead center of the town.” Then, for good measure, I add, “I’ll bet people are just dying to get in there.” Or, whenever I look at the clock at it happens to be 2.30pm, I always say, “Looks like it’s time to go to the dentist, kids. It’s tooth-hurty.”
My children roll there eyes at me whenever I use a pun and yours might too. However, rest assured that this eye roll actually masks a profound level of admiration and respect. In fact, secretly, your children are most likely thinking, “I hope I grow up to be just like Dad.” There is really so much hidden meaning behind the eye roll.
What Are You Waiting For
I trust that this guide has given you the confidence you need to launch into Dad Jokes. Remember, look for the simple opportunities that present themselves in your day-to-day family life, like when your child ask questions or expresses their needs to you. Then, work up from there.
Above all, remember that children are especially forgiving. They make a great audience for Dad Jokes. They will give you honest feedback, and love you just as much — no matter what.