Dad jokes are the hilariously cheesy puns and one-liners that fathers all over the world can’t help but tell when the moment strikes. They’re the family-friendly jokes that make children (and everyone else) laugh, even though they’re so terrible that you have to wonder if the dad telling the joke realises how lame it is.
In this article, we explore the phenomenon of dad jokes and try to understand what makes them so opportunistic, lame and often offensively unfunny. What we find is a complex, fascinating and multi-layered phenomenon that reveals not only about the nature of humour and joke-telling but also about the ways in which fathers engage with their children.
It may be tempting to view dad jokes as the anti-thesis of a healthy sense of humour, but this would be a mistake. When viewed properly, dad jokes are not just a subspecies of cringe comedy but are, rather, an effective and remarkably efficient method of engaging with children and building connections with them.
As a form of playful teasing, they resemble the rough-and-tumble play that fathers have instinctively been engaged in with their offspring since the dawn of our species. As such, they can be seen as an evolutionary adaptation that plays a vital role in the development of our social bonds. And, despite the groans and eye-rolls they inspire in their listeners, the fact is that most dads don’t intellectualise the reason why they enjoy telling their cheesy jokes and are simply moved by their innate personality traits to tease their kids.