“What’s brown and sticky?” I ask my children.
They roll their eyes, bracing for the answer.
“A stick!” I say for the 100th time (that week).
It’s Father’s Day, a day we celebrate that man in our lives who still dresses on weekends like he did in junior high (khaki shorts and a T-shirt right here) and launches those forgettable one-liners full of puns.
While they get a bad rap — almost as bad as his rhyming when your friends are around — I’m coming to the defense of the beleaguered “dad joke.”
“When does a joke become a dad joke? When the punch line becomes apparent.”
Before you guffaw, you must consider the origin of dad jokes. They’re from men who, up until the time they became dads, were completely ill-prepared to hang out near children, much less raise them.
Before I had children, most of my jokes included dirty words and ideas (such as a 12-inch pianist). The filthier, the better.
Then one day you’re looking at your offspring, whom you love more than your own life. You hear your baby giggle, and you feel a joy you’ve never felt before. That child laughs again, and you’re suddenly an addict looking for your next fix of that ecstasy.
As the children grow older, your desire to hear them laugh gets stronger and stronger. But how do you make a child laugh? A silly joke, you say?
That’s why, no matter how cool you once were, you find yourself uttering your first dad joke. For me, it was, “A man walked into a bar. Ouch!”
It has all the necessary elements to make a kid laugh. It’s easy to understand. It plays off the multiple meanings of words. It’s short enough to squeeze in before the child loses interest and walks away, as one undoubtedly would if I tried to tell the entire joke ending with “the coffin stops.”
Sure, these knee-slappers aren’t going to get me or any other dad onto the Tonight Show. That’s OK; we don’t want our kids up that late anyway.
We’ll settle for that short moment of eye-rolling and laughter when they hear classics like these:
“Want to hear a joke about construction? I’m still working on it.”
“What did the ocean say to the shore? Nothing. It just waved.”
“Where do you learn to make ice cream? At sundae school.”
And some day, when you’re older, you’ll get to hear some of the jokes he loved before you were born. For my own dad, it’s the one with the classic punchline, “Now where’s that Eskimo woman I’m supposed to shoot?”
So do your dad a favor today. Laugh at his dumb jokes. It’s why he tells them, since it’s easier for him than telling you how much he loves you.