Fathers have been telling corny jokes for as long as they’ve been dads, but it wasn’t until the last decade that the term “dad joke” caught on and became a widely used, if affectionate, insult. Today, it’s even got its own booming comedy genre, the subject of popular Twitter and Instagram accounts and a cottage industry in books with titles like “101 Dad Jokes So Bad They’re Good” and “Exceptionally Bad Dad Jokes.”
Some fathers balk at the tag, feeling that it has the sting of ageism, but others relish it. They see the cult of cringe comedy as their license to tell the kinds of cheesy, pun-based jokes that they were told when they were young. And many of those jokes are funny.
But the question is why. Why did these jokes become so popular? There are so many other ways to convey humor, many of them clever, witty, original and undeniably funny. And a lot of them work just as well as dad jokes, if not better.
Perhaps one answer is that dad jokes are the training wheels of cringe comedy, a kind of benignly trollish anti-humour that’s often intended not to make people laugh but to elicit a groan. They resemble the rough-and-tumble play that fathers have been instinctively moved to engage their children in since the dawn of our species, without fully appreciating the important role it plays in their children’s development. bad dad jokes