Free-Range Kids

Why Are Bad Jokes 'Dad Jokes'?

Fathers used to be fonts of wisdom. Now they're the punch line.


Sundays are kind of sad. But the day before is a sadder day. Get it?

Yes, it's time to talk about dad jokes. Specifically, when and why did dumb puns become synonymous with fatherhood? When I was a kid, knock-knock jokes were clearly kid jokes, but so were the silly one-liners:

Why did the moron tiptoe past the medicine cabinet? He didn't want to wake the sleeping pills.

Why are elevator jokes so good? They work on many levels.

Want to hear a joke about construction? I'm working on it.

They say the drunk never writes the drinking song, so I'm sure those kiddie jokes were not written by kids. But they seemed very clearly in the rug-rat wheelhouse.

Now we're supposed to hear a joke like "I was addicted to soap but now I'm clean" and think first and foremost of fathers?

"As a dad myself, the term 'dad joke' dawned on me during Halloween," recalls Eugene Romberg, a real estate investor at webuyhousesinbayarea. (I think you can guess where in California he lives.) "I told my wife, 'There's only one thing I'm afraid of during Halloween.' She replied, 'Which is?' And I said, 'Exactly.' It was a joke I saw on Reddit." Said wife glared at Mr. Romberg for a bit and then muttered that he had just made his first "dad joke." He had to go and look it up.

Wikipedia says that dad jokes are a short joke or pun, sometimes deliberately unfunny or overly simplistic. But didn't dad used to be a font of fatherly wisdom? How did he morph into the designated doofus?

"The dad joke is old-fashioned," says Tom O'Keefe, co-host of the podcast Reel Spoilers. Middle-aged men like him grew up with one-liners: Set-up, punchline. But today's comedians are more storytellers, or observational types. As one-liners aged, so did the folks telling them, until finally they became fathers themselves. Their joke style, like their hairstyle, aged along with them.

"There's this sort of idea of the dad as put out to pasture," says Julian Velard. And he should know. The singer/songwriter appears as "Sad Dad" on Howard Stern and NPR.

"Moms are viewed as active in our culture, whereas the dad is just sort of on the sidelines," Velard says. The humor they dispense "is not considered witty. The whole idea of a dad joke is that you're giving up on trying to be sexy or smart or anything."

Except for lovable. A big except!

Dad jokes make kids smile. Mom laughs despite herself. And now you will too:

Two goldfish are in a tank. One says to the other, "Do you know how to drive this thing?"

Happy Fathers Day!

NEXT: 'People Should Have the Fundamental Right To Change Their Consciousness'

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  1. The real reason is that since 70% of a certain minority households are fatherless, fathers are considered white privilege.
    Sad but true.

    1. Should the federal government start subsidizing the Maury show? Or would Unplanned Parenthood be a better option? Margaret Sanger would certainly object to all these colored folks burning America’s beautiful cities!

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    2. “households are fatherless” – I’d shoot for female entitlement over white privilege.

      According to American Law and Economics Review by Margaret F. Brinig and Douglas W. Allen reported data (Table 1, p. 128)
      — 75% of divorces are initiated by the female.

      That’s okay; we’ll blame the male figure anyways for everything the female does.

      1. Cultural Marxists don’t like the United States or Western Civilization, and want to tear both down to bring about their Utopia. The family unit is a stabilizing force for both. As said Marxists have wormed their way over the last 60 years or so into the decision-making elements of academia, business, and entertainment, among their other achievements have been to try and disparage and break down the family.

        It’s not a conspiracy, per se. There’s no mastermind issuing orders from some hidden cabal. Rather, like the creations of cellular automata, it’s something complicated that naturally arises from a group of people are indoctrinated with some simple tenets from cultural Marxist thinking.

        What to do about it, is the 64,000 dollar question.

        1. We really could use an edit button. I guess just be grateful this forum still exists.

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        2. Destroying family units helps advance Marxism. Which is another reason to scrape off the progressives.

          It really is ultimately a choice of them or us.

        3. Most people are actually just living their lives and doing what they want without referencing grand, dead philosophical schemes. If western civilization crumbles and makes way for the overthrow of the capitalists, that’s just bonus.

          1. Why are you here, if not to 五毛党, Tony?

      2. “75% of divorces are initiated by the female.”

        Assumes facts not in evidence, namely, that the parents were married.

    3. A lot of this whining is complaints from older generations that the men of younger generations aren’t as emotionally stunted as they are.

      1. Fathers have been telling their daughters that they love them for as long as there have been fathers and daughters.

        Apparently, the younger generation actually has traded in DIY skills for neo-Marxist ideology and lack of self-knowledge and self-control.

      2. So…you’re whining that people think your whining is embarrassing for you?

        L O L

        1. It’s all he’s got.

    4. Ah, there it is, can’t be light hearted for a second, gotta bring in the White Supremacy factoid.

      1. Having a father = White Supremacy!

        No really you said that.

    5. My Dad told great jokes. The best ones always ended with “Don’t repeat that.”

  2. 1. Why do you think those are bad jokes? Did your father hurt you? Show us where he hurt you.

    2. What makes you think it is an insult to call them dad jokes?

    3. Why did the chicken cross the road? – Because it was too far to go around.

    1. 3. Why did the chicken cross the road?

      None of your business – am I being detained?

  3. This was a dad post.

  4. Being a father just keeps getting harder.

    Corporal punishment is now assault.

    Child support and custody laws are still skewed towards anyone without a penis.

    Public education goes out of it’s way to avoid teaching personal responsibility. Those who do try to teach it are the ‘bad guys.’

    Fathers are afraid to be alone with their own kids for fear of someone accusing them of child molestation.

    Society promotes fatherless children and then expects fathers to clean up the mess when those children grow older.

    Women are still not held accountable for choosing horrible mates.

    1. It would be great if you could totally avoid the state interference in private married life but some states recognize common law marriages. Giving women a financial incentive to request a divorce is morally repugnant.

    2. Corporal punishment is now assault.

      As it should be.

      1. Goddamn you’re such a pussy.

        1. Did you see him whining that people hate his whining?

          1. How am I whining? I’m expressing disgust at his pussiffication more than anything.

            1. Yall are agreeing.
              Eunuch is eunuch for obvious reasons

        2. I agree, Shitlord, parents should be free to beat and rape their kids as they see fit.

  5. Part of this is popular culture. In sitcoms, the dad is portrayed as a fool. The wife and precocious kids are the ones with real wisdom.

    It’s like this in TV commercials, too. The guy is portrayed as someone who would drown in a rainstorm with his mouth open.

    1. That was one of the most odious parts of “Modern Family” that I noticed. The dad was portrayed as this clueless buffoon while the Mom kept things running.
      What’s interesting is that he apparently made more than enough money in real estate for them to live a pretty sweet upper middle class lifestyle in SoCal, while she did nothing but fuck around indulging in pointless endeavors like running for office.

    2. I just flew in from the Transformers convention, and boy are my arms tires.

    3. Eh, whether this is true or not, I wish men would leave this kind of navel gazing to feminist and other perpetually outraged groups.

      Having an intact family is just as much as a fiction, and no one seems overly concerned with that.


      1. You appear to be completely oblivious to the discussion being had.

        1. Identity politics is a terrible threat to civilization except the part where we bitch about how bad white men have it?

          1. Are white men arguing for extra protections and advantages?

            1. Only the ones who cry about any small change to the status quo.

              1. Ironic sincec it seems cry is all you do.

    4. Part of this is popular culture. In sitcoms, the dad is portrayed as a fool. The wife and precocious kids are the ones with real wisdom.

      This is a Rush Limbaugh pet theory that he’s been peddling since the 90s, because he doesn’t understand comedy.

      1. Chipper Morning Wood
        June.21.2020 at 2:52 pm

        …he doesn’t understand comedy

        This is how it’s done folks.

      2. Chip, you’re an idiot. It isn’t ‘Limbaugh’s pet theory’. It’s something most people have noticed. Because it’s true.

      3. God damn you Limbaugh!!!

      4. What’s your excuse?

    5. It isn’t just Dad’s. How often are boys portrayed as the smart kid? No, today the boys are idiots and troublemakers. Watch Disney or Nickelodeon, just about every boy is to stupid to tie his own shoes while the girls are smart and streetwise and moral. It is even worse if the male character (or really any character) comes from a rural state. Then they are stupid and naive (as well as inferred beastiality, with over amorous references to their livestock). Oh and they seem to think we don’t have television or the internet in the country.

  6. Dare to be dull.

    Dare to be Dad.

  7. According to an old tale:
    On the very first day, God created the cow. He said to the cow, “Today I have created you! As a cow, you must go to the field with the farmer all day long. You will work all day under the sun! I will give you a life span of 50 years.” The cow objected, “What? This kind of tough life you want me to live for 50 years? Let me have 20 years, and the 30 years I’ll give back to you.” So God agreed.

    On the second day, God created the dog. God said to the dog, “What you are supposed to do is to sit all day by the door of your house. Any people that come in, you will have to bark at them! I’ll give a life span of 20 years.” The dog objected, “What? All day long to sit by the door? No way! I give you back my other 10 years of life!” So God agreed.

    On the third day, God created the monkey. He said to the monkey, “Monkeys have to entertain people. You’ve got to make them laugh and do monkey tricks. I’ll give you 20 years life span.” The monkey objected. “What? Make them laugh? Do monkey faces and tricks? Ten years will do, and the other 10 years I’ll give you back.” So God agreed.

    On the fourth day, God created man and said to him, “Your job is to sleep, eat, and play. You will enjoy very much in your life. All you need to do is to enjoy and do nothing. This kind of life, I’ll give you a 20 year life span.” The man objected. “What? Such a good life! Eat, play, sleep, do nothing? Enjoy the best and you expect me to live only for 20 years? No way, man… why don’t we make a deal? Since the cow gave you back 30 years, the dog gave you back 10 years, the monkey gave you back 10 years, I will take them from you! That makes my life span 70 years, right?” So God agreed.

    AND THAT’S WHY…. In our first 20 years, we eat, sleep, play, enjoy the best and do nothing much. For the next 30 years, we work all day long, suffer and get to support the family. For the next 10 years, we entertain our grandchildren by making monkey faces and monkey tricks. And for the last 10 years, we stay at home, sit by the front door and bark at people!

    Our jokes are our attempts to entertain our kids and grandkids with whatever humor we can find.

  8. I’m pretty sure they’re called Dad Jokes because dads are the primary purveyors of them. Almost every father I’ve known has been an endless font of the most awful puns and I do it myself. Mothers just don’t seem to have it in them. No idea why.

    Or is this article backhandedly jumping on the dog pile and trying to take one of the few things men have, humor, away from them?

  9. Totally off topic, has Reason discussed the fact that the governor of Iowa has given convicted felons the right to vote by executive order?

    1. Oh good, another virtue-signalling Republican slashing her own throat.

      Standard disclaimer that there should be a lot fewer felonies in the law books. By a lot fewer, I mean more than, ballpark guess, 80-90 percent fewer.

      1. Felonies should be only those crimes which require lockup to prevent recurrence. An embezzler, for instance, is only a threat to those who don’t check backgrounds. A burglar, thug, rapist, or murderer is a threat to everybody. Even if someone only attacks friends or spouses, that’s still not reason enough to stay out of lockup. A used car salesman who is convicted of theft by fraud probably doesn’t need to be locked up, but anyone who hires him after that should be punished one way or the other.

    2. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to vote if they’ve served their time?

      Or is it for people still in prison?

      1. That only Vermont I think.

  10. They’re called dad jokes because they’re wholesome and clean. As a dad, I can tell “dad jokes” to my kids without subjecting them to the vulgar language or sexual innuendo pervasive in mainstream comedy.

    Maybe there’s some negative societal pressure on fatherhood, but I prefer not to think of myself as a victim.

    1. That’s certainly part of it. I never thought of “dad joke” as a slam on dad, it’s just the kind of joke your dad would tell you when you were 12 that would make you laugh. Sometimes there’s puns that are so lame that you laugh at them because of how bad they are, but you can do so with fondness.

      If someone thinks calling something a “dad joke” is a slam on the joke, it’s probably them projected some of their own feelings about their father onto it.

    2. Dad jokes are the kinds kids react to with “Daa-aaad!” and you know you’ve done good and they smile and tell their friends.

      1. And it’s usually wholesome humor, too. It’s never dripping with sarcasm or mean-spirited. The worst I can think of in the dad-joke realm is if he’s making fun of graduates from the rival college.

        1. Yes. They are kid jokes told by adults, and usually fathers for some reason.

  11. Ok, Boomer.

    1. You gonna dab on him next?

      Is it just me or is the term boomer becoming extremely cringeworthy?

      I’m gen x but I’m just over boomer at this point. I didn’t like the word when that qb was on the bengals either.

  12. I wish I were a font of wisdom for my children, but the older I get, the more I realize no one knows what the fuck they’re doing. We’re all just faking it until we make it and making it up as we go along. The best I can do for my kids is teach them some tricks that’ll make their lives easier and help them avoid making the same dumb mistakes I made—in the full knowledge they’re going to make all the same mistakes and a whole bunch of other mistakes I never could have imagined (and I have a hell of an imagination).

    It’s depressing to think about. Then again, I’m just starting the second week of an entire year away from my family, so I’m probably predisposed to depressing thoughts at the moment.

    1. “the more I realize no one knows what the fuck they’re doing.”

      That is probably as a profound bit of wisdom they are likely to get. In relation to another crowd, I’ve noticed a goodish portion of adulthood is forgiving parents for all they ways they fell short, but they really didn’t know any better either. Just groping blind as any other generation, full of bluster and hubris, with clay feet; and hoping the intervening years are looked upon with a degree of sympathy.

    2. Going back for the credential huh? Sucks man, but you’ll be rich in 20 years.

  13. I called the doctor “My wife is going into labor! What should I do?”

    “Is this her first child?” he asked.

    “No, this is her husband.”

    1. What did one foot say to the other?

      Don’t look now, there’s a heel following us!

  14. I always thought it was because they’re all G rated. I’m a dad and I don’t mind the term, although you bring up some interesting points here. Also, some of these were pretty funny! Thanks.

  15. Why Are Bad Jokes ‘Dad Jokes’?

    Well Duh! They’re obviously impediments to “Smashing the Patriarchy”
    They’re sexist, homophobic, transphobic, racist and fattening.
    Hey Hey Ho Ho! Father Time has got to go.

    1. #MothersDay is top 5 trending on Twitter.
      Leftists can’t let anyone have nice things.
      Except their Lords, who get to live in luxury off other people’s achievements

      1. And got to their lofty positions by failing upwards.

    2. “They’re obviously impediments to “Smashing the Patriarchy”

      Speaking of smashing the patriarchy, I finally got a good look at the plot to “The Last Of Us 2”, which was released either yesterday or the day before. I’d heard rumors that it was embracing the woke, but holy shit, reading a synopsis and seeing some streams, is it bad. Horrible writing and a railroad plot that forces you to do terrible things to advance the game, then chides you for it.

      Big disappointment. Do these people just not like money?

  16. Because women aren’t funny.

  17. Dad jokes are silly and puerile not because dads have been dumbed down over the years, but because dads are more able to interact with their children instead of being emotionless breadwinners.

    Dads tell bad puns because their children aren’t quite up to the nuances of high humor. Dads tell these jokes because they are the kind of jokes their children tell.

    Also, dads tend to be more scatological as well as more interested in the sciences on average. Thus the prevalence of Uranus jokes.

    No, I’m not in love with Uranus, I’m in love with Marcy’s.

    1. What did Saturn say to Jupiter?

      I can see Uranus.

  18. I love dad jokes. I laugh at the good ones. My father in law is a font of them.

    However, that has nothing to do with wisdom. I’d go to my father in law for advice on quite a bit before I’d ask his wife… even in cooking. I don’t see him as a fool.

    I don’t know what the deal is. Women seem to be high strong, stressed out, humorless bitches (yes, myself included). I do stuff with my kids, like take them places and do the necessary caring for them, but for the most part DAD plays with them.

    They need that balance. I’m too busy playing house for realsie. Dad can still figure out how to kill a skeleton with a plastic sword without feeling like a fool.

    1. This is because men never grow up. Yeah, we work all day, support the family, blah blah blah. But in our hearts we’re all still 12 years old having adventures on the high seas or in space. We relate to kids because we are them.

      1. or maybe Dad’s never lose the delight of play

  19. The feminist assault on masculinity continues space, with the modern western male happily assisting because he is nothing more than a pathetic vagina worshipping simp.

  20. Two goldfish are in a tank. One says to the other, “Do you know how to drive this thing?”

    The other one says, “Eek! A talking goldfish!”

  21. I thought the idea was that the jokes appealed to young kids who don’t have a sophisticated humor palate. Which makes dads unhip but lovable in contrast to their humorless bitch wives screeching about doing the dishes.

    1. Always thought this was untrue until I was home with my dad and stepmonster one summer. He would sit in his chair in the living room reading the paper and my stepmonster would be in the kitchen yelling all day long about cleaning stuff.

  22. I think the idea is that “Dad’s” don’t care about being cool or popular.

    1. See: Dad Bod

      Superfluous apostrophe says what?

  23. A column on dad jokes that doesn’t include the Bragg/Heaton video, Libertarian Dad Jokes?

    1. I’d missed that one, thanks!

  24. one of the best original “dad jokes” I ever heard, courtesy of my own dad:

    me: Did you know they studied young children in cannibal societies and found they would instinctively reject eating humans

    dad: that’s because there was a plate of french fries next to it

  25. Dads are funnier, get over it Mom.

  26. because Linda Bloodworth-Thomason.

  27. Actually skewering Dads in our culture has been around a long time. Ward Cleaver always succumbed to June’s wisdom, and Donna Reed’s husband was constantly behind the curve when it came to knowing what was happening.

  28. I’ve never considered the term “dad joke” to be an insult or derogatory term in any way. it is a simple joke you tell to kids. why does everything have to be a trigger to somebody these days?

  29. Just wait until you graduate to grandpa. Then it really gets fun.

    In charge of the two grandkiddos for the afternoon.

    “You gave them ice cream? It’s 4:00!!”

    “The ice cream truck came by so we all had these sponge bob things”

    “They are wet.”

    “It got kinda sticky and messy so I got the hose out and we played in the yard.”

    “ what about their dinners?”

    “What are you worried about? They eat constantly. They will get hungry again.”

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