Friday, 5 June 2015

"That's why he was fired from his job as a…"

Given that I set up this blog in response to the ubiquitous idea that Dads are a bit rubbish, it's odd that I’ve become obsessed by that celebration of Dad rubbishness, the classic Dad joke. A roll of the eyes, a groan, a tut, an ‘awww, Dad!’ – I’m in heaven!

I think it’s because I believe every awful joke I tell my boys is doing good. Just as Dads tend to push the boundaries in play and risk-taking, I like to think that’s what I’m doing with jokes. By telling jokes that are clearly pretty awful, I’m modelling how not to do it and by implication how to do it! I firmly believe my children are growing up being way funnier than I am, at least in part because I’ve shown them the ropes in a groan-inducing way. Children should simply be bathed in humour… As Roald Dahl wrote, ‘a stodgy parent is no fun at all. What a child wants and deserves is a parent who is SPARKY.’

Why do Dad jokes take the form they do? Well, consider genuinely good jokes. 

“I went to the library and asked for a book on Pavlov’s dogs and Schroedinger’s cat. They said it rang a bell but they couldn’t say if it was there or not.” 

Now there would be no point telling that to an 8-year-old. So lots of historical and cultural references are out, as are sexual innuendo (e.g. ‘How does Mr Miyagi relax? Whacks off’), or anything too rude or gross. What are we left with? "What do you call a nervous Jedi? Panakin Skywalker."

That’s not to say you can’t try to introduce them to new concepts and vocab in Dad joke form. My favourite joke, because I genuinely made it up (unlike all the others which I pinch), is this: 

"I had a dream the other night that I was going to get wet on a camping trip. Must have been a portent." 

You have to explain the concept of 'portent' to them, but surely anything that tortures a joke to within an inch of its life merely improves it?

But this post is mainly about a developing interest in another form of Dad joke – jokes about Dads. For example, there’s a whole genre of jokes that include the line ‘That’s why he got fired from his job as…’:

My Dad always said to fight fire with fire. That’s why he got fired from his job as a fireman.
My Dad would never call a spade a spade. That’s why he got fired from his job in the casino.

Or there are jokes related to your Dad’s career path:

My Dad was a clown; those are big shoes to fill. 
My Dad’s a coffee taster for Nescafe. I don’t know how he sleeps at night. 
My Dad invented windowsills. Total ledge.
My Dad spends all day every day crushing fizzy drinks cans in the recycling plant. It's soda pressing. 

That kind of thing.

Why don't you tend to hear 'My Mum was a…' jokes? Is it simply down to traditional gender roles in terms of who is the breadwinner? Or is it to do with hapless Dads having the broad shoulders to take being the butt of the joke all the time?

I would really love to hear your thoughts on Dad jokes, and your own examples – get in touch on Twitter @DadPrideBlog and @jonmsutton

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