When I was teaching high school, I sometimes asked my 10th grade English classes to write a joke they liked, and then to analyze how it “worked” to be funny. My goal was to have them realize that their writing has an audience, readers, other than their English teacher. A joke works, usually, because of an element of surprise, as a result of some misdirection. I’m not at all sure how successful my joke exercise was. On reflection, I should have followed it up with assignments where I specified an intended audience – an apology to one’s parents, an invitation to a prospective date, an obituary to be read by the deceased family and friends, a letter to the editor on a pressing social issue, etc. I don’t remember any of the jokes my students told me some 55 years ago, so I won’t be able to share any of them with you.
Lately I have heard about a sub-category of jokes known as “dad jokes.” Curious to learn how they differ from jokes in general, I turned to Wikipedia:
A dad joke is a short joke, typically a pun, presented as a one-liner or a question and answer but not a narrative. Generally inoffensive, dad jokes are stereotypically told with sincere humorous intent, or to intentionally provoke negative reaction to their overly-simplistic humor. Many dad jokes are considered anti-jokes, deriving their humor from an intentionally unfunny punchline.
Here are a few examples:
· Q: What do you call a mermaid on a roof? A: Aerial.
· Q: What does a highlighter say when it answers the phone? A: Yello!!
· Q: What's Irish and comes out in the spring? A: Paddy O'Furniture.
· Q: What's orange and sounds like a parrot? A: A carrot.
· Q: Where does a sick fish go? A: The dock.
· Q: What's the difference between a pun and a Dad joke? A: It will become apparent.
· Q: What did the fish say when he swam into the wall? A: Dam!
· Q: What do you call an elephant that doesn't matter? A: An irrelephant.
· A ham sandwich walks into a bar and the bartender says, "Sorry, we don't serve food here."
It’s amusing to think of striving for “an intentionally unfunny punchline.” Makes me want to attempt a “dad poem” or “dad essay,” where I explain that I made it bad on purpose – don’t you get it?
No, I think of a “dad Joke” in a much broader sense – a lot like a plain old joke, a brief story with a surprise ending, often revealing a character’s foolishness or stupidity, which suggests that we, as the tellers of the joke, are not foolish or stupid. (I grew up hearing “moron jokes,” which morphed into “Polack jokes” and then “blond jokes.” I’m sure there are plenty of “guy jokes” out there as well. Oh – that’s right, they are called “dad jokes.”)
A doctor tells his patient, “I have some good news and some bad news. Which do you want first?”
“The bad news.”
“You have cancer, and you only have a week to live.”
“Ouch! And the good news?”
“I finally slept with my nurse.”
The dad joke is me, telling the joke. I’m a joke.