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So a few months ago, I became a dad for the first time (I had already been an aunt for several years by that point). And within days of this momentous event, I began detecting a new welling of activity in my head. No, it wasn't love, nor was it empathy, nor even simple exhaustion. What was happening was effectively the birth of a new organ, the sudden development of the special and unique part of the brain responsible for the formation of Dad Jokes.

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It appeared between the Anterior Chuckle Cortex and the Quippocampus.

Bad, bad jokes started pouring forth from me almost immediately, and if you'll permit me to head off a couple comments before they get posted, yes, these were much worse than my regular jokes. But they were great fun for me, and I took delight in tormenting all around me with my newfound gifts. Soon after, using the list-making abilities I've honed these many years, I began noticing patterns in the jokes, common trends that kept reappearing. So here, then, for your reading and my listing enjoyment, are the four types of Dad Joke.

4
The Beginner Joke

The first type of Dad Joke isn't really much different from what you might find if you browsed around in the kids' section of your local bookstore for titles like 101 Animal Puns or 101 More Animal Puns.

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Or if you spend a lot of your time hanging around playgrounds.

You're familiar with these. They're basically the first jokes kids learn, simple jokes with clear setups and punchlines, most of which heavily feature puns. Jokes like:

What do prisoners use to call each other?
Cellphones!

What has four legs but can't walk?
A table!

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Also, a dead horse.

Why did the cow cross the road?
To get to the udder side!

What's brown and sticky?
A stick!

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Also, a dead horse.

Irritation Ability: 2

There's nothing uniquely "dad" about any of these jokes; they're the same jokes that kids and other morons use. But dads have to spend a lot of time around kids and other morons, which means that these jokes, which are easy to memorize, quick to deliver, and simple enough for kids to get, are a staple of a dad's comedic inventory. Anything that can get a kid to laugh, temporarily halting the high-pitched wailing that seems to be their natural state, is a valuable thing indeed.

3
The Gross Joke

A special category of the beginner joke is the gross beginner joke. These are prewritten jokes, as described above, that dads typically read elsewhere and memorize, to be launched at their children at a later date. But gross jokes have the value-added effect of making children feel really uncomfortable, which is something all dads cherish doing.

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"Six hours to go, kids! Just long enough to explain my thoughts about puberty."

By referring to sex, sexiness, and rude things that moms the world over have done to dads, dads can deploy the gross joke to obtain the very valuable and rare Double-Chuckle: amusement first at the joke itself, and then at the discomfort of their children. Jokes like:

Son, did you hear the one about having sex while camping? It's fucking in tents.

Impotence is nature's way of saying "No hard feelings."

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"I'm 5, Dad. Jesus."

It's not a snowman without snowballs, son.

I tried phone sex once, but the hole on the bottom of my phone was too small.

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"Jesus, Dad."

Irritation Ability: 4

For the children themselves, gross jokes can stray dangerously close to actually being funny. Seriously. Imagine some guy trying to plow the headphone jack of his phone.

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What a maroon!

But for all their potential to actually make someone laugh, hearing subject matter of this nature come from your dad is all the types of awkward at once. We have deep-rooted genetic instincts for not thinking of our family members in sexual terms, which makes listening to two hours of your dad making ball jokes an intensely distressing experience.

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2
The Pun

The English language is filled with words that sound the same but mean different things, which can cause significant confusion for people learning the language, and significant forehead damage for children slapping their heads when their father takes advantage of these homonyms to make puns.

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"Bear-chested, yes, great, Dad. No, I get it. Very good. No, I did not mean "beary" good. Fuck."

Unlike the memorized jokes discussed above, these are made up and delivered on the fly, or as much as a joke that treads upon the well-worn ground between "hoarse" and "horse" can be said to be "made up." Jokes like:

The door's ajar.
That's funny. It still looks like a door to me.

Dad, can you give me a hand?
Sure can. -starts clapping-

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In the moment, this won't seem funnier if the kid hurts himself because you failed to help him while you were clapping,
but it is technically much, much funnier.

Dad, where's the recycling bin?
Where's the recycling been? I don't know, I didn't get its itinerary.

A female sheep is a ewe.
No, I'm a dad.

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This one's bad enough to cause physical injuries all on its own.

Irritation Ability: 8

Now we're getting somewhere. Puns are some of the most badly overused jokes, and the horribly obvious varieties favored by dads, such as those found in the "main"/"mane," "genes"/"jeans," and "muscle"/"mussel" genres, are enough to make even children grown. Groan. Damnit.


1
The Deliberate Misunderstanding

Finally we come to the beating heart of the Dad Joke: the deliberate misunderstanding. These don't rely on homonyms so much as two different interpretations of a specific sentence, phrase, or word. An incongruity between two different interpretations is the basis of many different types of humor, but the defining feature of a Dad Joke is that one of those interpretations is stupid as all hell. Some examples:

Dad, I'm bored.
Hello, Bored, I'm Dad.

Dad, I need to go to my room to change first.
What are you going to change into? A horse? A truck? A better person?

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As if a truck couldn't be a better person.

Dad, there's something in my shoe.
Is it a foot?

Dad, where are we?
In the car.

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"Fuck you, Dad. I mean that. Fuck you right in the ear."

Irritation Ability: 27

During my research hanging around dad establishments (hardware shops, etc.), I collected a lot of Dad Jokes that could be slotted into the deliberate misunderstanding category. And another trend soon became apparent: In almost all of these jokes, the "gag" is sprung on a child asking for something, often help, a request the dad is swatting aside so he might instead respond with a labored joke. The only conclusion I can reach from this is that dads are, in a deep and fundamental way, complete assholes. But nowadays, that's obviously not an acceptable way to dad in public, so for that reason and a few others (moms mainly), dads can't just go around being gaping assholes all the time. Which means that these terrible, terrible jokes are in fact the only socially acceptable outlet they have for expressing their true simmering rage.

So don't go knocking the Dad Joke too much. It might have been the only thing keeping your dad sane.


Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and apparently an unmitigated asshole. Join him on Facebook and Twitter.

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