#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-
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.
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.
"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.