For Christmas, I received a set of dad jokes on cards, which was an approprirate enough present, except that 90% of them weren’t dad jokes, they were merely bad jokes.
Now, I accept there is probably no universal definition of “dad joke”… no one has ever started a father-of-the-bride speech with the line, “Webster’s dictionary defines ‘Dad Joke’ as…” (disappointingly I have no daughters or I would happily be the first). However, I do feel that a true dad joke is more than simply a groan-worthy joke… such things are Cracker Jokes at best (a subject for another time).
Let me present a couple of examples from my set:
“What did the mountain climber name his son?”
This is not a dad joke. Anyone could tell this joke; indeed, I used to tell such jokes myself as a child, in my pre-fatherhood days. QED, not a dad joke.
“I’m reading a book on the history of glue… can’t put it down.”
This is approaching a dad joke, primarily in how it is told. This joke could easily be re-written in the third person (“Did you hear about the man who was reading…”) and wouldn’t then qualify, but told in the first person, it does contain the crucial element of the dad joke, in my opinion, which is that the recipient doesn’t necessarily realise it’s a joke at the start. Slipped into natural conversion, it’s not impossible that I’m genuinely reading a book on the history of glue… it’s only at the punch line, that the child realises they’ve been had.
“Hello Hungry, I’m Dad.”
This is the quintessential dad joke, to the point that many online comics (SMBC in particular) use it as the default. This is an example of the purest form of dad joke, where the child actually provides the setup line. In an ideal world, the setup line should be delivered in absolute earnest, after which the father should pause just long enough, maybe with the first glimmer of a maniacal grin, for the child to realise the mistake they’ve made, at which point he can deliver the punchline and bask in the horror on his child’s face.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, my wife says I’ve got to go and make the bed… which is weird because I didn’t notice her go to IKEA.