Dad jokes are the king of cheesy, corny one-liners and puns. They’re a unique variety of wholesome humor that has the power to both make us laugh and cause us to cringe. But what exactly is it about these groan-worthy puns and riddles that makes them so special?
While dad jokes are often criticized for their simplicity and predictability, this is part of what makes them so fun. When a punch line is so predictable, it can cause a person to be more engaged in the joke and its delivery. It’s the difference between a punchline that makes your eyes roll and one that gets a good, solid chuckle.
The defining characteristic of a dad joke is that it violates the linguistic norm of ambiguity by using an overtly simple and obvious pun. It also violates the social norm by referencing a sensitive topic in a gross and offensive way. This is the distinction that sets it apart from a regular joke, which typically involves a shift in tone or the use of discursive markers to signal a shift into humorous mode.
Although dad jokes are often viewed as unsophisticated and trite, research suggests they may have a positive pedagogical effect on children. By repeatedly telling their kids jokes that are blatantly embarrassing, fathers can push their children’s limits on how much embarrassment they can handle. In addition, by demonstrating that not all jokes are funny, fathers can teach their children to laugh at themselves.