I love dad jokes. As a prospective father to be (at some point, not based on any circumstantial or DNA evidence), I know that I’m part of the prime demographic. They’re silly on a meta level and their use ties into my abiding love of puns. Why wouldn’t I be all up in this dad joke biz? The term “dad joke” has been around for only a smidgen of their actual existence. Constant groan pains were part and parcel of my upbringing, with my dad doing his best to embarrass us at any opportunity. Like any good dad would. They’re hard wired into my very being, but where did dad jokes start?
Did it start all the way back with God? Was Our Heavenly Father the first dad joker? Being all trollish with Abraham?
God: “Yo, it’s God here. You know that Isaac dude?”
Abraham: “You mean my son?”
God: “Yeah, that’s the one. Kill him for me, eh?”
Abraham: “Well I don’t really wanna, but sure. You ARE my dad.
God: “PSYCHE! JK LULZ!”
A humorous, innocent bait and switch for the ages. One where a figure of authority utilised their perceived status to craft a comical misdirect. Is that how far the rabbit hole goes? Or am I digging too much? To be honest, I feel like the fun dad archetype is more recent than we’d think. For years, a father’s role was to put food on the table and a roof above his family’s head. Also to put out a bunch of sperm for furthering his lineage. None of which necessitated dumb quips or light-hearted ribbing. Excepting Adam, of course, but he lived in a garden where there was no need of a roof. Being good natured mattered less than trying to stave off famine and polio. I think back to my parents’ fathers. The word on the street was that they were more dutiful than doting, as was the style of the times.
So where did it start then? My honest guess is that sitcoms played their part in fostering the role of the playful patriarch. Humans are pretty dumb pack animals, all too willing to follow instruction or example. Seeing an archetype of the nuclear family develop on television must surely have influenced a shift away from giving beats, towards doing bits. If you’re told that a happy family behaves a certain way, you don’t want to be the black sheep, right? You’ll flock to play your part and emulate that which is sold to you as success. Is that where dads everywhere began to take their cues?
To be utterly truthful, I have no idea. I’m also unsure why the bar for dad joke humour is so low. Does it have anything to do with making jokes aimed towards young children, then getting settled into that trajectory? If you’re used to shooting at a low angle, does it get harder to adjust your aim higher? Is there a nostalgia to it? Clinging to the formula that engendered love with your offspring back when they still thought you were the coolest? Wishing that they’d stay like that for the rest of their lives? Retreading that pattern in the hopes that it’ll once again work? I really don’t know, I’m just spitballing here. I don’t have any kids.
But by God and his greatest creation (dad jokes, obv), I hope to one day.