Letter: In defense of 'dad jokes'

Austinson writes, "From my vantage point dads can’t seem to catch a break (e.g., 'dad jeans,' 'dad shoes,' 'dad rock' and 'dad bods'), it seems to me they are just trying to 'live their truth,' as the kids say."

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During a recent work meeting I heard the following words uttered, “nice ‘dad joke,’ Bob.” The pejorative nature of this comment prompted me to ponder a number of things, when did good natured humor become so maligned? Why are dads exempt from the anti-shame movement?

From my vantage point dads can’t seem to catch a break (e.g., “dad jeans,” “dad shoes,” “dad rock” and “dad bods”), it seems to me they are just trying to “live their truth,” as the kids say.

Is humor only to come from mothers and from the mouths of babes? I once asked my mom if she enjoyed irony and she left the room and returned with a pair of freshly-pressed trousers. As for kid jokes, the punchline of the last one I heard nearly sent me into an existential crisis due to its simultaneous level of absurdity and strange profundity.

Now, I may not be a father in the classic sense of the word, but I’ve sired a couple jokes in my day…even a few illegitimate ones. Nor is my impeccable fashion sense, workout regime or stellar taste in music is on trial here. So, you are probably wondering, why do you care if you aren’t a dad? Well, my advancing years are beginning to make me “dad” adjacent and…it’s possible that Bob is actually me.

It seems to me a man’s freedom to crack wise is like that of any persons to breathe. I believe it was the Roman philosopher Ribus Tickleus that stated “tell a man a joke he will laugh for a day, teach a man to joke he will laugh for a lifetime” and then he promptly asked one of his devotees to pull his finger.


I may be a sentimental fool, but I dream of the day when a man (regardless of race, age, or creed) can tell a lame joke, like his forefathers before him, without fear or reproach. A day when a father’s tall tale can be cornier than a podiatrist’s afternoon schedule. A day where milk may, once again, flow from the nostrils of children huddled around the dinner table.

How long will we stand by and allow the jokes of our fathers to be met with groans, rolled eyes and frozen countenances, only then, to be lambasted and forever tarnished by the pejorative term “dad joke”?

Ben Austinson lives in Fargo.

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