Dad Jokes

Last Sunday was Father’s Day in the United States, so it’s a good time to talk about “Dad jokes.”

In recent years, people have started classifying (identifying; labeling) certain not-very-sophisticated jokes as “Dad jokes.” These are usually simple jokes, often relying on a pun for humor.

A pun is when one word or phrase in the joke has more than one meaning, or rhymes with another word that has a different meaning.

Here’s an example:

Why did the girl ask the mushroom to dance?
Because he was a fun guy.

The pun here is on the last two words: “fun guy” sounds just like “fungi.” A fungi is another name for a mushroom.

Okay, not very funny, you say. And you’re right! Puns are the simplest (and some would say, lowest) form of humor.

The reason these are called “Dad jokes” is probably because we consider them nowadays to be old fashioned (out of style; no longer popular).

Children often consider their parents to be old fashioned and behind the times (not very “up-to-date” with the latest trends, music, etc.).

The expression “Dad joke” is fairly new, however. We didn’t call my father’s jokes “Dad jokes” back in the 1970s and ’80s.

The structure or form of a Dad joke is very traditional, and is not used by many modern comics today. It has just two parts:

  1. The Set-Up or Opener: This is the question or first part of a statement that gets you “ready” for the pun.
  2. The Punchline: This is the part that includes the pun, the funny part.

Here’s another example:

Why do optimists (people who always see the positive in things) have to wear sunglasses?
Because they’re always looking on the bright side.

You wear sunglasses when it is very bright (light) outside. And “to look on the bright side” means to find the positives in any situation. The joke here involves the two meanings of “bright.”

These puns can be very difficult for people who are not native or very, very advanced speakers of the language. Don’t worry if you don’t “get” (understand) the joke! Even people who have lived in the U.S. for many years often don’t get these jokes.

Okay, one more bad pun/Dad joke for you:

What kind of tree fits into your hand?
A palm tree.

The joke here is on the word “palm.” The inside part of your hand between your wrist and your fingers is called you “palm.” There is also a tree popular in tropical areas called a palm (there are many in Los Angeles).

Okay, I’ll stop!


P.S. For more English related to humor and jokes, see our Daily English lesson 165 – A Practical Joke, 498 – Joking and Making Fun of People, and 242 – A Comedy Club.

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