The joy of dad jokes

If someone asked you “Did you hear about the hole in the road?” how would you respond?

A fellow dad did ask me that very question the other day, and my instinctive response was “Yes. Police are looking into it.”

It was a classic dad joke – the name given to the obvious jokes and daft puns relished by fathers across the land.

I’m not sure anyone is truly ready for the crazy world of fatherhood when it comes along. You suddenly have to learn new skills, like changing foul-smelling, generously filled nappies, interpreting screams and dodging sick, at alarming speed, all while getting no sleep. But there were two ways I was naturally ready for the challenge of being a dad. I had already mastered dad jokes and dad dancing.

Dad dancing, like dad jokes, is one of those things that dads seem to enjoy but which their offspring find rather cringeworthy. It involves lots of air guitar, some enthusiastic twisting, and possibly a bit of singing into an imaginary microphone. I have become too self-conscious to dance in the majority of circumstances, but it might just take one opportunity to humiliate my children at a wedding, and the innate dad-dancing gene could kick in automatically.

As for the dad jokes, these, like folk stories, have been passed down through the generations of my family. I can cite my own dad as my key influence in this area. My brother, though not a dad himself, has this same talent. Family meals can descend into a rapid-fire pun-down, with us three men exchanging increasingly dire puns while my mum, wife and brother’s partner roll their eyes in pity, despair and resignation.

One of my dad’s greatest dad jokes was one I groaned at when he said it, but have since come to appreciate in all its glory. We were coming back from a family holiday and passed a lorry, which was carrying tyres.

“That driver looks tyred,” said Dad. Genius.

My first real job was working as a writer and subeditor for a newspaper, when occasionally I got chance to hone my pun-making skills in headlines and stories. I remember interviewing a lady who’d passed her Spanish exam, and was delighted to find she’d got a grade C – not because I was enthralled by her prowess in the language but because I could come up with this pretty tenuous headline: “I got a C, senor.”

I’m sure I’m not alone in hoping that every dentist appointment I ever hear about is at 2.30 (that’s tooth hurty – see? Hilarious), and definitely not the only one who hopes each year that someone won’t have heard the “It’s National Star Wars Day” joke, which can be told with glee every May the 4th. May the 4th be with you!

There are certain subjects that inspire great punning, but I’ll have a go at pretty much anything. I was on the phone to Dad earlier and we were talking about a walk he’s going on, organised by a sheep farmer. “Is it a RAMble?” I asked, smirking. “Are the details a bit woolly?”

Another time at work, someone tweeted that their train was delayed because there was a cow on the line. “Have you got moos for us?” I jested. “Pull the udder one! Don’t milk it!”

These jokes are obviously not the exclusive domain of dads, but as they’ve been allocated to us, let’s embrace the cheesy badness and be the champions of this light-hearted, low-quality tomfoolery. After all, our children subliminally want this and expect it of us, don’t they?


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