Dad jokes: Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em—at least if you have a dad-joke-teller somewhere in your life. So The Atlantic’s Ashley Fetters decided to dive into the world of dad jokes with a highly detailed article that digs into language, history, culture, humor, and her own dad’s best/worst jokes. If Fetters doesn’t exactly reach any definitive conclusions about dad jokes, she does offer some thought-provoking discussion points, and, of course, some classic dad jokes, like: “I was just looking at my ceiling. Not sure if it’s the best ceiling in the world, but it’s definitely up there.” Or the all-time classic, “I’m hungry.” “Hi, Hungry. I’m Dad.”
In interviews with various experts, Fetters discovers a few different theories as to how dad jokes came to be so (begrudgingly) popular. One ties into the shifting roles fathers have played across American history. During the colonial era, fathers were the distanced, didactic leaders of their families. Over the next few centuries, however, they slowly grew into the more active, engaged fathers of today. Fetters spoke to Natasha Cabrera, the director of the Family Involvement Laboratory at the University of Maryland, who notes, “Men had to find new roles, if they weren’t going to be sole providers or disciplinarians or heads of household. The roles that we’ve assigned to people since then have been: Dad is the worker, but then he gets home and he plays. Mom has to work, and has to have dinner on the table, and has the emotional role. Mom is everything else.” (For what it’s worth, Cabrera also believes that binary is pretty limiting and that moms can be funny, too.)
Fetters also went right to the source for a perspective on dad jokes. She writes:
When my colleague McKay Coppins tweeted about his life as a suburban dad and someone responded by asking him how dads get their dad jokes, he said that it is a “combination of exhaustion and your kids laughing at anything when they’re very young, which creates a perverse incentive system and endows you with false confidence.” (“Then you spend the rest of your life doubling down on dad jokes,” he added in an email to me later. He does, though, hope to pass the dad-joke tradition down to his own son one day.)
Whatever their origin, dad jokes are here to stay and more popular than ever on places like the Reddit page r/dadjokes and the Twitter account @BadDadJokes. You can read the full article over on The Atlantic.
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