Laughter is the Best Medicine

Why ‘Dad Jokes’ Aren’t Bad Jokes

[INTRO ♪] Here’s a fun fact for you. I always used to get small shocks whenever I touched metal objects,
but it’s recently stopped. Obviously, I’m ex-static. No? You’re not feeling that one?
Did you hear the one about the restaurant on the moon? Great food, no atmosphere. Yeah, dad jokes! Whether it’s the classic “Hi Hungry, I’m
Dad!” or a “tooth hurt-y” dentist appointment, there’s something uniquely groan-worthy
about the jokes we associate with dads. Now, it might be tempting to write them off
entirely, or, like, campaign for their eradication from the face of the planet—
don’t do that to me! Whether you love them or hate them, psychology actually has a pretty good explanation why so-called “dad jokes” exist. It turns out that they—and other kinds of
humor— are probably pretty important for developing
minds. Now, there’s no technical definition for a dad joke. But people tend to think of them as puns that
just … aren’t very funny. They don’t even have to be told by dads;
that’s just the stereotype. But here’s the thing: people don’t tell
them for no reason. At some point in a kid’s development, they
are funny. Kids have to develop a sense of humor like
any other cognitive trait. According to psychological theory, there are
four stages of humor development which are based on age-related
cognitive development. Before they get to puns, kids enjoy and learn
from silly songs and rhymes and more formulaic jokes like knock-knock jokes. It’s not until the fourth stage, when kids
are 7 to 11 years old, that they really develop a good enough understanding of the ambiguous and double meanings of words to enjoy things like puns, riddles, and satire. Then shortly after, their appreciation
for the art of terrible wordplay peaks. Psychologists think that’s because our appreciation
of jokes is relative to how much the concepts they rely on differ
from what we understand and expect. A 1976 study looked at this idea, and found
an inverted U-curve for what kids found funny. The amount of pleasure they got out of a joke was related to how recently they had mastered
the underlying concept. Before they understood a concept— like, say, the double meanings of words— a joke that relied on it wasn’t funny. Jokes were funniest right after they mastered
the central idea. And then after a few years, funniness declined. They basically got over the jokes. So it makes sense late elementary to middle
school aged kids are the ones most amused by parental punnery. By the time they’re 12 or so, though, the
fact that words can have two meanings is old news, so those jokes just
don’t seem as funny. Enter the groans and rolled eyes of teenagedom. That Goldilocks age for pun appreciation might
actually be where we got the idea that bad puns are “dad”
jokes in the first place. While a person of any gender, age, and parental
status can make a bad pun, parents with kids of a particular age have
the best audience for them. And it’s not just about appreciation— joke telling, like other forms of parental
play, helps nurture a child’s development. When psychologists talk about play, they define it as any self-generated activity that’s fun and
not literal, and it’s generally considered to be a crucial
part of social and intellectual development. There are a lot of theories around how play
contributes to development, but broadly speaking, it’s believed to be
a way to experiment and explore. Kids can learn how to make concrete things
into abstract ideas, to role play and solve problems, and how to
get along with others. Play essentially acts as first-hand experience,
which kids can learn from, and then apply what they’ve learned to new
scenarios. And puns and other jokes come into all of
this because they’re a form of verbal play: play that’s centered
around speech and language. The developmental importance of play might
help explain why having a good sense of humor has been linked
with social and academic success. Children with a strong sense of humor tend
to have more friends, and studies have shown that peers and teachers
alike rate them as more attentive, responsive, popular, and
outgoing. So knowing how to kid around is surprisingly
important— and learning that starts at home. Even as infants, laughter plays an important
role in attachment and helping babies bond with their caregivers. As kids grow older, their play becomes
more sophisticated when their parents are involved in it. The presence of a more knowledgeable play
partner can change the way they play, and when parents provide guidance— what psychologists call scaffolding— kids can actually learn more than they would
have alone. There’s evidence that verbal play can improve
a child’s language skills and their metalinguistic awareness, which is their understanding of the rules
of language. And even in adults, the use of puns and other
kinds of word play helps enhance learning and memory, like when
you’re trying to learn a new language. While they might make you groan, it’s actually
very possible that dad jokes play a role in helping kids develop their sense of humor and their language skills. So cut the dads and all the other terrible punners
in your life a little bit of slack! They’re doing important work… and it’s
not their fault that you don’t find that joke about two guys walking into a bar and the
third one ducking all that funny anymore. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow
Psych! If you want to learn more about the science
of humor, you might want to check out our episode on
what is it exactly that makes something funny. [OUTRO ♪]

100 thoughts on “Why ‘Dad Jokes’ Aren’t Bad Jokes

  1. This actually explains why I still love a well turned pun. Because 'dad joke' puns are ones that you've heard, and so has everyone else, but the spontaneous coincidence of overlapping language is still fun when you're not expecting it.

  2. I've spent too much time around kids. Used the "Hi, Hungry!" joke earlier today on one of my students who decided to announce to the entire class that he was hungry. Many times.

  3. Haha, I took a long while to understood the term. I'm brazilian and here, those unfunny jokes are called "piada de tiozão", or big uncle jokes, in direct translation

  4. Dad jokes are literally the best. Before they were called "dad jokes", I called them stupid jokes. Ones that are so "oh my god" that you have to laugh.

  5. They help teach concepts, too. When my Dad was teaching my cousin about the engineering concept of moment being related to the angular force of torque, he said, "When a [church] minister calls for a 'moment' of prayer, he is 'torque – ing' with God."

  6. Part of humor is the unexpectedness in a joke. So after Dad jokes, one might move on to different styles of jokes until the novelty of each style wears off.
    Such an ANTI-JOKE or anti-humor; some examples:

    Q: What's blue and smells like red paint? 🎨
    A: Blue paint.

    Q: What color was George Washington's white house? 🐎
    A: White.

    Person 1: Knock, Knock. 🚪
    Person 2: Who's there?
    Person 1: Lettuce.
    Person 2: That's impossible.

    Yo momma's so fat, that… 👩
    we are all extremely concerned for her health. ☤

  7. Ooh! I'm a non-native speaker, I'm learning more about English and Japanese all the time! And I find puns and dajare to be really cool. Not that funny, but often chuckle worthy and interest-grabbing (as long as they don't pathetically try to point them out, the "get it?", moment in many movies that kind of ruin the joke for me).

  8. I love lame puns and dad jokes. Always been a fan, and they still make me laugh!
    Which is good! I work at a hospital and the older men that I work with always try and joke around with lame jokes, but they genuinely still make me smile! Makes for better times for All!

  9. I told my mom a dad joke and she just looked at me and deadpan said "oh god, you've become your father."
    i also tell them for the purpose of annoying my coworkers.

  10. I love these types of jokes. I didn't know they were called dad jokes until a few years ago. I called them groaners, because I would groan and then laugh, because they are still funny. I might have got the term from a book I read as a kid.

  11. I think dad jokes are the best. Lol people always just think its so bad. Cant understand i tell them all the times and the silence is golden

  12. For me, a "Dad Joke" is a joke or a pun so lame or bad it is actually funny, but I don't know if this is another kind of joke

  13. I never got over silly jokes, knock-knock jokes and plays on words. To this day, even the ones I groan at I secretly love. I especially love plays on words because even the most 'obvious' groan-worthy ones because it doesn't mean they aren't clever, just that we've heard them before. Word jokes are great.

  14. XD the comment section of this video is gold! A Collection of dozens of dad jokes! And because I'm not a native english speaker they are all new to me and funny!!

  15. Basically dad jokes are the worst for you because you know them too well. You heard them during your entire childhood.

  16. That and it's probably a part of the dad's process to adopt and act based on their new social identity as father. Basically it doesn't only help the kid learn, but also helps the dad act accordingly to how a dad "should" act.

  17. Punnies are always funny to me, and I honestly can't understand why a lot of people hate them. Most of the time, the word play is clever, so I don't believe the argument that they're not funny because they're immature in nature. 😒

  18. Recently I've been breeding ants, trying to get ones with shorter legs.

    It's all part of my "zero taller ants" policy.

  19. A male friend accidentally texted me one period just after midnight. I told him not to worry because it wasn't the first time I got a period in the middle of the night.

  20. my favorite joke i mayyyyyy have ever told was to my grandfather
    he was washing eggs and carried the carton to another room but accidentally dropped it. of course we both thought they all cracked but when he looked only 1 of the 12 had
    i said "lucky break" and lmao… he was not amused

  21. My modification for the bar joke: 3 guys walk into a bar… the woman ducks. This, BTW transforms it into a Mom joke.

  22. You know how I know this is a goldmine of delightful humor? Because when I told these jokes to my boyfriend, he said "AAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUUUUUGH!"

  23. You ever hear the one about the dolphin trainer who last his job?

    After losing his job his life had no porpoise.

  24. I've been a punner all my life. I annoyed my peers with puns in middle and high school. I wassssn't very popular….

  25. There is a town close to where I live called Birdseye. I don't go there all that often, and you probably wouldn't either, because it's just your typical small-town. So what lies beyond Birdseye, you might ask? Well the answer is obvious: Bird's Ass.

  26. The joke you almost don't get, but you do, is the best joke. Same goes for music and visual arts etc. They all push the envelope of communications, a very important survival skill for humans. And of course it needs to be done age, or target audience in general, appropriate.

  27. I'm curious if the humor curve looks different if you test people in their twenties and up. Because i think certain types of jokes that you grow out of come back around and become funny again later on in life. That or maybe if you keep discovering new nuances and subtleties in various types of jokes you never grow tired of them in the first place.

  28. I find it weird that I just figured out the "Two guys walk into a bar; the third one ducks." joke the time I finished the video before writing this…

  29. Yup. Those Dad Jokes rubbed off on me big time. I can still pop a few good corny jokes if I craft it right for a new audience. Old audiences are harder.

  30. My appreciation for “terrible” word-play has never and will never peak. I’m 18 and nothing can stop me. Puns are the best thing on this planet and you cannot convince me otherwise.

  31. If laughter helps build bonds and strengthen them; why is it called "dad jokes"? Both mums and dads can tell jokes and develop our sense of humour. Both mums and dads can express humour with their child, so, why is it only attributed to dads?

  32. I would just like to offer a tip that the VlogBrothers channel features no fewer than six separate videos of Hank telling dad jokes nonstop.

  33. I'm 20 and still love "Dad jokes" and puns and laugh almost every time. I've only heard one joke that made even me groan.
    Because I couldn't resist: what do you call a fake noodle?

    An im-pasta.

  34. A memory of my dad ill always have is of him asking me what the best time to go to the dentist was, which he followed up with the tooth hurty punch line. I must have been 6 or 7 years old and he was driving me to the dentist so as you can imagine id left my sense of humor at home that day lol.

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