Dud jokes

My father loved these. Bad jokes. Lame, groany, punny, eye-rolling jokes. Dad jokes.

In the days before smart phones or ipads or even car air conditioning, these were our entertainment system.

The essence of humour is surprise. An unexpected result, a break in routine, a switch in timing.

You want to learn the secret of humour? Go on, ask me what it is.
— Ok. What is the secre…
Timing!

A Dad joke – or as I call them here, because that domain name was already taken, a dud joke – contains a double shot. First, it should be funny in the conventional manner. Not necessary, but it helps a lot.

Second, and this is a must, the unexpected twist has got to be lame. Bad. A dud. Something that appears to have been thought up on the moment, or some obvious misunderstanding, or some stupid pun.

The pay-off isn’t a burst of laughter. It’s a heartfelt groan, or mass eye-rolling or, for family, an exasperated, “Daaaaaad!”

I do a little public speaking, and I always like to start with some audience engagement. Get them on their toes and hopefully keep them there. So I’ll look out into the hall and ask, “Are there any horse lovers in the audience tonight?”
One or two will raise their hands. Often some pretty young women – that’s extra good.
“Excellent!” I’ll say, beaming. “Because I brought along some throat lozenges!”

The pay-off isn’t a burst of laughter. It’s a heartfelt groan, or mass eye-rolling or, for family, an exasperated, “Daaaaaad!”

Dad jokes are humour stretched out and made visible for autopsy. The normal rules of story-telling do not apply. The focus is on the supposed joke thrust into public gaze.

In my example above, instead of what might reasonably be expected to be some anecdote about horses, my audience is forced to grasp the absurdity that I really meant “hoarse lovers” and that the pretty young women raising their hands at me have been screaming out in the throes of passion all night long and could benefit from a pastille of Fisherman’s Friend.

Frustration is the reaction. “Wot, that’s all there is?”

Yup. No cutesy horsey story. No freebie pony ride tickets in my pocket. Behold my pun, ye schmucks, and despair!

Sometimes the joke misfires. The shot goes over the heads of the targets. This is not a bad thing. If it takes a minute or two and an anguished groan is heard, that’s great.

If not, well, that’s something I can work on. A slight change in the phrasing or delivery, maybe.

Or – and this is something that doesn’t work in normal joke-telling – I can stop and explain the joke. Here is the professor of joke anatomy, standing over the pale corpse of a joke, pointing out the foo-foo valve to the keen students. And the groans will be all the louder.

Speaking of jokes and frustration, this website is the direct result. A really good (read bad) Dad joke would come along on my Facebook feed and I’d think, “Must remember that one for the family party next week.”

Of course, next week would roll along and the thing would have sunk to the bottom of my memory skip and I’d have to fall back on something that I’d told a thousand times before.

Funny once, funny always, right?

So this is a list of dud jokes for my future reference, so that I can forever be fresh and entertaining. Right?