If you have a dad, you’ve probably heard a dad joke. If you are a dad, you’ve probably told one (or a hundred).
Dad jokes are silly jokes that fathers tell, mostly to get a reaction from their children. Laughter will do, but a roll of the eyes or an exclamation of Daaaa-dddyy! — well, those are fine, too.
Since dad jokes aren’t typically good jokes, they might seem extraneous. But don’t write them off. Dad jokes serve an important purpose, and we’d be poorer as a society (and as a church) without them.
The Importance of Laughter
If real joy is at the center of the Christian life, then laughter cannot be far behind. A joyful Christian need not always wear a smile, but a Christian who never laughs is hard to fathom.
There are abundant reasons for laughter all around us. God’s world is full of bizarre and hilarious creatures doing bizarre and hilarious things. Doubting readers should visit their local zoo and spend 30 minutes pondering the giraffe.
God’s providence can make us smile just as often as his creation. Sometimes God governs the world with a “frowning providence” (William Cowper), but other times the unfolding of our lives is wonderful: a friendly cashier just when you need a smile; your elderly neighbors holding hands on their afternoon walk; the joy in your heart when an old friend calls for a chat. God means for these glimpses of his grace to delight and cheer us.
So laughter is an appropriate, humble response to a sovereign creator who himself has a sense of humor. But laughter is essential to loving our neighbors as well. No one wants to befriend a stick in the mud. Shared laughter or a well-timed joke can build friendship in powerful ways. Developing our God-given senses of humor makes us the sort of people others want to be around and listen to.
Raising Funny People
Of course, a sense of humor is more readily caught than taught. The best way to help kids develop a sense of humor is to be funny with them. Parents have been doing this with their children for centuries, and children love it.
Though our children will eventually sail away, their preparatory time in the safe harbor of their family is critical. At home, children won’t be rejected or embarrassed if a joke falls flat. Children can test and develop their senses of humor in a supportive environment.
This playful encouragement is especially important for young children. As toddlers learn to speak, they have all kinds of struggles with words—some confusing and some just funny. (No one avoids the pee versus pea jokes, right?) So much humor hinges on facility with language—homonyms, puns, rhyming—that experimenting with words should be celebrated in our homes.
Dads Are Leaders
Dad jokes are probably so named because men typically enjoy the silliness more than women. But the name also reflects a natural part of a father’s calling.
Fathers are leaders in their homes. I take this as a given, though hearty, cheerful defenses of this biblical doctrine abound. A man’s leadership as husband and father is to be Christlike—warm, gentle, firm, and sacrificial. His loving leadership should extend to all aspects of the home, including the laughter that echoes from room to room.
Dad jokes are a natural outworking of the sacrificial love of a Christian father. (Stay with me!) See, the goof in a dad joke is the dad himself. A dad joke doesn’t make fun of others, it doesn’t draw on bathroom gags, vulgarity, or stereotypes; at its heart, a dad joke says Can you believe I thought this was funny? In telling dad jokes, fathers help their children to learn what is funny at their own expense.
Beyond Dad Jokes
Dad jokes are the baby food of humor. They help children develop their palate, learning what is funny and what isn’t. They tickle and prompt a child to chew over language and delight in their circumstances.
If you only tell dad jokes, you’re probably not very funny. But dad jokes are a valuable part of a faithful father’s joke arsenal. They help him prepare his children to enjoy God and his world and to be salt and light to those around them.