Opinion: All dad jokes aside …


A British researcher has come up with a fascinating theory. His premise is that when fathers tell dumb jokes and lame puns, it prepares their kids to deal with awkward circumstances, giving them a little experience in life with embarrassing and demeaning situations. So, were the jokes I told my son bad, and if so, was that a good thing?

I called Brett, who is now an adult, to share the story I had just read.

“Brett, it’s Dad. I need to tell you something.”

“Geesh, Dad, I’m 35 years old. Not another juvenile joke!“

“That’s just what I was hoping you’d say. I read an article that claims my telling dumb jokes to you when you were a kid helped you grow into a well-adjusted adult.”

“It’s true, Dad. I never thought you were funny, but reacting to your lame puns really did help me deal with other awkward experiences down the road.”

“Brett, that is exactly what the British psychologist said. Are there any jokes that were particularly bad that might have really led you to a more productive and satisfying life?”

“Well, I remember one about the duck who walked into a pharmacy and said, ‘I need some lip balm, and you can put it on my bill.’ Now, Dad, that’s just a dreadful joke. I found it demeaning and insulting for both of us.”

“Thank you so much for saying that. How lucky you were to have such a humorless father.”

And now, a 100 percent true story of how I really did humiliate Brett some 30 years ago.

Brett was in the fourth grade, and I was doing field reporting for WISH-TV. The Broadway show “Cats” was playing at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, and I thought it would be fun to have the makeup artist apply the same cosmetics on me as she did for the actors in the show. The process took quite a while. When I looked at myself in the mirror some two hours later, it was bizarre feeling like my normal self but staring at a cat in the reflection. That’s when I had an idea. I would go to my son’s class and surprise the kids with my new feline face.

When I reached the school, I checked in to the main office, explained my plan and made my way to Brett’s room. After getting the teacher’s attention through the tiny side window and identifying myself, I slithered in through the door.

The kids went wild — screaming, laughing, meowing. “Who is it?” asked one kid in the front row. No one knew who I was, of course, with one notable exception.

From the back of the room came my son’s voice dripping in embarrassment, “Probably my father.”