One day in the Old West, a three-legged dog hobbled into a saloon. He hopped up onto a barstool and said, “I’m lookin’ for the man who shot my paw.”
That one makes my kids groan every time I retell it. I don’t intentionally repeat it to them, per se, but occasionally they’re around in a group setting when I sense a new audience, and I trot it out.
Because everyone must experience that joke.
It’s a Dad Joke. I’m a Dad. But my kids — and my wife, too — just roll their eyes and appear generally disgusted. The level of disgust increased proportionally as the kids grew into young adults.
Dad’s jokes just aren’t as charming as they once were, I guess. Which means basically not at all. But I can’t help it. I love a good Dad Joke. And I love a bad one, too. Even the ones that don’t translate well into print, like:
“What do you call a fish with no eyes?”
Get it? When you say “I’s” it sounds like “eyes”?
Or this one:
“What’s a pirate’s favorite letter?”
Then you wait for everyone to say, “ARRRRR” because that’s the automatic pirate joke answer.
And then you reply, in your best Long John Silver voice, “No! It’s all about the C.”
Because, of course, C sounds like “sea.” That’s high comedy right there.
Anyway. These jokes are among my greatest joys, up there with quality family time, comfortable shoes and sports talk shows.
So, imagine my glee when a particular TikTok video went viral: It was posted by Shannon Wessel (@ms.wessel), a high school biology teacher in Washington who gave her students a quiz with an extra credit question: Tell me a joke. If it makes me laugh, you get extra credit.
Turns out, the kids turned the tables on the grownups: Pretty much all the jokes they told her were, you guessed it, Dad Jokes. When I watched her read off those jokes, I felt like I had landed right on top of a delightful pile of Dad Jokes, where I could remain blissfully lost for days. Some of them, I will retell for years, if nothing else just to irritate my kids.
Even right away, I couldn’t resist. I retold a couple of them in the newsroom. Like, immediately.
It also gave me a nice juicy excuse to write a column about Dad Jokes, which of course requires repeating them. Because why not?
Some of the contributions from Ms. Wessel’s students:
“A biology teacher grew human vocal cords from stem cells in the lab. The results speak for themselves.”
“What’s the best thing about Switzerland? I honestly have no idea, but the flag is a big plus.”
“What does a chicken say when he sees lettuce? Chicken sees-a salad.”
“What’s the bad thing about eating a clock? It’s time-consuming.”
“What do you call a magical dog? A Labracadabrador.”
And, she read one that was mildly inappropriate but she laughed anyway: “What’s the difference between a snowman and a snow woman? Snow balls.”
Which reminds me. Not all “Dad Jokes” are necessarily appropriate for the younger kiddos.
And, while Dad Jokes are typically brief, clean one-liners, I also have found that as the kids get older it’s fun for Dad to spin a yarn, leading his audience on a long walk in the park that is only rewarded with a groaner of a punch line that walks on the edge of appropriateness.
One of my favorites, in its most delightfully drawn-out form, is GREAT when you have a captive audience around a campfire. But when you get to the end, they just might throw you in the fire.
It’s the (made up) story of how Yuma, Arizona, got its name. There are other variations (including, according to Google, a very racist one). But mine goes something like this and it brings us back to the Old West:
It seems there was this bandit who was terrorizing towns in the Old Southwest. Bank robberies. Train heists. Gunplay, involving the shooting of innocent civilians.
Word got around: The bandit and his gang were converging on this town in the Arizona desert. The town didn’t have a name yet, but it DID have a sheriff.
And that sheriff wasn’t going to put up with any of the bandit’s nonsense. Nosirree.
So, the sheriff lie in wait. Lay in wait? Laid in wait? Lain in wait? Whatever. I’ll check the AP Stylebook later.
The sheriff was hiding behind a stack of hay bales as the bandit rode his horse into town. From his hidden perch, the sheriff shot the bandit in the back, which of course is not the gentlemanly way to stage a gunfight.
The bandit tumbled from his steed, and fell to the dusty main street of the town with no name. The sheriff ran up, and he knew the bandit was mortally wounded.
“I’ll make no apologies, because I know you were coming here to harm the people I’m charged with protecting,” the sheriff said. “But I’ll tell you what. Since I shot you in the back, I owe you something. I’ll name this town after you. Tell me your name, sir, and this town shall bear your name from now on.”
With his dying breath, the bandit looked up at the sheriff and said:
Make sure to tip your servers on the way out, folks.
Tim Whyte is editor of The Signal.