Dad jokes are the funny puns and one-liners that fathers all over the world just can’t seem to help telling — even when they know they will be met with eye-rolls and groans from their long-suffering audiences. They are the cheesy, family-friendly jokes that make kids laugh and everyone else cringe. But are they actually good for us? A new study suggests that dad jokes might have a positive pedagogic function. By enabling children to experience the humour of their embarrassment, the jokes can teach them that it’s okay to make mistakes and that laughter can be a helpful coping strategy in awkward or uncomfortable situations.

But what makes a joke a dad joke is not just that it’s a pun; it’s also the fact that the punchline doesn’t violate linguistic or social norms in a way that’s intentionally offensive. The vast majority of dad jokes are pure, terminally inoffensive puns, which is what makes them wholesome and appropriate to tell around kids (see Table 1).

Although it might be tempting to dismiss dad jokes as bad or simply that they aren’t funny, this study suggests that we take a closer look at the phenomenon. By doing so, we may be able to better understand not just how humour works but also how fathers interact with their children and why the style of humour and play that dads use is distinct from that used by mothers. This could ultimately lead to more productive conversations and greater understanding of the complex relationship between fathers and their children.