About two years ago this newspaper conducted a reader survey in which some of you told us one of the biggest improvements you’d like us to make is to hire someone capable of writing a humor column.
For me, this suggestion was no laughing matter.
The thought that maybe I’m not even capable of writing a funny column has messed with my head ever since, making me feel some added pressure every time I struggle to come up with a funny topic to write about.
Making matters worse, a former Times Review rookie reporter whose name I will not disclose, we’ll just refer to him as Chris Lisinski, spent the better part of last year telling me every time he felt one of my newsroom jokes did not land.
“That’s a dad joke,” young Mr. Lisinski, again not his real name, would say, a phrase that several other colleagues have latched onto.
The staff’s remarks got me thinking that maybe there’s some connection to having become a father in recent years and my inability to think up humorous column ideas.
Maybe it’s the lack of sleep we get as dads or the added responsibility of taking care of a human that zaps us in the funny bone.
I often tell my own dad he was the funniest guy I knew. Then I turned 10. After my niece hit double digits two years ago, she told me I was right. Grandpa’s jokes just didn’t do it for her like they used to, even if many of his friends still find him funny.
Sometimes Dad will repeat a joke to me with the hope that maybe I just didn’t hear him the first time around.
While I couldn’t find any real scientific theory behind this, I did find in my research plenty of online fodder related to the “dad joke.”
There are many blog posts, websites and Twitter handles devoted to this phenomenon, including one U.K. news site that published a headline this week titled “11 dad jokes so unfunny they’re actually brilliant.”
In an interview with Howard Stern last year, legendary stand-up comedian Chris Rock lamented that his own daughters can’t understand how he makes his living as a comic.
“You’re no Kevin Hart,” he said they tell him, a statement even Mr. Hart would likely disagree with.
I know how to make my son laugh currently, but he’s only 2 1/2 and most of the time it’s through tickling him or blowing a fart sound onto his belly. It’s kind of hard to make that brand of humor pop through the written word in a column aimed at an adult audience.
If this theory about dads not being funny to their own children holds any weight, that means millions of Americans will spend this Sunday not laughing. They’ll be celebrating a man who fails to provide them with the world’s best medicine.
So what is it then that I like so much about my dad?
For starters, I can’t think of a single time as a kid that I ever asked my old man to play catch or one-on-one basketball with me that he ever said no.
And now not a week goes by when my parents are in town that they don’t babysit my son for a full day. My father, whose months away from his 70th birthday, will spend an entire day kicking a ball or climbing up a slide to chase after his grandson. He’s never once told me he’s tired of it.
For much of my dad’s career he worked the night shift, yet every morning he’d be there at the kitchen table, making me and my brother breakfast and getting us on the bus.
In the last few years before he retired, the job clearly got to him, but I can hardly recall him not showing up for work. Instead he provided for his kids and showed me the importance of putting your best foot forward no matter what.
When my mom was nearly killed in a car crash the week my dad finally retired, it was he who sat at her bedside every night for months, often sleeping sitting straight up in a chair.
My dad may not be a rich man or anyone you’d heard of or feel the need to know. He’s just a regular guy who answered when his nation called on him and has served his wife and kids the best way he knows how in the 45 years since. We’ve hardly ever thanked him for it — in fact my brother and I still give him as much agita as ever before — but he doesn’t seem to mind very much.
When I head to his house to spend the afternoon with him Sunday, I’m sure he’ll do the grilling and wash all the dishes afterward. He’ll likely change his fair share of diapers, too.
It’s just who he is. He’s the kind of dad I want to be. He’s no joke.
Top photo: Grant Parpan’s father, Pete.
The author is the executive editor of Times Review Media Group. He can be reached at [email protected]. Feel free to offer funny topics for him to discuss. He makes no guarantees he’ll be able to deliver.