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Dad Jokes Help Kids Cope With Embarrassment

If you’ve ever been the target of a dad joke, you know it can make you groan. But these cheesy puns might also be doing your brain a favor. A new study suggests that dad jokes, which are the least-surprising form of humor, may actually help kids learn how to handle embarrassment.

Dad jokes are those corny, unfunny ones that are so predictably bad they become funny. These are the one-liners that ask, “Why do kids eat broccoli and hate cauliflower?” or say things like, “What does a frog eat before it turns into a prince?”

While professional comics once trafficked in these jokes, they’ve fallen out of fashion as stand-up comedy has become more creative. But despite their predictability and cheesiness, dad jokes continue to be popular, with hundreds of websites, YouTube videos and TikToks dedicated to them.

Until now, researchers haven’t been sure why they are so popular or what they can teach us about the psychology of humor. But now a team led by Dr. Michael Frates of the University of Utah has discovered that the predictability and cheesiness of dad jokes can have a beneficial pedagogical effect on the children who begrudgingly hear them.

By repeatedly telling their children jokes that are so unfunny they’re embarrassing, fathers show their kids that it’s OK to feel embarrassed. Over time, this may help kids develop a natural immunity to embarrassment, which is especially important for image-conscious adolescents as they enter the sensitive, socially awkward teenage years.


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