Dad, I’m Hungry…

25 Jul Dad, I’m Hungry…

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly – cover date 24.7.23


You’ve got to love a Dad Joke. No really, you’ve actually got to because it turns out they are good for your mental health.

This is especially true for kids – lucky, because they’re the ones who have to hear them most. A recent report in in the British Psychological Society journal says these puns and cheesy one-liners that illicit eye rolling and exasperated sighs are extremely beneficial because – get this – when your dad embarrasses you with his dad-joke nonsense, you learn a crucial life lesson: that embarrassment is not fatal.

I don’t know if I fully appreciated this before – that blushing does not kill you. Understood it on some level, sure, but had never articulated it. You may want to die, wish the ground would open up and swallow you, but you are not in any danger of literally carking it.

And so when you say, “Dad, I’m hungry,” and he says, “Hi, Hungry, I’m Dad,” what he is actually offering you is an opportunity to become resilient by experiencing a little bit of humiliation … and surviving.

Think of Dad Jokes as a vaccination, then, against embarrassment. Experts tell us to really dose up our freshly minted teenagers because they are super prone to mortification, particularly in relation to their parents. But give them a good jab with unfunny jokes and eventually they’ll become immune.

And the prize here is that, the less prone you are to feeling awkward, the more likely you’ll find the courage to be yourself. Think about that – if the prospect of falling flat on your face doesn’t bother you, you will cheerfully risk the high wire. We magically remove a barrier that hold us back from adventure.

My dad did a reasonable line in Dad Jokes. We’d pull into Waipukurau on a family road trip and he’d say, “Waipuk? Why not!” and we’d groan gently in the back seat. If asked, he would tell you the best time to visit a dentist was “tooth-hurty”. Mostly we’d just love that he was in a bouncy mood – another Dad Joke benefit is that it indicates everyone’s heart is light.

Anyone can do a Dad Joke. Though as a mum I went less for the word-based humiliations in favour of dressing up for it. Like that time – weary of waiting in my car for my teenager to emerge from events – I told her I’d be arriving in pyjamas with Crocs and a cowboy hat, and she probably didn’t want me to come inside? Very prompt, she was.

Also, you don’t have to be a kid to benefit from the Dad Joke styles. This has always been part of my approach to MCing daylong hui, especially the ones where people who aren’t comfortable with public speaking have to do some.

If you, as the high status person – the one who is the professional, and in charge – are willing to make yourself look like a bit of an idiot with the odd lame joke at the start and yet maintain your equilibrium, it gives everyone else a bit of wiggle room to fail, have less fear of a misstep and more confidence to relax and be themselves. At which point you will be like an award-winning scarecrow because – wait for it – you will be outstanding in your field.

So get out there and share some classics with your kids and mokopuna. Help yourself to my current favourite which is that I have successfully managed to weigh a rainbow and it turns out it was pretty light.