Father’s Day: A holiday filled with truly bad jokes

I was in a hardware store in Minneapolis on Mother’s Day when I felt that little buzz of exhilaration – the one that lights me up every time I feel a Dad Joke coming on.

My second symptom – laughing uncontrollably to myself – was close on its heels.

That giddiness is a natural reaction to Dad Joke writers because we so often are shamed into thinking we’re the only ones who find our jokes funny.

And the full truth is even harsher than that.

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Because most people say a Dad Joke is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms.

And others — I call them family — say oxy and moron are names that should be combined and applied to all who compose (or is it decompose?) Dad Jokes.

But today, Dad Joke tellers, we are neither lurching oxen nor moroning morons.

Because this is Father’s Day, the day that combines for us the cumulative prestige accorded to winners of the Indy 500, Daytona 500, Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, and Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.

Every other day, people may dog us for our jokes.

But today, we are — say it with me — pit bulls, Rottweilers — top dogs.

And all others are Dachshunds, suffering through the humiliation that dog’s nickname implies.

To celebrate this Dad Joke Pride Day, I’m going to give all of you out there a chance to channel your inner Dads by giving you the chance to create your own Dad Joke, using as a starting point the raw material that inspired me in Minneapolis.

So, here’s what caught my eye in the hardware: Just above head height and not far from the checkout line sat a stack of coolers, which are much in demand in outdoorsy Minnesota. Prominently displayed on each of them: The brand name Yeti.

Those of you interested can get to work on your Dad Jokes while I continue.

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There in the hardware store, I liked the odds that I’d be able to channel the adrenaline rush into a joke. As Dad Joke creators well know, that’s not a given.

Because during that first rush, the Dad Joke composer, regardless of age, has about as much self-control as a 3-year-old test driving his first Whoopy cushion.

Luckily for me, I had experience on my side. Because some years back, I had enjoyed a measure of success in the Twin Cities.

While passing by Minnehaha Avenue, I had casually suggested to our son, Benjamin, who was driving, that the street would be the perfect place for a comedy club for so-so jokes — jokes that wouldn’t make you really laugh, but would produce, well, mini ha-has.

After he somehow managed not to run the car into an abutment, and after the stunned look faded, the poor boy’s face turned red in a flush of shame.

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I felt for him because over the years he worked hard to earn the multiple higher degrees in education in an effort to distance himself from my low brow — perhaps no brow — humor.

So, I allowed a few moments to pass before calling up my best Darth Vader voice to say, as I had numerous times before, “You are still my son, Luke.”

Now we’ll return to the hardware, where the Yeti joke had congealed and I began looking for my potential audience. (My family calls them victims.)

It was while these two innocent people were having a legitimate conversation with a sales person that I sidled up and pointed out the prominent display of Yetis.

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Pretending to be a savvy customer, I told them that if they were looking to save some money on camping equipment that was just as good, they could skip the Yetis and go to aisle 7 to buy the discount brand. Not Yetis.

There followed a heavy moment of silence in which I feared they were going to summon the authorities or spray the room with air freshener.

Luckily, what could have been a deadly silence was broken by a woman who had been near enough to hear the joke but far enough from its epicenter to have avoided the most damaging consequences.

“That was a Dad Joke,” she said with what I still choose to interpret as a smile.

In retrospect, I know I could have done better.

But I took some succor into suckering those people into hearing it — and to adapting the joke to its natural surroundings.

Had I been in the snowshoe department of a Dick’s Sporting Goods in St. Paul, for instance, I might have tried an evil twin like:

Two guys set out in the snowy Minnesota woods in search of a Sasquatch. When they meet up two days later at the agreed GPS setting, one asks the other if he’s seen anything, and the other answers: “Not Yeti.”

Had I been at a Wild West Show, there might be a story about a sheriff who comes upon two wandering horses not far from two cowboys motionless in the dust. The one cowboy comes to and tells the sheriff, “We were saddled up watching for sasquatches on the horizon when genius here spots one and shouts ‘Yeti Up!’”

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Or I could have violated the copyright on the one about the sasquatch rock group with a genius guitar player, Yeti Van Halen.

And did I tell you that when I’m on a Dad Joke roll, my family starts asking me if I’m a serial murderer?

I know it’s just their kind way of asking whether I’m ever going to know when enough is enough.

All you have to do is say it with me:

Not yeti!