You’ve heard of…or perhaps, yourself, indulge in ‘dad jokes’. One step past those are ‘granddad jokes.’ It’s interesting to speculate why some elder males have a penchant for that kind of humor. You never find women compulsively telling corny jokes. Certainly not to their grandchildren. A serious discussion with a thoughtful oldster on his choice of jests with the youngsters in his life might reveal the following:
1. It’s a form of bonding with his progeny-once-removed…a kind of initiation ceremony if you will, into the world of puns, riddles and double intendres which the psychologist Piaget described as an important step in child development.
2. It gives a socially acceptable (in some circles) outlet for vulgar four-letter words…because they’re fun to say and grown up and bound to get a reaction. And it’s okay if they’re part of a joke. Ha!
3. And finally it’s a rite of passage, a mark of maturity when an otherwise adoring grandson suddenly gets the religion of good taste and groans instead of snarks in paroxysms of laughter at a grampa gag. You know he’s growing up. Getting sophisticated…damn it. Tough job, but someone has to do it.
And if you are honest with yourself it feels good to have escorted your progeny to the doorstep of proper and appropriate adulthood…albeit by misdirection. It’s always possible to directly teach good manners and cultured taste…ask any grandmother. But there’s an alternative path to a refined sense of humor—inoculation with eye-rolling groaners. A steady diet of playground gags can act like a vaccination to ensure a healthy, adult sense of humor. Can happen. Our grampa jokes, and our son’s dad jokes to a lesser degree, are nature’s way of channeling a boy’s curiosity and latent love of snakes and snails and puppy dog tales to higher aesthetic standards like our favorite comedians and late-night TV hosts and MAD magazine.
So, ‘why did the chicken cross the road’ schticks are a way of making ourselves obnoxious to our grandkids. After all, we can’t have them idealizing us forever, thinking we’re the greatest. It’s right there in our grandparent job description to create detachment from puerile gags and jests by overkill, to nudge them out of the nest and into a well-formed sense of humor by piling on dumb jokes early on. And if they are anything like us, all will not be lost, they’ll still perk up their ears at the dog whistle phrase: “Did you hear the one about the…”