The Atlantic

The Dad-Joke Doctrine

What’s black and white and read all over? This article, hopefully.
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Every time we drive through farm country in my dad’s home state of Indiana, we know it’s coming. As soon as he spots it in his peripheral vision from the driver’s seat, it’s like clockwork: “Hey, you know a guy died in there?” he says, feigning nonchalance as he points to the round barn just off the highway.

There is silence, maybe a mutual Here we go glance shared between the rest of us, as my dad gets a merry little gleam in his eye. Eventually he can’t resist any longer, and he lets the punch line rip: “Couldn’t find a corner to pee in!”

My dad, once a farmer, told me this joke for the first time when I was about 8. When I interviewed my father for this story, he told me he’d heard it from his dad, also a farmer, when he was about 8. (He also boasted that he’d told my mom this joke, to her great amusement, when they were dating as teenagers; my mom then yelled into the phone that she had in fact heard it before, even at the time. Probably from her own dad, a farmer.)

[Why do puns make people groan?]

It would be difficult to make the case that the “guy who died in the round barn” joke, , is funny in its own right—though I would argue it’s pretty funny how much my dad still loves telling it. Which makes it a shining example of one of America’s great

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