One appealing aspect of dad jokes is how they can be self-mocking and teasing simultaneously. An ironic distance is baked into them. No wonder they’re popular among Generation X parents.
But they have deeper roots. Dad jokes tend to be clean, generic and short, requiring no context or explanation. In many ways, they are throwbacks to the days when comics leaned on bits that started with a trio of religious figures walking into a bar, or evergreen one-liners that began with, “Did you hear the one about … ?”
Professional comics once trafficked in these jokes, but they went out of fashion as stand-up became more ambitious, and also more personal, putting a premium on original material that reflected a specific point of view.
Dad jokes may not work within the context of stand-up anymore, but given that stand-up appears to be progressing toward its nadir, that’s probably not a bad thing. Political/therapy comedy is probably best suited to this histrionic age of sturm und drang self-expression, but for a placid and mature sensibility, the rococo flourishes of linguistic cleverness are good enough.