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In praise of dad jokes and divine humor

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Where on earth is he getting this stuff? Does he swap jokes with fellow dads? Did the nurses at the hospital pass out some manual I missed?

Laura Kelly
Fanucci

My husband is down in the kitchen, cooking eggs for our four boys. From upstairs, I hear him serve up a little extra on the side: a classic dad joke about "makin' bacon." As I smirk to myself, I can practically hear our sons roll their eyes.

But having been raised by a dad who puns with the best of them, my hunch is that they're also secretly smiling. Dad jokes are goofy and lovable. A genre all their own.

The man I married didn't used to crack corny jokes. One of the charms that won me to him right away was his razor-sharp wit. At our wedding, the best man described watching the two of us at dinner, volleying quips back and forth "with that bizarre sense of humor they share." We like our sarcasm dry.

But as he has grown into fatherhood, his cheesy dad jokes have grown alongside him. Now I find myself groaning with the kids as he delights in his newfound comedy. Where on earth is he getting this stuff? Does he swap jokes with fellow dads? Did the nurses at the hospital pass out some manual I missed?

Years ago, while meditating on the mystery of God, I was delighted by a surprising idea: God must have the best sense of humor. Not only in the cutesy way we describe our plans in relation to God's providence -- "God must have a great sense of humor; look at how this turned out!" Not just in the childish assigning of quirky parts of creation (like the platypus) to a chuckling Creator.

But as centuries of theologians and philosophers have claimed that God is by definition the perfection of any positive characteristic we can conjure -- all-merciful, all-loving, all-knowing -- then by extension, couldn't we conceive that God's sense of humor would be the greatest, beyond all imagining?

Think about the power and possibility of pure humor. Not snarky asides or cruel jokes at another's expense, but the delight of sharing true laughter over a hilarious joke or a well-placed pun.

Most of us love to be in the company of someone with a great sense of humor: a clever observer of human behavior or a warm personality who draws people together with funny stories and fresh laughter. What might have made Jesus laugh, fully human as he was, sharing in our delight? What parts of creation might have made God laugh out loud, chuckling with sheer pleasure?

The Psalms describe how "the one enthroned in heaven laughs" (Ps 2:4) -- sometimes at human folly, but also because humor must be a divine attribute. Just as our compassion, kindness and forgiveness can aspire to reflect God's nature -- as we ourselves are "imago Dei," made in the image and likeness of God -- could our sense of humor hope to embody God's loving laughter, too?

My husband's goofy dad jokes are more than sheer silliness. At their heart, his puns are one of the many small ways he shows love to his children. To invite them into delight. To build a home where laughter is welcome. To form them into men who bring wit and wisdom into a world that needs more of both. To model fatherhood that is caring and compassionate, slow to anger and quick to smile.

This Father's Day, let us sing the praises of dad jokes. Let us give thanks for a God of love and laughter. And let us never forgot the power of humor to make us more human, as we reflect the divine.

- Laura Kelly Fanucci is a guest columnist for Catholic News Service.



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