If one thing we dads are good for, it’s comic relief.


Dick Van Dyke told us. Bill Cosby told us. Tim Allen told us so. And if all that wasn’t enough, we often see it confirmed in our own lives.


When Mom made me dinner when I was a kid, it’d invariably include broccoli and fruit salad. When Dad made dinner, it’d invariably include lots of smoke—followed by fried chicken in a bucket.


When Mom took my sister and I to the zoo, she’d explain why elephants had long noses and why they didn’t share space with the tigers. When Dad would take us, he’d tease the llamas ‘til they spit in his face.

During one long road trip, my dad (who had an ulcer) pulled off at a convenience store next to a truck full of cattle. He stepped out of the car, took a swig of Maalox, looked at the cows and uttered a loud, unapologetic “MOOOOOO!” in their direction.

 

Only later did he notice that a Buick full of senior citizens also was parked nearby, and every single one of them was staring at my father as if they expected him to grow hooves.


I don’t typically moo on vacation, but my children still know that, if they need something done and done right, they go see their mother. If they want something done that’ll generate years’ worth of embarrassing stories, they’ll go see me.


 Dads, as a rule, are funny. So how is it even possible that a show called Dads be so aggressively unfunny?


Dads, the tragically misshapen offspring of Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, is essentially the story of two grown men who can’t stand their fathers. And that, right there, is pretty much the plot thus far: Two guys who despise their (admittedly buffoonish) dads and ridicule them constantly. The only thing that deviates from that prime conceit is the fact that both they and their fathers like to ridicule everyone else, too—sprinkling their insults with vaguely racist and overtly sexist jokes.


Dads debuted on Fox Sept. 17 to an audience of 6.5 million people and a legion of unappreciative critics. Many reviewers were so flabbergasted by the awfulness of the show that they were left trying to quantify just how bad bad can be—and asking questions with no good answers.


“Is Seth MacFarlane’s Fox Comedy the Worst of the Season?” asked the Associated Press. “Is Dads Creator Seth MacFarlane the Most Offensive Man in Show Business?” posited Salon. “So, Just How Racist is Fox’s Dads?” inquired Entertainment Weekly.


We’ve unfortunately never had much great to say at Plugged In about Family Guy or most of MacFarlane’s other creations—many of which are predicated around less-than-ideal father figures. And I don’t think the trend will continue with Dads.


MacFarlane seems to understand that fathers are supposed to be funny. But maybe he doesn’t realize that they’re far funnier if they’re laughing along with their spouses and children.


See, most of us dads are in on the joke—or, at least, we’d like to be. If we’re part of the punchline, we like to tell it ourselves. We know we’re not perfect. No one is. Our own imperfections hopefully make it easier for our own kids to accept and, ideally, laugh at their own mistakes, too.


 See, our oddities hopefully make us easier to love and be with, not harder, be we dads or moms or children. The ability to laugh at ourselves is one of the greatest abilities we have. And if we don’t have that ability? What do we become?


 Well, maybe we become a little like Dads. And no one wants that, do they?

 


Paul Asay
 (@AsayPaul) is a contributor for Dad Matters and a senior associate editor forPluggedIn.com.