Dad jokes typically fall into the same category as kids and farts — people are only fans of their own. Your dad jokes might be just for you (they’re definitely not for your spouse), but in some extreme instances they may also be suited for a doctor. No, they’re probably not going to laugh at your patient pun because they’ve heard it before, but they might diagnose you with a rare neurological condition known as Witzelsucht. Hi, your name is dad and you might have a problem.
New research from neurologist Mario Mendez looks at the the pathology in several current patients, but Witzelsucht was first discovered in 1929 by German neurologist Otfrid Foersterin. Foersterin was attempting to remove a brain tumor on a conscious patient, because 1920s, when the patient broke into a manic fit of nonsensical associations and puns. Mendez’s current work looks at why this happens, and the current thinking is it’s due to injury in the frontal lobe of the brain from tumors, head trauma and even strokes. Mendez’s patients experienced a other symptoms related to impulsivity issues, such as shoplifting and hypersexuality — all qualities that can make a bad joke that much worse.
Flickr / Post Memes
Rest assured that simply being a fan of your own bad jokes does not mean you have brain damage. What separates individuals with Witzelsucht from most dads just looking to amuse themselves is that they only understand their own jokes. Mendez explains, “They cannot see the relationship of the punchline to the joke,” and their pleasure centers are instead triggered by random feelings and associations, instead of the incongruity that makes most comedy funny.
So, if you’re still genuinely laughing at Jim Gaffigan, Louis CK and Dad Joke Han Solo, then you’re probably fine (no matter what your spouse and kids say). Meanwhile, researchers are working on developing new ways to use comedy to test for this and other similar brain conditions, none of which include tapping someone on the head and asking, “Is this thing on?”