Being a dad doesn’t mean you’re automatically funny, but it generally means you think you’re funny. The difference is, some dads grasp the use of irony in humor and some do not. There are fart joke dads and bad pun dads, and a bizarre confusion between Larry David and Donald Trump illustrates this dichotomy perfectly.
This week, Donald Trump seemingly mistakenly believed that a recent episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm featured a scene in which Larry David was coming out in support of him. In the scene, Larry David (as a fictional cipher of himself) wears a MAGA hat in order to repel people away from him, and also, briefly, to avoid having biker beat the shit out of him. The joke is, Larry David — an anti-Trump guy — put a hat on to make a pro-Trump biker think they were all on the same team and it worked. If you like Larry David’s brand of dad-humor (he’s a dad IRL even though he’s not on the show) then you loved this episode.
If you do not like Larry David’s brand of dad-humor, then you’re not necessarily a Trump supporter, but it’s possible your humor skews a little broader. Larry David-style humor is where fictional men do stupid stuff, but there’s a self-awareness to said stupidity that makes us laugh. The writing and the context makes the self-awareness funny and lets us smile guiltily. This is why Seinfeld was funny; creators Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld weren’t trying to convince you Jerry or George were good people or even particularly likable men. They were just trying to make fun of themselves.
The other kind of Dad Humor — we’ll call it the anti-Larry David — is let’s face it, it’s pretty common regardless of your politics. And that’s the Confirmation Bias Humor, the humor that tells us, yes, our farts are funny and so I will fart as much as I can and laugh at my own farts. The slim difference between this and the self-aware kind of humor is when you’re in this mindset, you actually forget your farts smell bad, and that’s because you’re just laughing at the thing rather than what the thing represents. (Kevin Hart is guilty of some of this kind of humor and some of it is funny.)
So, when Trump tweeted out “Tough Guys For Trump!” alongside a clip from Curb in which Larry was wearing a MAGA hat, it’s not exactly that he missed the point (he did) but more so that Trump clearly defaults to a sense of humor that lacks self-reflection. He saw something he recognized. Next, he recognized the scene was funny and moved on.
Now one might argue, that Trump’s approach here was far simpler than I’m saying. Perhaps, he was just saying that the biker character — “a tough guy” — was in the right for supporting him; and as such, a cipher for his supporters. If this is true, then Trump correctly understood the context of the scene but was unaware or uninterested as to why it was funny. If that’s the case, Trump simply ignores humor that mocks him, and tries to use it against others. In fairness, everybody does this sometimes, but it does mean you miss out on great jokes when you do.
Here are two things Donald Trump has in common with Larry David: They’re both fathers and they’ve both, at least a few occasions worn red hats emblazoned with the words “Make America Great Again.” The difference, of course, is that Larry David wore his MAGA hat as a fictional version of himself while Trump has worn his at political rallies. In the context of Curb, Larry David was making a joke about how wearing a red MAGA hat repelled people, and as a liberal person, deployed the MAGA hat to get himself out of tough situations, or, in at least one case, to signal to a possible aggressor that he was on their side when really, he wasn’t. Trump wears his MAGA hat to attract his kind of people.
Dads are constantly trying to get people to like them with their Dad Jokes. But, inherent to Dad Humor is also the built-in ability to repel. Larry David gets this, which is why he’s one of the funniest people in the world and the co-creator of two hilarious shows; Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Trump isn’t a stranger to repelling and attracting people either; it’s just that it seems like he doesn’t reflect on the whys and hows those relationships happen. Which is why his brand of Dad Humor is unaware of other kinds.
The next time there’s a joke made at your expense, you have to ask yourself: Which kind of dad humor are you going to adopt? As fathers, we wear many hats, but the reasons why we make those decisions is what defines us.
Curb Your Enthusiasm airs new episodes on Sunday nights on HBO