Anatomy of a Dad Joke: “four wheels and flies”

Attendant did not know what had “four wheels and flies” despite having heard that one first maybe forty years ago. The charm of that joke is that there is not only a double entendre at work but that it leans on a stereotype of garbage — that it will have flies. One is first surprised by the pun and then hit by the stereotype. It would be interesting to investigate the relationship between stereotypes and humor, which obviously has a dark side. Why are stereotypes a component of humor?


Raised this issue with a customer who thought “archetype” was a more appropriate word than “stereotype.” The idea that trash has flies touches on a universal notion we had, the customer said. If there were clip-art, or international symbol of garbage, that symbol would be sure to include flies.

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