Dad Jokes: Turning Trauma into Comedy

Mo Welch’s Docu-Special Explores the Power of Comedy in Dealing with Trauma

In her docu-special, Dad Jokes, comedian Mo Welch takes viewers on a journey through her personal history, using comedy as a coping mechanism to navigate the trauma of her past. This hybrid of documentary and comedy special delves into Welch’s estranged relationship with her father, exploring the impact it has had on her life and her comedic career. Dad Jokes not only showcases Welch’s unique comedic style but also raises questions about the transformative power of humor in the face of adversity.

Trauma as Content: The Rise of True Crime and Comedy

Welch’s ability to turn her trauma into content is reminiscent of the rise of true crime documentaries and “story time” videos on platforms like TikTok. These mediums often present hard-to-swallow truths, followed by a lighthearted joke to provide relief. Dad Jokes follows this pattern, with Welch cracking jokes about her trauma in real-time, creating a unique blend of vulnerability and humor.

The Loneliness of Comedy

Throughout the special, Welch is often seen alone, reflecting the loneliness that can come with being a comedian, particularly as a woman and a member of the LGBTQ+ community. This juxtaposition between solitude on the road and the adoration she receives from audiences highlights the reality of many performers. Welch’s ability to portray this contrast beautifully adds depth to the special.

The Hybrid Format: Truth and Comedy

One of the most intriguing aspects of Dad Jokes is the use of a hybrid format. Welch tells jokes and then provides viewers with the reality behind them through b-roll footage. This format not only showcases Welch’s ability to tell the truth but also eliminates any doubts about the authenticity of her stories. It’s a clever way to address the ongoing debate in comedy about stretching the truth for comedic effect.

Unveiling the Stranger Within

A powerful moment in Dad Jokes occurs when Welch tries on a pair of sports sunglasses in a gas station. She jokingly remarks that someone wearing those sunglasses wouldn’t share her political views. Later, when Welch finally reunites with her father, he is wearing the same sunglasses. This subtle call-back highlights the estrangement between Welch and her father, emphasizing just how much of a stranger he is to her.

The Stolen Adolescence

In the penultimate chapter of the special, Welch sits under a pavilion, holding a stack of pink index cards containing questions for her father. This prop symbolizes her stolen adolescence, as she longs for the preparation, confidence, and innocence that should have been part of her childhood. The weight of her experiences is evident in her demeanor, as she prepares to confront her father and seek answers.


Dad Jokes is a testament to Mo Welch’s ability to transform her trauma into comedy. Through her unique blend of vulnerability and humor, she not only confronts her past but also provides a platform for others to find solace in their own experiences. While her relationship with her father serves as the backdrop for the special, Welch’s comedic material extends far beyond this topic. Dad Jokes marks the beginning of a new era for Welch, one that promises to explore a wider range of subjects and experiences. As viewers, we are left eagerly anticipating what Welch’s next chapter will bring, and how her learnings from this adventure will shape her future material.

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