"These are generalizations of our cultural stereotypes, and these cards pick that up," said Kathy Krassner, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based Greeting Card Association. "They're relatable, and they sell."
Greeting card companies say funny cards work well for fathers who shy away from sentimentality, aren't particularly close to their children or, most often, serve as the corny family jokester known for eliciting the "Oh, Dad" groan. About 25 percent of Hallmark's Father's Day cards are in the humor category, compared with 15 percent of Mother's Day cards. Men also appreciate punch-in-the-arm, even immature, humor more than women do, companies say.
"The jokes aren't usually about dad taking you to the baseball game — that's not funny," said Ron Kanfi, president of NobleWorks. "It's hoarding the [TV] remote control or farting — that's a lot funnier than him taking you to the movies. . . . You try to give mom a fart joke for Mother's Day, it probably won't fly very well, but with dad you can.
"It's poking fun," Kanfi added. "It's not insulting him."
Tim Whyatt, an Australian cartoonist whose work appears on cards for American Greetings and NobleWorks, said dad-as-distant-goofball cartoons remain plenty popular, even as they become increasingly outdated. One of Whyatt's Father's Day cartoons shows three kids stuffed into a TV set facing a balding, shlumpy dad. One of the kids says to the mom, "It's the only way we can get him to listen to us."
In funny cards, Whyatt says, buyers want mothers portrayed "as the heroes" and fathers as "the butt of the joke." Perhaps, he said, it's because "humor likes to take potshots at the top dog," a role fathers still play in many families.