Donnell Rawlings Shares His Favorite Dad Jokes, And Talks The Importance Of Family-Friendly Comedy

"I get more excited when I do a clean, friendly joke that everybody could appreciate."

When A Plus asked Donnell Rawlings to define a dad joke, he had a quick reply.

"Dad jokes have to be edgy, and dad jokes almost have to be at a point where they're embarrassing to say," he explained. "The general response at the end of a good dad joke is a laugh and an 'Ugh, Dad,' almost like you didn't even want to hear that."

Rawlings is both a father and stand-up comedian, so we'd say he's a reliable source. You might know him from his work on Chappelle's Show and The Wire, but these days his TV appearances are a little different. Rawlings stars on Project Dad, a reality show in which three celebrity fathers (including musician DJ Skribble and soap opera star Daniel Cosgrove) raise their kids on their own while their partners are away.

Rawlings appears on the show with his son Austen, who was born in 2015. In one episode, fatherhood and comedy collide when the star performs a stand-up set with his son strapped to his chest. But even when Austen isn't on stage with him, Rawlings says having a child has changed the kinds of jokes he's proud to tell in his act.

"It has really made me more aware of the content, like, I get more excited when I do a clean, friendly joke that everybody could appreciate," he told A Plus. "At one point it was like, you know, 'I can say whatever I want, I don't care,' but I just feel like I owe my family, and the new people that are getting interested, more sense of responsibility."


That sense of responsibility goes beyond just stand-up. Rawlings says there's a need for more family-friendly entertainment that parents and kids can enjoy together, and he would like to help make that happen. 

"For the most part, families are separated," he says. "Kids want this style, Mom wants this, Dad wants this, but there's not too many shows out there — and that's why I'm so excited to be a part of Project Dad — where everybody can watch it and connect to something."

Comedy isn't just important to Rawlings professionally. He says he learned from his mother that, even when life gets difficult, "you always have to find a place and a time to laugh." 

For his son, who's not quite old enough to appreciate a groan-worthy pun, it's all about the sound effects: "He's the easiest audience. I can just do an 'Ew!' or 'Yuck! Gross!' and it's like I'm Richard Pryor to my son. And peek-a-boo. Peek-a-boo is like 15 minutes of material."

However, when Austen is older, he'd better be prepared for a dad joke or two. "For a career that's been over 20 years, to make people laugh has been a blessing," Rawlings says, "but it's a really good thing to know that I'm raising a son that has to laugh at every joke I ever tell him."

We asked Rawlings to share a few of his favorite kid-friendly jokes, and he didn't disappoint. Check them out below:

Why was 6 afraid of 7? Because 7, 8, 9!

What do you call cheese that's not yours? Nacho cheese!

What do elves learn in school? The elf-abet!

You can follow Donnell Rawlings on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and you can also catch him on his current stand-up tour — including several upcoming dates with Dave Chappelle.

A Plus' Project Dad content is inspired by Chicken Soup for the Soul's Project Dad, a television series about the joy of fatherhood and family. Tune in Thursdays on TLC at 5 p.m. ET.


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