The Origins of Humor

While American comedy at the moment may be fixated on the ever-ripening “manchild” scenario of terminally adolescent males scarfing down the breadcrumbs leading back to childhood (while somehow landing grownup goddesses in the process, as in “bro-mantic comedies“), a few examinations of what makes us laugh have retraced man’s steps all the way back to the cave: The oldest recorded joke — from 1900 BC — has been attributed to the Sumerians, who lived in what is now southern Iraq (and yes, potty humor predates potties) while the findings in this review, published in the NY Review of Books, examines what made the Romans laugh, as well as Freud, Kant and even the chimps. And it turns out that “[c]himp laughter occurs also as they inhale. The difference may (or, of course, may not) be crucially significant.”