I got a chuckle (make that a bellylaugh) out of this article: http://foxnews.webmd.com/content/article/120/113762
Get out your notepad and check off the evolutionary presuppositions, like the notion that laughter predates speech. Make special note of speculation presented as fact.
Be aware that the Provine mentioned in this article is not William, but Robert. Here are some excerpts:
Provine argues it has to do with the evolutionary development of laughter. In humans, laughter predates speech by perhaps millions of years. Before our human ancestors could talk with each other, laughter was a simpler method of communication, he tells WebMD.
The answer lies in the evolutionary function of laughter.
The other type of laughter comes from parts of the brain that developed more recently, in evolutionary terms.
Laughter can ease tension and foster a sense of group unity. This could have been particularly important for small groups of early humans.
So sitcoms — or anything else — seem funnier to us when we hear other people laughing at them. We’ve evolved to be that way.
The spontaneous laughter originates in part from the brainstem, an ancient part of the brain. So it might be a more original form of laughter. The other type of laughter comes from parts of the brain that developed more recently, in evolutionary terms.
“The ‘ha, ha’ noise of human laughter,” Provine tells WebMD, “ultimately has its origins in the ritualized panting laughter of our primate ancestors.”
So if not at jokes, what do animals — and what did our ancestors — laugh at? According to Provine, animal “laughter” follows tickling, rough and tumble play, or chasing games. Apes laugh at some of the same things that make infants laugh. While babies aren’t known for subtle wit, they will squeal and laugh when you chase them or tickle them. In all likelihood, early adult humans — before they started telling jokes — laughed at the same sort of thing.
Which leads us to an interesting conclusion: Since laughter predates speech, the first human laugh predated the first joke by hundreds or [sic] thousands of years, if not millions.