Waka Waka Waka. It turns out not just bears by the name of Fozzie like silly slapstick humor. Apes and other primates also think that “banana skin” pratfalls are hilarious. And you always wondered why monkeys ate so many bananas! They’re just a bunch of practical joking comedians!
“The use of language-based jokes is clearly unique to humans,” said University of Oxford professor of evolutionary psychology, Robin Dunbar, in an interview with Discovery News. “There is some suggestion that apes ‘play practical jokes’ or laugh at another’s misfortune, such as the banana skin situation, but these are only casual observations.”
So, that’s where 90% of humanity gets it from. Even our laughter is based off the naughty-spirited chatter of primates.
“Human laughter derives from the play invitation vocalizations of Old World monkeys and apes,” continues Dunbar. “But this is normally confined to juveniles and adolescents; adults don’t play. We think laughter long predates the appearance of language in human evolution, and was co-opted from play as a mechanism to allow bonding between larger numbers of individuals.
“Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, which are the neurochemicals used in bonding in monkeys and apes,” Dunbar said. “Laughter allows us to increase the size of the bonding group because several people can laugh together; whereas grooming is, even in humans, a one-to-one activity, with only the recipient gaining the benefit of the endorphins.”
What does that mean for us human jokesters? Maybe that when we aren’t laughing, we are limiting our animal instincts. It also means that comedy is an intrinsic part of our natures. Next time someone tells you to stop “monkeying” around, you can use the excuse that being a stooge is part of your DNA.
–Nadia Noir, CBS Radio Los Angeles