Carr, a British standup comic and host of the game show Distraction, and his friend Greeves, a freelance writer, deserve a round of applause for this entertaining and educational book about the history and practice of humor. In a delightfully roundabout way leavened with a joke or witticism at the bottom of each page the authors discuss theories of comedy, delving into trickster traditions, whether animals understand jokes, gender differences in joking, children's humor ("What's yellow and dangerous? Shark-infested custard"), ethnic and dirty jokes (e.g., the Aristocrats, made famous by the Penn Jillette/Paul Provenza movie), politically incorrect humor and the social role of antiestablishment humor. Tucked here and there are some delightful digressions, including a short bio of a dirty-joke collector, a history of joke books and the story of the development of television laugh tracks. In the end, Carr and Greeves remind readers not to confuse "seriousness of purpose" with a "solemn" attitude: just because people joke about something doesn't mean they're not taking it seriously. And that goes for the history of joking, too. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.