There are several reasons to suppose humor and laughter could be evolutionarily adaptive. […] the complexity of humor implicates an established genetic substrate that in turn could suggest evolutionary adaptiveness. Given that even a simple joke can utilize language skills, theory-of-mind, symbolism, abstract thinking, and social perception, humor may arguably be humankind's most complex cognitive attribute. Despite its ostensible complexity, humor is also paradoxically reflexive — people typically laugh without consciously appreciating all the causal factors.
Source : The First Joke: Exploring the Evolutionary Origins of Humor Evolutionary Psychology, Vol. 4 issue 1.
The question of why humour has evolved - with the implication that it gives evolutionary advantages to the species - has not been answered. There are various theories, for example that it evolved, after language, as a way of maintaining 'group bonding', but without the need for physical contact.
The paper cited above lists the progress-so-far in the attempts to explain humour.
Note: Humour has its own peer-reviewed academic journal. The International Journal of Humor Research
Also see :
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