Ben Juers at Sydney Review of Books:
Terry Eagleton’s Humour and Peter Timms’ Silliness: A Serious History are two recent additions to the patchy field of humour studies. Both authors are hemmed into the Anglocentric comedy canon that sees absurdist comedy peaking with The Goon Show, Pete and Dud, and Monty Python, and going downhill ever since. They’re also both in their seventies. This puts you in the weird position of feeling unreasonable for expecting them to be up-to-date on their subject. But neither would you want their lukewarm take on, say, ‘meme commentator’ @gayvapeshark or the HBO series Los Espookys.
To be fair, cutting-edge relevancy isn’t Eagleton or Timms’ priority. Humour is a critical survey not of humour but its theory – like a literature review for a PhD, albeit more reader-friendly. Its most interesting aspect is its Marxist subtext (Eagleton’s famously a comrade), which occasionally breaks ground but never erupts into a full-blown theory of how humour can serve Leftist aims.