The collection is written in Greek, and the language used indicates that it may have been written in the 4th century AD, according to William Berg, an American classics professor. It is attributed to Hierokles and Philagrios, about whom little is known. Because the celebration of a thousand years of Rome is mentioned in joke 62, the collection perhaps dates from after that event in 248 CE. Although it is the oldest existing collection of jokes, it is known that it was not the oldest collection, because Athenaeus wrote that Philip II of Macedon paid for a social club in Athens to write down its members' jokes, and at the beginning of the 2nd century BCE, Plautus twice has a character mentioning books of jokes.
The collection contains 265 jokes categorised into subjects such as teachers and scholars, and eggheads and fools.
In 2008, British TV personality and comedian Jim Bowen tested the material on a modern audience. One of the jokes in Philogelos has been described as "an ancestor of Monty Python's famous Dead Parrot comedy sketch." Comedian Jimmy Carr has said that some of the jokes are "strikingly similar" to modern ones.
- "Dead Parrot sketch ancestor found". BBC News (BBC). 2008-11-13. Retrieved 2008-11-13.
- Quinn, John T. (2001). "45 Jokes from The Laughter Lover". Diotima. Retrieved 2008-11-13.
- Jennings, Victoria (2001-06-05). "R.D. Dawe, Philogelos. München/Leipzig: K.G. Saur, 2000". Bryn Mawr Classical Review. Retrieved 2008-11-13.
- Laes, Christian (2005-09-18). "M. Andreassi, Le facezie del Philogelos. Barzellette antiche e umorismo moderno". Bryn Mawr Classical Review. Retrieved 2008-11-13.
- "Dead Parrot sketch ancestor found". BBC News. 2008-11-13.
- The Philogelos or Laughter-Lover (London Studies in Classical Philology Series, 10) by Barry Baldwin 1983, ISBN 978-90-70265-45-8
- Philogelos: Hieroclis et Philagrii facetiae by A. Eberhard (1869) Berlin: H. Ebeling & C. Plahn
- ιεροκλέους και Φιλαγρίου (Hierokles kai Philagrios). G. Pachymeris declamationes XIII quarum XII ineditae, Hieroclis et Philagrii grammaticorum φιλόγελως longe maximam partem ineditus by Jean François Boissonade de Fontarabie (1848) Paris