Am reminded of this story about Auden's then-lover Chester Kallman:
"A visiting New York publisher was telling them that he was bringing out an autobiography of Klaus Mann, and thinking of calling it ‘The Invisible Mann’. No, said Chester (and it’s a joke such as Nabokov would have made), you should call it ‘The Subordinate Klaus’."
True story. My father taught in Moray House College of Education in Edinburgh. Part of his job was assessing students on teaching practice in Elementary Schools. He criticised one such student for jumping straight into a lesson on a new topic without relating it to anything that the children already had experience of. The next time he visited the same student on teaching practice with a class of 10-year-olds, she began the lesson something like this: “Who can tell me anything about Santa Claus? Yes, he comes at Christmas. That’s right. Yes, he brings children presents. Good. Now, today, we’re going to learn about another kind of Claus: the subordinate noun clause.”
I think it was Isaac Asimov who wrote a short story in which jokes were part of an alien experiment on humanity, while puns were native to humanity. Puns elicit groans to prevent them from contaminating the data produced by jokes.
There's a newish book, Jokes and the Linguistic MInd by Debra Aarons, that I got myself for Christmas. I'm not sure if it'll explain why people groan, though. So far it's more about the theories of competence that explain how we get jokes than it is about why some jokes are groan-producing.