Not So Funny? Comedians Have Psychotic Traits

Score higher compared to those in 'non-creative' jobs
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 16, 2014 9:19 AM CST
Not So Funny? Comedians Have Psychotic Traits
In this June 8, 2012 photo, the owner of the Jokes and Notes comedy club is silhouetted.   (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Plenty of people would agree comedians are a bit crazy—but are they psychotic? Not quite, but they measure as having higher levels of psychotic personality traits than those in "non-creative" professions, a new study finds. Researchers had 523 comedians, 364 actors, and 831 people in the "non-creative jobs" group answer a survey that assessed four psychotic qualities, generally: a belief in things like the paranormal, difficulty focusing, a tendency to avoid intimacy, and antisocial or impulsive behavior. Comedians' scores dwarfed those of the non-creative group in all four areas; actors scored higher than that group on three, but didn't show high levels of introverted personalities, Reuters reports.

This certainly doesn't mean comedians are psychotic, says lead author Gordon Claridge. Here's his assessment:

  • "The creative elements needed to produce humor are strikingly similar to those characterizing the cognitive style of people with psychosis—both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Although schizophrenic psychosis itself can be detrimental to humor, in its lesser form it can increase people's ability to associate odd or unusual things or to think 'outside the box'. Equally, manic thinking—which is common in people with bipolar disorder—may help people combine ideas to form new, original and humorous connections."
For comedians who may have some psychotic traits, "their comedy is almost an outlet for that," Claridge tells the BBC. But a psychiatrist downplays the findings: "People with psychosis and schizophrenia have a very impaired ability to appreciate humorous material. This study tells us some interesting things about the differences between comedians and actors but not about the link with psychosis." (More comedy stories.)

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