You don't have to be mad to work in comedy

...but it helps, researchers find

Comedians tend to have personality types linked with psychosis, new research has found.

Stands-ups are likely to be more impulsive, yet be more depressive and unsociable at the same time.

The ability to make people laugh comes from a personality linked to mania, as the comic mind juxtaposes ridiculous ideas needed for jokes.

One of the researchers, Professor Gordon Claridge, of Oxford University said: ‘The creative elements needed to produce humour are strikingly similar to those characterising the cognitive style of people with psychosis - both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

‘Although schizophrenic psychosis itself can be detrimental to humour, 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.’

Speaking to BBC News, he added: ‘Comedians tend to be slightly withdrawn, introverted people who may not always want to socialise, and their comedy is almost an outlet for that. It's a kind of self-medication.’

Prof Claridge, with colleagues Victoria Ando and Ken Clark, persuaded 523 comedians – 404 men and 119 women – to take part in their study. The questionnaire was also completed by 364 actors 831 non-performers as a control.

The researchers found that comedians scored significantly higher on all four types of psychotic personality traits than the general group, with particularly high scores for both extroverted and introverted personality traits.

The research is published in The British Journal of Psychiatry today.

Published: 16 Jan 2014

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