Study finds comedians are more inclined to have 'high levels of psychotic personality traits'

Stephen Fry, Spike Milligan, Paul Merton and David Walliams have all talked openly about their experiences with mental health problems

Comedians are no strangers to mental health issues, with stars from Stephen Fry to Ruby Wax talking openly about their suffering. Now a study has found that those working in comedy may be more disposed to “high levels of psychotic personality traits”.

An “unusual personality structure” with traits such as those similar to bipolar could be the secret to making people laugh, according to research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

The report used statistical data gathered from more than 500 comedians who completed a specially devised questionnaire.

The researchers said the belief that creativity is associated with madness has increasingly been researched by psychologists and psychiatrists, yet added: “comedy and humour have been largely neglected”.

As well as Fry, the report references Spike Milligan, Paul Merton and David Walliams among those who have talked openly about their experiences with mental health problems.

Gordon Claridge, retired professor of the University of Oxford’s department of experimental psychology who authored the report with undergraduate Victoria Ando, said: “Obviously not all comedians are like this, but the trend does seem these personality traits are more common. It is that idea of the sad clown.”

Juliette Burton, a stand-up comedian who has tackled her mental health issues on stage, said: “These findings make sense to me. There is something about the solo comedy performers… quite a few I know have experience with mental health issues.”

Ms Burton was once sectioned under the mental health act and she said knows other performers who have suffered depression. “If you do have issues, then comedy is often the way of getting you through,” she said.

Those with bipolar disorder can be prone to comedy as it mimics the comic’s ability to combine “ideas or categories of thought to form new and original connections”.

The questionnaire measured four personality aspects: unusual experiences – such as belief in telepathy and paranormal events – difficulty in focusing thoughts or distractibility, an avoidance of intimacy, and a tendency towards impulsive and antisocial behaviour.

The comedians scored particularly high on personality traits such as being unsociable and depressive as well as more extrovert manic-like traits. 

The research found stand-up comedians were different from other stage performers such as actors, because they were more introverted. “These personality profiles could explain how each relates to their respective audiences and what motivates them to do so,” it said.

The comedians who participated in the report, 404 men and 119 women, were recruited from comedy clubs, agencies, associations and societies largely in the UK, US and Australia. The submissions were anonymous, but the report revealed some self-descriptions that fit their theory of bipolar disorder.

Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam