60-Second Science

Many Comedians Walk into a Psychiatrist's Office

Comedians score higher than uncreative types, and even higher than actors, on a range of psychotic traits. Karen Hopkin reports


Have you ever gone to see some comedian and thought, man, that guy is nuts!
[Comedian Patton Oswalt:] “So in my head, I’m like, well I’m clearly going to be being chased by mutants on motorcycles.”
Well, you may have hit the nail on the head. Because new research finds that comedians show high levels of psychotic personality traits. The study appears in The British Journal of Psychiatry. [Victoria Ando, Gordon Claridge and Ken Clark, Psychotic traits in comedians]
Creativity is often associated with mental health issues. Think Edgar Allan Poe, Vincent Van Gogh, Michael Jackson. But what about comedians?
Psychologists gave more than 500 funnymen a personality test that assesses traits associated with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. And they found that the comics score higher than uncreative types, and even higher than actors, on a range of psychotic traits, including fear of intimacy, impulsive behavior, difficulty focusing and a belief in the paranormal.
The data doesn’t mean that all comedians are cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. But these psychotic tendencies may actually help promote lateral thinking and an ability to connect far-fetched ideas to come up with comical conclusions.
[Oswalt:] “That abiding belief in the coming Road Warrior wasteland, that’s the reason I tried to go off my meds.”

—Karen Hopkin

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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