Comedians have "high levels of psychotic traits"
Oxford University researchers found that comedians score highly on characteristics that in extreme cases are associated with mental illness. The team says the creative elements needed for humor are similar to traits seen in people with psychosis.
Researchers from the University of Oxford and Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust studied 523 comedians (404 men and 119 women) from the UK, US and Australia. The comedians were asked to complete an online questionnaire designed to measure psychotic traits in healthy people.
The questionnaire was also completed by 364 actors, which is another profession that is used to performing, as a control group, and by a group of 831 people who worked in non-creative areas.
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 actors scored higher than the general group on three types of traits, but not on the introverted personality aspect.
The researchers believe this unusual personality structure may help explain the ability of comedians to entertain, and how the creative elements needed to produce humor are very similar to the cognitive style of those with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.