Their aim was to find out whether comedians would resemble other creative individuals in showing a higher level of psychotic characteristics related to both schizophrenia and manic depression.  They tested a large sample (n=500) of comedians and a control sample of actors (n = 350+).  All of the subjects completed an online questionnaire containing the short version of the Oxford–Liverpool Inventory of Feelings and Experiences (O-LIFE), with scales measuring four dimensions of psychotic traits. Scores were compared with general population norms.
Conclusions: They found comedians scored significantly above O-LIFE norms on all four scales. Actors also differed from the norms but on only three of the scales.  Most striking were the comedians’ high scores on both introverted anhedonia and extroverted impulsiveness. Researchers concluded that this unusual personality structure may help to explain the facility for comedic performance.The authors wrote, “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).”Interesting findings:

When the two groups were compared, authors found that, compared with normal people, comedians had the following characteristics:

  • They found it unusually difficult to feel physical and social pleasure–psychologists call this anhedonia.
  • They were antisocial and nonconformist.
  • They were prone to magical thinking, like believing in telepathy or paranormal phenomena.
  • They were easily distracted and found it difficult to focus.
Actors shared many of these personality traits with comedians except they were close to the norm in feeling pleasure. Unlike the comedians, as a group, actors did not experience anhedonia.

One of the study’s authors, Gordon Claridge, explained:

“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’.”
Source: British J. Of Psychiatry. Psychotic traits in comedians. Ando, Claridge and Clark. 
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