Splitsider — a website by and for stand-up comics — called it “one of the most obvious findings ever”:
…a study in the British Journal of Psychiatry has confirmed that comedians possess more psychotic characteristics compared to their non-comedian peers. The researchers asked 523 comedians from Australia, Britain, and the U.S. to complete an online questionnaire designed to measure levels of four psychotic traits — “unusual experiences,” “cognitive disorganization,” “introvertive anhedonia,” and “impulsive non-conformity.” Unsurprisingly, the comedians ranked high in their levels of all four psychotic behavior indicators.
“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,” said Gordon Claridge of the University of Oxford’s department of experimental psychology, who led the study.
Although the traits in question are known as “psychotic”, Claridge said, they can also represent healthy equivalents of features such as moodiness, social introversion and the tendency to lateral thinking.
“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’,” he said.
“Equally, manic thinking – which is common in people with bipolar disorder – may help people combine ideas to form new, original and humorous connections.”
Say, did you know the working title for Woody Allen’s Annie Hall was Anhedonia?
So there’s that.
And there’s an entire — highly recommended — podcast devoted solely to mental illness and stand-up comedians.
(And I’m not talking about Marc Maron’s WTF. Although I could be, because man, oh man, have you ever listened to that thing?)