At the end of 2016 we were involved in a study of personality traits among female comedians in collaboration with Professor Gordon Claridge and his colleagues at Oxford University. The results are now in.
The work stemmed from a previous large-scale study into comedians and mental health by the same Oxford team back in 2014 who published their findings in the prestigious British Journal of Psychiatry. This resulted in media interest around this time three years ago, just as the comedy community was heading up to the Edinburgh Fringe.
In the first report comedians showed a distinctive ‘bipolar’ profile irrespective of gender with a tendency to be extraverted, impulsive and manic as well as introverted and depressive. The sample was predominantly male and whilst there were no real surprises here, we were keen to compare these findings within our own Funny Women community. Our study included comedian and non-comedian female participants to see if this reflected the pattern of the original study.
Impressively, the new project has revealed an identical pattern of cyclothymic traits (or mood disorder) in female comedians which include a tendency to show upbeat extraverted mood states accompanied by or alternating with introverted traits. Some additional personality characteristics observed in the comedian half of the sample included a tendency to be exhibitionist, a high degree of independence and a liking for change.
The question this leaves us with is, how far the performance of female comedians is shaped by these characteristics in what is still a relatively male dominated profession?