Pretend the World Is Funny and Forever: A Psychological Analysis of Comedians, Clowns, and Actors

Pretend the World Is Funny and Forever: A Psychological Analysis of Comedians, Clowns, and Actors

Pretend the World Is Funny and Forever: A Psychological Analysis of Comedians, Clowns, and Actors

Pretend the World Is Funny and Forever: A Psychological Analysis of Comedians, Clowns, and Actors

Excerpt

Do people who dedicate themselves to being funny have similar personalities? Do they resemble each other in the ways in which they are constructed? Do they share certain traits or have a common style of life? If you were to meet and interact with a number of professional comics you would be hard pressed, aside from the fact that they are funny, to identify similarities among them. We have already pointed out that the flashy style of a Jackie Gleason or an Ernie Kovacs is clearly unlike the modesty of a Jimmie Durante or the laconic attitude of a Buster Keaton. The somewhat puritanical style of a Joe E. Brown contrasts with the lavish promiscuity of a Milton Berle. The inhibited bearing of a Sid Caesar stands in contrast to the brashness of a Mel Brooks. The self depreciation of a Woody Allen is quite different from the "I am powerful" facade of a Dick Gregory. There is no question but that professional comics are a variegated group and that they are unlike each other in all sorts of ways. They come from multiple backgrounds. Some were brought up in terrible poverty; and some grew up in affluent circumstances. Some suffered great conflict with their parents; and some did not; and so forth. It is also true, however, that despite their differences they share important similarities. We suggest that persons who devote themselves to being funny do have psychological profiles that overlap in a number of areas.

The first step we take in approaching this whole matter is to describe in detail how we went about finding and studying humor producers.

We are both psychologists and originally became interested in comedians in the course of trying to understand children with relatively mild adjustment problems. We observed quite a number of boys and girls in this group who acted . . .

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