The personality traits of stand-up comedians, and owners of vicious dogs

by on May 9, 2009 at 8:48 am in Science | Permalink

They don't quite fit the stereotype:

Stand-up comedians are a vocational group with unique characteristics:
unlike most other entertainers with high creative abilities, they both
invent and perform their own work, and audience feedback (laughter or
derision) is instantaneous. In this study, the Big Five personality
traits (NEOFFI-R) of 31 professional stand-up comedians were compared
to those of nine amateur comedians, 10 humor writers and 400 college
students. All four groups showed similar neuroticism levels.
Professional stand-up comedians were similar to amateur stand-up
comedians in most respects. However, compared to college students,
professional and amateur stand-up comedians on average showed
significantly higher openness, and lower conscientiousness,
extraversion, and agreeableness. Compared to stand-up comedians, comedy
writers showed higher openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, and
agreeableness. These results challenge the stereotype of comedians as
neurotic extraverts, and suggest a discrepancy between their stage
persona and their true personality traits.

The paper is here.  Here is another paper on personality profiles, for owners of vicious dogs, summarized as follows:

Findings revealed vicious dog owners reported significantly more
criminal behaviors than other dog owners. Vicious dog owners were
higher in sensation seeking and primary psychopathy. Study results
suggest that vicious dog ownership may be a simple marker of broader
social deviance.

I thank BPS Research Digest for the pointers.

Bob Murphy May 9, 2009 at 10:40 am

I guess I can’t prove it, but I didn’t think stand up comedians would be extroverts. In order to make clever commentary on life, you have to sit in the corner and watch everybody else. The “stereotype” that they are extroverted sounds to me like someone saying, “Wow stand-up comics must have had a really pleasant childhood, since they’re always in such a good mood and cracking jokes all the time.”

When of course the opposite is true; many were suicidally depressed and used humor as a coping mechanism.

Steve Sailer May 9, 2009 at 3:10 pm

Bob Hope and Jay Leno were hugely extroverted happy guys, but they were closer to the exceptions that prove the rule that comedians like “to sit in the corner and watch.” Hope and Leno became the biggest money-makers of their professions because they lacked the depressive personalities of most comics.

Steve Sailer May 9, 2009 at 3:18 pm

The problem with pit bulls is not that they bite people a lot more often than other dogs, it’s that when they do bite, they often don’t let go. That’s why such a huge proportion of humans killed by dogs are killed by pit bulls and the like.

In contrast, Labrador retrievers are bred to retract their teeth and “gum” whatever they hold in their mouth, so there is a several order of magnitude difference in human killings per dog capita between Labradors and pit bulls.

TGGP May 9, 2009 at 9:23 pm

Comedians don’t always perform their own material, but they’ve worked out something of a system to deal with joke-theft:
http://orgtheory.wordpress.com/2009/04/26/coases-theorem-and-stand-up-comedy/

Tim Taylor May 9, 2009 at 11:41 pm

Being a stand up comic, I really focused on the ability to work with immediate, direct and honest feedback.

You’re either funny or you’re not.

Brilliant post.

Bob Murphy May 11, 2009 at 1:05 am

Bob Hope and Jay Leno were hugely extroverted happy guys…

They’re also not very funny. (I actually don’t really know much about Bob Hope, since he was before my time.)

Brent May 12, 2009 at 3:58 pm

Seems like there is some causation at work with dog owners study (but the conclusion is strangely written). People who are involved in criminal behaviors are startistically

a) more likely to show aggressive tendencies, which would likely lead to them treating the dog in a mean way that would lead to aggressive behaviors or
b) come from a lower socio-economic class, which would also translate into lower education, which would then translate into lack of education on how to properly care for and train a dog
and
c) most likely live in a neighborhood that is high in other criminal activity and likely own a dog that is trained for the express purpose of being aggressive toward people who they don’t want on their property.

Seems like the conclusion of the study should have been that people who are involved in criminal activity are more likely to also own a vicious dog instead of the reverse conclusion, that owning the dog was the cause of the other activity.

Stand up comedians have to not only be funny, but have to have extremely thick skin…

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