Study: Top (male) comedians die earlier?

A new study from professors Simon Stewart and David Thompson of the Centre for the Heart and Mind and the Mary MacKillop Institute of Health Research (MMIHR) at the Australian Catholic University (ACU) has found that :

“Elite comedians are at increased risk of premature death compared to their less funny counterparts.”

The team examined a study cohort of 53 (exclusively male) comedians from the UK and Ireland – both living (23) and not (30) – and analysed the data using IBM SPPS Statistics version 22.0. The data were weighted according to the ‘funniness’ of the man in question, running from ‘relatively funny’ to ‘hilariously funny’.

Results:

“On an adjusted basis, there was no correlation between the decade of birth (HR 0.94, 95% 0.65 to 1.38 per incremental decade; p =0.763) and comedy team status (HR 1.13, 95% 0.51 to 2.48 versus independent comedian; p = 0.761) with longevity. However, an increasingly funny comedy score was associated with increased mortality (HR 1.24, 95% CI 1.06 to 1.44 per unit funny score; p = 0.006). Of the 23 comedians adjudged to be very funny (score 8–10), 18 (78%) had died versus 12 (40%) of the rest; mean age at death 63.3 ± 12.2 versus 72.3 ± 14.7 (p = 0.079). Within comedy teams, those identified as the funnier member(s) of the partnership were, on an adjusted basis, more than three times more likely to die prematurely when compared to their more serious comedy partners (HR 3.52, 95% CI 1.22, 10.1; p = 0.020).”

The hypothesis was further bolstered with the finding that in the case of double-acts, the ‘stooges’ (or straight men) were more than 3 times less likely to die on an adjusted basis before those designated as the funny man.

See: ‘Does comedy kill? A retrospective, longitudinal cohort, nested case–control study of humour and longevity in 53 British comedians’ in: The International Journal of Cardiology, 180 (2015), pp. 258–261.

Notes [1] : The paper cites this study from the British Journal of Psychiatry, 204 (2014), pp. 341–345, by Victoria Ando, Gordon Claridge and Ken Clark Psychotic traits in comedians. The researchers asked more than 500 comedians to complete an online form based on the Oxford-Liverpool Inventory of Feelings and Experiences (O-LIFE), with scales measuring four dimensions of psychotic traits, finding that : “Comedians scored significantly above O-LIFE norms on all four scales.”

[2]: Sadly, both the comedians in the clip above – Peter Cook (comedy rating 9 in the ACU study) and Dudley Moore (comedy rating 5 in the ACU study) are no longer metabolically extant. They are deceased. They are ex-comedians. They do, however, in a sense, live on, in YouTubeLand






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