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The Tears of a Clown

The Tears of a Clown

2024-02-10 06:32:20

Everybody likes an excellent comedian. Comedy, accomplished effectively, provides a lot wanted soul to life-exposing and magnifying the absurdities of life, decreasing stress, defusing social tensions, and usually rising the standard of life. In fact, comedy, accomplished poorly, is about as awkward as watching George W. Bush faucet dance whereas ready to endorse John McCain (Time magazines #1 most awkward moment of 2008).

However behind each punch line is an actual stay human sweating profusely to get fun. What are these individuals like? How did the comedian grow to be this manner, consistently pushing the restrict to get a response from others? What motivates the comedian? How do comics understand themselves? Let’s begin firstly.

Origins of the Comedian

Samuel Janus and his colleagues studied the intelligence, academic degree, household background, and personality of 69 comedians, all of whom had been stated to be well-known and profitable. Information had been collected utilizing a wide range of strategies: medical interviews, accounts of early reminiscences, dreams, handwriting analyses, projective assessments, and the Weschsler Grownup Intelligence Scale (WAIS).

Janus concluded that comedians tended to be superior in intelligence, but additionally felt misunderstood, offended, anxious, suspicious, depressed, and anxious with approval. Their early lives had been incessantly characterised by struggling, isolation, and emotions of deprivation; in lots of circumstances, the comedians discovered to make use of humor as a protection towards anxiety, changing their emotions of suppressed rage from bodily to verbal aggression. Nevertheless, many comedians had been additionally shy, delicate, and empathic people whose comedic success was apparently due partly to a capability to precisely understand the fears and wishes of their audiences.

Seymour and Rhoda Fisher performed a better-controlled research {of professional} humor producers, and summarized their leads to a pleasant guide referred to as Pretend the World is Funny and Forever: A Psychological Analysis of Comedians, Clowns, and Actors. They assessed the character, motivations, and childhood recollections of 43 skilled comedians (together with 15 circus clowns) and scoured revealed biographical and autobiographical accounts of 40 comedians and clowns, from Woody Allen and Jackie Gleason to Jerry Lewis and Beatrice Lillie (as soon as dubbed the “Funniest Girls within the World”). Additionally they administered the Rorschach inkblot test and the Thematic Apperception Take a look at (TAT) to determine themes and preoccupations within the ideas of the comedians. As a management, they included a pattern of 41 skilled actors.

Fisher and Fisher discovered that skilled comedians didn’t differ from actors in depression or general psychological well being, however did uncover a number of variations between the teams. Nearly all of the comics got here from decrease socioeconomic strata. Fairly early, they displayed expertise for being humorous, typically appearing because the “class clown” at school. Many within the pattern entered comedy professionally by their curiosity in music. In comparison with the actors, the skilled comedians needed to tackle significantly extra duty at an early age. They had been additionally extra probably than the actors to explain the daddy in extremely constructive phrases, and had been extra inclined to confer with the mom as a disciplinarian, an aggressive critic, non-nurturing, and non-maternal. This discovering was additionally found in a pattern of novice humor producers: the extra school college students thought of themselves to be comics the extra they noticed their mom as controlling and the daddy as softer of their childrearing practices.

Alongside related strains, Steven Prasinos and Bennett Tittler investigated 88 adolescent Boy Scouts and located that the funnier Boy Scouts (assessed by peer nomination) tended to be extra distanced from their households, reported much less cohesion of their households than what was reported by their friends, and reported better household battle. The authors interpret these findings as suggesting that humor represents an try to relate from a distance. Additionally they elevate the attention-grabbing risk that this distancing is exactly what permits these people to be humorous, because it permits for a contemporary perspective.

The Fishers current one other intriguing clarification for the hyperlink between youth experiences and the event of the comedian. They draw on Alfred Heilbrum’s work who discovered an inclination for people who’re raised by controlling, non-nurturing moms to develop schizophrenia. Heilbrun discovered two forms of males (there actually must be extra analysis on feminine comics!) who’re raised by a non-nurturing mom. The “closed model” sort was characterised by defenses reminiscent of isolation from social interactions and melancholy, whereas the “open model” sort was characterised as extroverted and alert to methods of successful social approval-“broad scanners” of the environment, at all times searching for cues of what individuals count on of them.

The Fishers associated this open model character to the comics of their pattern and argued that the comedian’s model of regarding individuals might partly mirror their early adventures with their mom. Their thought is that she or he turns into an professional in “studying” his or her mom, after which later learns easy methods to “scan the world in a really delicate method, searching for contradictions to decode and reconcile, looking out cues as to easy methods to win approval and help” (p. 207).


What motivates the comedian? Of their research, the Fishers observed that skilled comics displayed considerably extra themes of contrasts and opposites. The Fishers hypothesized that the comic learns, by youth experiences, that life is absurd. They then spend their lives telling jokes to assist them perceive the absurdity of their very own place. They observe that a lot of humor includes recognizing and giving which means to ambiguities, and that comedians are obsessive about instability. They hypothesized that this give attention to inconstancy might characterize an effort at mastery, and that the comic seeks to adapt to a menace that was of painful depth of their early childhood.

The researchers additionally famous that the skilled comedian incessantly appeared to place up a display by retreating behind a barrage of jokes, as prompt in interviews and inkblot responses, the place the skilled comics conjured up photographs about concealment. In comparison with actors, they had been extra more likely to confer with individuals sporting masks, creatures hiding, and objects that may’t be distinguished correctly as a result of they’re obscured by darkness.

Fisher and Fisher additionally discovered that almost all {of professional} comedians of their pattern had imagery of smallness. The comics tended to have decrease self-esteems and to say dangerous issues about themselves. They argue that the comic’s give attention to his or her smallness could also be a results of the decreased significance she or he felt as a baby and that a lot comedian conduct is geared toward decreasing the discrepancy of smallness between themselves and others. “There isn’t a query however that dimension methods pervade the comedian’s codes and metaphors…He’s without end decreasing or magnifying. He by no means stories issues of their rapid proportions” (p. 216). Additionally they observe that the low self-esteem and feeling of smallness existent among the many skilled comics may very well set the comedian on a singular path. “We might emphasize…the likelihood that in some paradoxical method these adverse self-feelings present a sturdy base for shaping one’s identity and going off on an unbiased trajectory” (p. 200).


See Also

How does the comedian view himself or herself? The Fishers discovered that they seen themselves as healers. Most of the skilled comedians expressed a dedication to being altruistic. The comedian sees his or her central responsibility as that of constructing individuals really feel that occasions are humorous. On the identical time, the skilled comics additionally seen humor as a method for controlling and dominating the viewers. Certainly, Fisher and Fisher had been impressed at how this view of the comedian as a fool-priest is per scholarly critiques of the historical past of the clown, the courtroom jester, and the idiot. Additionally they famous how the up to date comedian serves an identical operate because the courtroom jester in earlier occasions. On the one hand, the comedian presents himself or herself because the foolish fellow that jokes, amuses and entertains. Alternatively, the comedian initiates opposing currents, uncovering truths that many individuals normally attempt to banish from consciousness.


This analysis means that humor in skilled comedians serves as a protection or coping mechanisms in coping with his or her early household experiences, and the burden of getting to maintain oneself. This will inspire the comedian to make individuals snigger with a view to achieve their acceptance, in addition to drive the comedian to disclose the absurdity of life to make sense of their very own lives. As Mark Runco has famous, writing is commonly a type of problem-solving; many writers are motivated to jot down to unravel issues of their lives. Comedy writers might use comedy of their writing to assist them perceive themselves and the world, and to take action in a style that controls the reader’s feelings. Sufficient evaluation. Regardless of the purpose for comics, thank goodness for them.

© 2008 by Scott Barry Kaufman

Word. A few of the above was excerpted from The Tears of a Clown: Understanding Comedy Writers, co-authored with Aaron Kozbelt. For references and extra, obtain:

Kaufman, S.B., & Kozbelt, A. (in press). The Tears of a Clown: Understanding Comedy Writers. To look in S.B. Kaufman & J.C. Kaufman (Eds.), The Psychology of Creative Writing. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge College Press. [pdf]

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