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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. Ó 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Article history: Received 20 November 2008 Received in revised form 21 January 2009 Accepted 28 January 2009 Available online 5 March 2009 Keywords: Humor Stand-up comedy Performing arts Personality
1. Introduction Comic performers such as jesters, clowns, and story-tellers have always been popular throughout history and across cultures (Apte, 1985; Nilsen & Nilsen, 2000). In the modern US, live comic performers usually do stand-up comedy, which developed from the American traditions of burlesque and vaudeville, and featured slapstick humor, clowning, impressions, and ridicule (Nilsen & Nilsen, 2000; Wickberg, 1998). Stand-up comedy increased in scale and sophistication throughout the 20th century to become a popular form of entertainment in the past ﬁfty years. It now represents the most competitive, public, high-risk, high-gain form of...