Beware of the Sad Clown Paradox and Check in on Your “Funny” Friends
by Ashley Dreiling
They say laughter is the best medicine and having a good sense of humor is often one of humankind’s best personality traits. Laughter releases endorphins and helps lift our spirits or distract us when times get tough. However, it’s important to be aware of the Sad Clown Paradox, the contradictory association between comedy and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
In Pretend the World Is Funny and Forever: A Psychological Analysis of Comedians, Clowns, and Actors, Seymour and Rhoda Fisher researched this phenomenon using various methods, including childhood anecdotes, the Rorschach inkblot test, and the thematic apperception test to assess depressive characteristics among performers, according to Psychology Today.
The results found that the funniest individuals were more likely to come from low socioeconomic backgrounds, faced more adversity at a younger age, and reported issues with maternal relationships. They may have used humor to deal with trauma, sometimes becoming the “class clown.”
Using laughter and humor as defense mechanisms is not new, and has been found to be helpful, if not essential, during crisis situations. During the recent COVID-19 pandemic, when humankind faced an unknown deadly virus and isolation, the world watched individuals perform comedy routines in front of windows or balconies, providing rare moments of human connection.
Having a sense of humor is considered a positive character trait with many psychological benefits. Laughter can brighten someone’s day, diffuse stress, and strengthen relationships. But remember the Sad Clown Paradox be there for your hilarious friends when they need to share the not-so-funny parts of their lives.