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Q: Jungian personality types in stand-up comedy ( Answered,   0 Comments )
Subject: Jungian personality types in stand-up comedy
Category: Reference, Education and News
Asked by: mz3553-ga
List Price: $200.00
Posted: 12 Jun 2004 10:40 PDT
Expires: 12 Jul 2004 10:40 PDT
Question ID: 360059
I need:  A definition of stand-up comedy.
2. How the functions relation to other aspects of the Jungian psyche
3. How the inferior function is related to the shadow
4. Information about projection and stan-up comedians or entertainers
5. comparison between Myers Briggs type indicator and Jungian psychological types
Subject: Re: Jungian personality types in stand-up comedy
Answered By: adiloren-ga on 16 Jun 2004 01:23 PDT
Hi, thanks for the question. I hope I am able to respond to your
liking and meet all of your criteria. Jung didn't write much on the
topic of comedy, so it is open to some degree of interpretation. He
definitely provides some theoretical grounds for exploring your topic
however. Here is what I have found:


Definition of stand-up comedy:
"Stand-up comedy
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

A stand-up comedian or stand-up comic is someone that performs in
comedy clubs, usually reciting a fast paced succession of amusing
stories, short jokes and one-liners, typically called a monologue.
Some stand-up comedians use props, music, or magic tricks in their

"However, perhaps more than any other performer, the stand-up comedian
is at the mercy of the audience, which is an integral element of the
act. A truly adept stand-up comedian must nimbly play off the mood and
tastes of any particular audience, and adjust his or her routine
accordingly. The test of a master stand-up comedian is the ability to
not only face down a "heckler," but win over and entertain the rest of
the crowd with a retort."

Definitions of "humor" (homour) and laughter as concepts:
"Humour, according to the OED is 'facetiousness, comicality, faculty
of perceiving this; jocose imagination.' According to Giles & Oxford,
there are seven categories of humour and laughter: social, anxious,
derisive, apologetic, humorous, ignorant and tickled. Some of these
will be explored a little more fully later. Humour is different in
nature to laughter. One can be conceived as the stimulus, the other as
the response. The response is normally physical. Even here, one has to
be careful about one's definition of terms since laughter has been
conceived as nothing more than a glorified smile. Are smiles and
laughs different? Well, yes. Laughter has been described as 'an
inarticulate vocal sound of sufficient intensity to be audible when a
recording of it is played back at maximum volume' (Chapman, 1973). A
smile, on the other hand, is 'any spontaneous upward stretching of the
mouth occurring without a vocal sound.' (Chapman, 1973)."
"Charles Darwin was the first to suggest that laughter, a uniquely
human phenomenon, developed in the neocortex and was coeval with the
emergence of speech. J. J. M. Askenasy, of the Tel Aviv School of
Medicine, concurs: "Laughter is a primitive communication medium
understood by all human societies in spite of their very different
languages. No case of a human being who did not laugh once in his
lifetime has been published in the literature" (318). By laughter we
have thus defined our humanity."

-- A standup comic may utilize any of these forms (or categories) of
humor, hoping to achieve the end result, of humoring the audience,
often attempting to incite a physical reaction from them.

A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook
Edited by Vicki K. Janik

"Fools, jesters, and clowns entertain and elicit laughter, a pleasant
and even restorative function. They respond to and act in the world
with surprise, unconventionality, and even absurdity, with their
apparent misperceptions, metaperceptions, or nonperceptions that we
would dismiss from our own lives. Although they are apparently human,
they are identifiably different from other people in appearance and
action, oddly out of focus and sometimes startlingly grotesque."

"Fools and jesters have existed as important figures in nearly all the
cultures. Sometimes referred to as clowns, they are typological
characters who have conventional roles in the arts, especially to
engage in nonsense. But fools are also a part of social and religious
history; they may be individuals, often deformed, who live particular
sorts of prescribed and marginalized lives in most societies; or they
may play key roles in the serious or mock rituals that support social
and religious beliefs...

The importance of the continued study of fools and jesters is
undeniable, first, because of their prevalence. Conventional fools
appear and have appeared everywhere. We are thus forced to seek
reasons for their presence, reasons why humanity apparently requires
these bizarre figures, so discernibly different from the norm. We must
conclude that these complex, seemingly paradoxical characters fulfill
essential roles in society."

--- I would argue that in general psychological terms, standup
comedians fit the traditional archetype of a "fool" or "jester". They
step on stage primarily to entertain others through humor.


The Jungian Psyche:
"According to Jung, it is the opposition that creates the power (or
libido) of the psyche. It is like the two poles of a battery, or the
splitting of an atom. It is the contrast that gives energy, so that a
strong contrast gives strong energy, and a weak contrast gives weak

Comedy often uses contrasts or conflict to produce humor. The more
ridiculous or unexpected a situation, image, etc. may be, the more
funny it may seem or appear. This is often refered to in psychological
terms as the incongruity theory of humor.
"Incongruity theory suggests that we laugh when we see events as incongruous."

Similarly, Freud suggests that laughter is a form of relief, a release
of energy when a particular event connects with a subconscious or
repressed idea or desire.
"Freud's relief theory says that laughter involves a released of
accumulated psychic energy."

Jung's concept of energy from opposition is common throughout his work
and applies especially to comedy. A stand-up comedian must harness
this energy by identifying  concepts that the audience will find
incongruent. For example, Andy Kaufman lip sinking the Mighty Mouse
theme song may seem so ridiculous to some that they will find it
funny, to others, they may just be annoyed or elicit another reaction.

Another principle for Jung is ?equivalence?.
?The second principle is the principle of equivalence. The energy
created from the opposition is "given" to both sides equally. So, when
I held that baby bird in my hand, there was energy to go ahead and try
to help it. But there is an equal amount of energy to go ahead and
crush it. I tried to help the bird, so that energy went into the
various behaviors involved in helping it. But what happens to the
other energy??

Similarly, a standup comic may appeal to the alternate inclinations
that people often have but don?t act on. For example, if someone seems
a blind man struggling to cross the street, they are usually most
inclined to help him. A comedian may suggest that pushing him into
oncoming traffic would be the better option. This may seem funny to
the audience, because while they would likely not be inclined to
perform such an act, the thought likely crossed their mind on some
level, because it was the opposite of the stronger inclination to
guide the man away from traffic. The author above asks what happens to
the other energy. One could argue that it is stored in the unconscious
and when it is touched upon by the comedian it is released in the form
of laughter.

Or?it could be repressed and take on a more sinister role. 

?But if you pretend that you never had that evil wish, if you deny and
suppress it, the energy will go towards the development of a complex.
A complex is a pattern of suppressed thoughts and feelings that
cluster -- constellate -- around a theme provided by some archetype.
If you deny ever having thought about crushing the little bird, you
might put that idea into the form offered by the shadow (your "dark
side"). Or if a man denies his emotional side, his emotionality might
find its way into the anima archetype. And so on.?

Thus, the comedian may relate Jung?s concept of  ?the Shadow? in that
they are able to facilitate the release of hostile energy in a
presumably harmless way. Thus, laughter may really be the best
medicine. Jokes regarding race, culture, class, politics, etc. may
serve the function of allowing people to release some natural hostile
feelings and energy that have been repressed and/ or not acted upon.
?The final principle is the principle of entropy. This is the tendency
for oppositions to come together, and so for energy to decrease, over
a person's lifetime. Jung borrowed the idea from physics, where
entropy refers to the tendency of all physical systems to "run down,"
that is, for all energy to become evenly distributed. If you have, for
example, a heat source in one corner of the room, the whole room will
eventually be heated.?

The stand-up comedian may have a role in the principle of entropy as
well. They may act as a dissipating force, allowing people to
understand opposites, find humor in it, and proceed. The common
comedic tactic of cross-dressing is an interesting example. Obviously
there are strong elements of incongruity and equivalence here as well.
A bearded man wearing a dress seems ridiculous and unexpected and also
appeals to subconscious thoughts that most men wouldn?t act on.

However, there is a certain mocking of the opposites in comedic cross
dressing. Benny Hill wearing a dress seems to heighten the distinction
between the genders, yet poke fun at it as rather trivial. Eddie
Izzard is also a good contemporary example. He jokes about his
transvestitism, but it is not the focal point of his stand-up act,
that instead revolves around politics, history and culture. He plays
with gender roles and allows the audience to laugh at themselves and
the distinctions thrust on them by society. This in turn may allow for
the energy to be released in the form of laughter, etc.

Another important principle for Jung is synchronicity.

?Synchronicity is the occurrence of two events that are not linked
causally, nor linked teleologically, yet are meaningfully related.
Once, a client was describing a dream involving a scarab beetle when,
at that very instant, a very similar beetle flew into the window.
Often, people dream about something, like the death of a loved one,
and find the next morning that their loved one did, in fact, die at
about that time. Sometimes people pick up he phone to call a friend,
only to find that their friend is already on the line. Most
psychologists would call these things coincidences, or try to show how
they are more likely to occur than we think. Jung believed the were
indications of how we are connected, with our fellow humans and with
nature in general, through the collective unconscious.?

Stand-up comedians often attempt to relate to the audience and
emphasize similarities in the way that we experience events,
especially at the deeper level of thought and experience.. Some find
humor when others have experienced similar feeling and thoughts when
placed in similar situations. When comedian Chris Rock reveals his
family?s love for ?Tussin? as a panacea for healing any wound, some
may find similar behavior in their own family history and find humor
in it.

There is also a sense of joy in knowing that there is a connection
between the way in which people experience things. The stand-up comic,
above all, bases his or her act on their personal experiences, and if
those experiences can?t be related to by the audience, they are in
trouble. This experience of recognizing and empathizing with the
experiences of others is somewhat distinct from synchronicity, which
deals more with coincidence and its role in the collective
unconscious, but it is similar in that it notes a strong human desire
for connection. Comedians offer the audience a window into their
thoughts, feelings and observations and the audience may feel that
connection and respond.


The Archetypes:

The stand-up comedian also appeals to people?s archetypes, or an
?unlearned tendency to experience things in a certain way?,. rooted in
the collective unconscious. These are personality types of a sort that
are experienced through the collective unconscious and manifest
themselves in the way people define their personalities or experience
life as individuals. They act much as instincts do for Freud. Guiding
or influencing one?s behavior from the realm of the unconscious.
Comedians often embody these different archetypes or exploit their
metaphorical qualities in their acts.

Some scholars have narrowed the archetypes down to a principle set,
but for Jung there were countless archetypes and none completely
independent of the other.
"The archetypes, at first glance, might seem to be Jung's strangest
idea. And yet they have proven to be very useful in the analysis of
myths, fairy tales, literature in general, artistic symbolism, and
religious exposition. They apparently capture some of the basic
"units" of our self-expression. Many people have suggested that there
are only so many stories and characters in the world, and we just keep
on rearranging the details."

Stand-up comedians are often master story tellers. In doing so they
often appeal to archetypes that are familar to the audience and
explore them in a humorous way, often through the use of metaphor or

One particularly strong archetype is the mother.

?The mother archetype is a particularly good example. All of our
ancestors had mothers. We have evolved in an environment that included
a mother or mother-substitute. We would never have survived without
our connection with a nurturing-one during our times as helpless
infants. It stands to reason that we are "built" in a way that
reflects that evolutionary environment: We come into this world ready
to want mother, to seek her, to recognize her, to deal with her.
So the mother archetype is our built-in ability to recognize a certain
relationship, that of "mothering." Jung says that this is rather
abstract, and we are likely to project the archetype out into the
world and onto a particular person, usually our own mothers. Even when
an archetype doesn't have a particular real person available, we tend
to personify the archetype, that is, turn it into a mythological
"story-book" character. This character symbolizes the archetype.?

A comedian may, therefore, joke about the mothering of their children
and appeal to this archetype. The Father archetype plays a similar
role. Bill Cosby, for example, often embodies this archetype in his
stand-up comedy. His observations of fatherhood and the behavior of
children are found to be amusing by those who can relate.

The Shadow:
?Sex and the life instincts in general are, of course, represented
somewhere in Jung's system. They are a part of an archetype called the
shadow. It derives from our prehuman, animal past, when our concerns
were limited to survival and reproduction, and when we weren't

It is the "dark side" of the ego, and the evil that we are capable of
is often stored there. Actually, the shadow is amoral -- neither good
nor bad, just like animals. An animal is capable of tender care for
its young and vicious killing for food, but it doesn't choose to do
either. It just does what it does. It is "innocent." But from our
human perspective, the animal world looks rather brutal, inhuman, so
the shadow becomes something of a garbage can for the parts of
ourselves that we can't quite admit to.

Symbols of the shadow include the snake (as in the garden of Eden),
the dragon, monsters, and demons. It often guards the entrance to a
cave or a pool of water, which is the collective unconscious. Next
time you dream about wrestling with the devil, it may only be yourself
you are wrestling with! "

Comedians may refer to sinister characters that match the archetype of
the shadow. Comparing a major political figure or business leader as a
shadowy figure may be a source of humor. Some comedians themselves
playoff the fear often perceived from the shadow archetype. The fact
that so few humans are actually amoral in the way that the shadow
figure is makes it grounds for humor.

The Persona:
"The persona

The persona represents your public image. The word is, obviously,
related to the word person and personality, and comes from a Latin
word for mask. So the persona is the mask you put on before you show
yourself to the outside world. Although it begins as an archetype, by
the time we are finished realizing it, it is the part of us most
distant from the collective unconscious.

At its best, it is just the "good impression" we all wish to present
as we fill the roles society requires of us. But, of course, it can
also be the "false impression" we use to manipulate people's opinions
and behaviors. And, at its worst, it can be mistaken, even by
ourselves, for our true nature: Sometimes we believe we really are
what we pretend to be!"

Since comedians are themselves presenting themselves publicly, the
persona is a strong archetype in their performance. The often play
different roles, do impressions, etc. and comment on the shifting
?masks? that high profile figures wear. Common jokes attempt to strip
a public figure of their ?persona? archetype and expose their true
?self?. A joke about the pope on the toilet, for example, may serve
this function and appear humorous to the audience.

The Trickster:
?And there is the trickster, often represented by a clown or a
magician. The trickster's role is to hamper the hero's progress and to
generally make trouble. In Norse mythology, many of the gods'
adventures originate in some trick or another played on their
majesties by the half-god Loki.?

The comedian often plays the role of the trickster or clown. Doing the
unexpected and fooling the other archetypal figures.


Personality Types:

Introversion and extroversion
?Jung developed a personality typology that has become so popular that
some people don't realize he did anything else! It begins with the
distinction between introversion and extroversion. Introverts are
people who prefer their internal world of thoughts, feelings,
fantasies, dreams, and so on, while extroverts prefer the external
world of things and people and activities.?

Stand-up comedians seem to be most often extroverted, they are usually
very social and their acts often comment on the social world around
them. However, there are often introverted elements as well. The
personal nature of stand-up comedy makes it a forum for expression on
inner thoughts that most often wouldn?t be revealed in a public

There are also many functions involved in Jung?s personality typology.
?The first is sensing. Sensing means what it says: getting information
by means of the senses. A sensing person is good at looking and
listening and generally getting to know the world. Jung called this
one of the irrational functions, meaning that it involved perception
rather than judging of information.?

Stand-up comedians often deal with sensory information or intuitive
perception as a way of communicating with the audience. Our
perceptions may not always be rational, but they exist. Comedians will
often display these intuitions and the audience will delight in
identifying similar experiences.
?The second is thinking. Thinking means evaluating information or
ideas rationally, logically. Jung called this a rational function,
meaning that it involves decision making or judging, rather than
simple intake of information.?

Often comedians with rationally analyze a situation and find humor in
the apparent irrational constructions that exist. Political comedians
often appeal to the logic of the audience members and paint the ruling
political figures as guided by their desires, instincts, etc.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator 

Stand-up comedians probably come from a few different personality
types under the Myers- Briggs rubric.

Most probably fall into one of the following types:

?ENFJ (Extroverted feeling with intuiting): These people are easy
speakers. They tend to idealize their friends. They make good parents,
but have a tendency to allow themselves to be used. They make good
therapists, teachers, executives, and salespeople.?

The social nature of this type and the ability to relate to others
makes it likely that many comedians fall into this category.

?ENFP (Extroverted intuiting with feeling): These people love novelty
and surprises. They are big on emotions and expression. They are
susceptible to muscle tension and tend to be hyperalert. they tend to
feel self-conscious. They are good at sales, advertising, politics,
and acting.?

They are social, relate well to others, enjoy expression but may be
self-conscious. Many comedians are self-deprecating, but social and

?ESFJ (Extroverted feeling with sensing): These people like harmony.
They tend to have strong shoulds and should-nots. They may be
dependent, first on parents and later on spouses. They wear their
hearts on their sleeves and excel in service occupations involving
personal contact.?

Many comedians are strongly opinionated, have trouble in relationships
and with dependency but enjoy personal interaction.

?ESFP (Extroverted sensing with feeling): Very generous and impulsive,
they have a low tolerance for anxiety. They make good performers, they
like public relations, and they love the phone. They should avoid
scholarly pursuits, especially science.?

Speaks for itself.  


Additional Resources:

Philemon (A Jung page with an archived lists of articles- scholarly
and reviews of literature and film from a Jungian perspective).

Online Jung/ Myers-Briggs Personality Test

Scholarly Jung Resource

The Skeptics Dictionary: on Jung

Comedy Zone: on Stand-up

Comedy Heals - Rx Laughter project researches role of humor in healing
Psychology Today,  May, 2000  by  C.C.

Psychology of Humor Page

Freud, S. (1905). Jokes and their relation to the unconscious.


Google Search Strategy:

jung, humor or humour
jung, comedy
psychology and humor or humour
jung archetypes
--narrowing search terms


I hope this helps. There isn't a lot out there refering specifically
to Jung's views on comedy and humor, let alone stand-up comedy
specifically. I tried to synthesize his views and apply them as best I
could. Let me know if you need me to clarify this response.

Best regards,
Anthony (adiloren-ga)
There are no comments at this time.

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