Mental health issues in comedians linked to their work

A microphone on a stage with an audience in the background Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Many of the comedians interviewed admitted they were willing to work for little or no pay

Comedians' working conditions contribute to poor mental health, according to researchers at Cardiff and Stockholm Universities.

Worry, anxiety and frustration also stem from financial insecurity.

Many of the comedians interviewed admitted they were willing to work for little or no pay to gain favour with comedy club promoters.

Dr Dimitrinka Stoyanova Russell said by being positive, "comedians reinforce the prevalence of free labour."

Dr Russell, a lecturer in human resource management at Cardiff Business School, and Dr Nick Butler, an assistant professor at Stockholm Business School, discovered comedians hid feelings of anxiety and frustration arising from financial insecurity to keep their relationships with promoters on an even keel.

Few were willing to confront their employers about inadequate wages or late payments.

"Freelance creative work is a labour of love where opportunities for self-expression are combined with exploitative working conditions," Dr Russell said.

"By projecting an image of positivity, comedians inadvertently reinforce the prevalence of free labour on the live circuit. The uncomplaining acceptance of free labour is used not only as a means to enter the occupation but also as a bargaining device for future employment in later stages of a comedians' career.

"As a result, comedians find themselves accepting gigs without proper remuneration well into their careers."

While the study focuses on work in the creative industries, the team argues that their findings might inform research on wider employment practices.

"Research like this might show how freelance workers in these economies use forms of emotion management in order to establish relationships with multiple employers," Dr Butler added.

"Our study describes what happens when workers feel compelled to endure uncertainty with a smile."

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