So here’s a fun lil thing to kick off your Thursday morning: Turns out all your favourite stand-up comedians are statistically unlikely to make old bones. Fun!

The Australian Catholic University recently published a study into the longevity of prominent comedians when compared to that of comedic film actors or dramatic actors, and the results are pretty dang grim.

The study, published in the International Journal of Cardiology, looked at a retrospective sample size of 498 people, all sourced from lists published in 2015 like ‘Funniest Stand-Up Comedians of All-Time,‘ ‘Funniest People of All-Time,’ and ‘Greatest Actors and Actresses in Entertainment History.‘ Of those 498, 200 were career comedians, 114 were comedy actors, and 184 were dramatic actors.

What the study found was “a pattern of premature mortality in elite stand-up comedians.” Or, to put it another way, funny people seem to die young.

Cardiac researcher Professor Simon Stewart, the chief authority on the study which was conducted at the Mary MacKillop Institute at the ACU, stated that there was a “significant gradient in the age of death, with stand-up comedians dying at a younger age (67.1 years) than their comedy actor (68.9) and dramatic actor (70.7) counterparts.

“Indeed, the data confirmed an adverse relationship between comedic ability and longevity, with elite standup comedians more highly rated by the public more likely to die prematurely.”

“Overall, the results point to a need for awareness of health and wellbeing concerns in the entertainment industry, and in elite comedians in particular.”

Stewart then punctuated that sentiment with this little quip, which is grim, but reads way better if you imagine David Caruso saying it in the cold open of an episode of ‘CSI Miami.’

“It appears that for stand-up comedians, being at the very top may be no laughing matter.”

The research concluded that there was evidence that comedian deaths were “significantly” more deaths classified as premature when compared to the standard population average, and a noticeable difference was present when comparing the average lifespan to that of dramatic or comedic actors.

In addition, comedian deaths accounted for far more non-natural causes of death than their actor counterparts, including suicide and drug-related fatalities.

Professor Stewart stated that the correlation between “purer” stand-ups and earlier deaths was quite distinct.

“We suspected that if our original conclusions were correct, we would find that the purer and funnier the comedy art form, i.e. stand-up, the more strongly this premature death phenomenon would manifest itself.”


“[Stand-up comedy is a] highly competitive profession with low pay and low job security; years of working under this pressure may exert a cumulative stress effect even once success has been achieved.”

Interestingly, there is also a noted and documented extension of life that applies to Academy Award winners, who on average live 3.9 years longer than their non-award winning colleagues, if you can believe that shit. The difference between the two seemingly comes down to a combination of life and career stress, enabled by financial security, lowered personal responsibility, and better health habits due to more rigid working routines.

“Elite dramatic actors are more likely to have attained some degree of financial security, with the attendant benefits to health and wellbeing.”

“Screen actors are generally required to arrive on set early and adhere to tight schedules, thus increasing the likelihood of regular sleep patterns, stand-up comedy involves irregular and late hours and extensive travel.”

“The associated difficulty in maintaining regular patterns of sleep, nutrition and exercise may contribute to detrimental physiological effects and health outcomes, including increased inflammatory markers, higher blood pressure, reduced glucose tolerance, obesity, heart disease, and mortality.”

So there you bloody well have it. The next time you ask a comedian how a gig went and they tell you that they died up there, it’s probably got some literal truth to it.

Source: Science Today.

Photo: NBC/Getty.