Comedy is a funny thing. You can judge how smart a person is by what they laugh at: the divisive power of humour can draw strong boundaries between social classes and even religions. Theres no single, unified version of comedy, neither will you find one comedian who isnt like Marmite; and we dont mean sticky and full of yeast (although a few probably are). It defies analysis, either you have it or you dont... and there's plenty that stand out in public consciousness who do.
So what is it about comedians that makes them so good at what they do? What do they have that other people dont? For many, the answer is simple: a tragic past. Depression, nihilism, and traumatic childhoods all play a part in the lives of some of our favourite comedians we see goofing around on stage. Sadly, some demons are stronger than others: comedian Lenny Bruce died from a drug overdose, and Richard Pryor came close, setting himself on fire whilst freebasing on cocaine. (He later said they should use fire in the Olympics, because he ran the 100 in 4.3!)
Comedians are forever disclosing problems and frankly discussing taboo subjects, so if their lives have been filled with tragedy, well, they're gonna have a hell of a lot of material to work with. That's not to say every comedian is completely and utterly bat-turd insane, but studies have shown those working in the industry are more inclined to have 'high levels of psychotic personality traits'.
American stand-up Patton Oswalt highlighted the need for rage and misery in a comics life, saying: Im married, and there's nothing worse for a comedian's career than happiness. Regular sex and fulfilled needs - I just can't be funny anymore."
What follows are both classic and contemporary comedians around the globe who have made us weep with laughter; and, in turn, their absolute not-so-funny personal lives. After all, laughter is the best medicine...