The sad clown: misery of a comedian 6



View Profile

Where would the world be without comedians? They provide us with welcome relief during fraught times; they look at the world around us and point out its deficiencies, either in politics, the church or even our own, personal lives. They poke fun at all groups in society, unions, employers, priests, politicians, even criminals. They form a large component of the ‘happy’ parts of our lives, especially the really clever ones, such as, for instance, the ‘Monty Python’ gang and many others like them.

Comedians today have to be really hard workers too! Long gone are the days when a comedian could write one good script, and tour all the halls in the country using it, maybe for the rest of his working life, because it always appeared to be ‘fresh’ material, no matter how old it actually was. Now, with television, the internet and social networking, no sooner does the poor chap come up with a new joke, than it is broadcast all over the world. So each time he appears, anywhere, he needs brand new material and it always has to be of a high standard in this modern, competitive world.

Perhaps it is small wonder then, that so many of the people who appear to us as the most cheerful, are often in fact, living quite morose lives once they get off stage, some even plunging into the depths of despair.

Take for instance Spike Milligan, a fantastically funny man, loved by millions, but spending a large percentage of his life under psychiatric care. Or Tony Hancock, who committed suicide in a lonely hotel room in Sydney, when anyone would have said he was right at the pinnacle of his comedy career at that time.

A very recent loss to the world of comedy, one of the cleverest of them all, was Robin Williams. He could make a crowd laugh just by walking into a room, such was the magic he possessed. It was obviously, in hind sight, he was suffering terribly once those stage lights were turned off – a great loss to the world.

Both Peter Sellers and John Cleese would be classed in anyone’’s mind as masters of the art of comedy, with the world at their feet, yet even they experienced the devil of depression on their shoulders when they were not in the public eye.

It seems almost as if there is some need within nature to create a balance, so that the funniest of us have to suffer a downside as well. And it doesn’’t just seem to affect comedians either – think of the great artists and musicians who have been similarly driven. Van Gogh was tormented for virtually all his adult life, yet it was when he was in his worst mental states that he produced some of his most dynamic works. Both pop star Michael Hutchins, leader of rock group INXS and his girlfriend Paula Yates both (separately) took their own lives and yet his was some of the most dynamic music of the last century and Paula certainly lived her life to the fullest, if not pleasingly for some people!

It seems to me, correctly or incorrectly, that this ‘balance’ is vital for everything to work properly, both for us mere mortals and in nature itself. The unfortunate thing is we have become so clever, yet are still so thoughtless, that we are trying to destroy much of that balance and yet still expect everything to work as it should.

I believe this may be a false hope so humans, beware!

What are your thoughts? Do you think those who are the funniest or most entertaining, the saddest inside? Tell us below.

Brian Lee

  1. You are onto something there Brian. It’s how to get that balance that’s the mystery.Very few can actually see into the depths of a person,so unfortunately the mask of the “clown” hides their sadness from the outer world.

  2. I believe a lot of these talented people are undiagnosed or undisclosed Bi Polar sufferers. There are so many who are obviously going through the hell of it but won’t seek help or even admit it. Very sad.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *