Research from the UK University of Surrey has found that witnessing live comedy increases emotional interaction and bonding between the spectators and performer and enhances a general feeling of trust and intimacy among participants through the shared experience.
Published in the journal Comedy Studies, the study was conducted by doctoral candidate Tim Miles, who analyzed surveys and interviews of audience members, as well as comedians, including some well-known performers. Miles found that comics and audiences connected through sharing of admiration and empathy. Bonds also formed as the audience began to identify with the observations and experiences of the comic.
“Comedy has often been seen to be a bit frivolous, but it’s actually something really important,” says Miles. “My work looking at comedians and comedy audiences has shown how live, stand-up comedy fulfills a need for feelings of truth, trust, empathy and intimacy between people, which is really important in a society where many people often complain about feeling isolated.”