Laughter, not the best medicine

We know, or we think we know, that the comedians on stage who make us laugh often have unhappy, even tragic, lives off stage.

However, according to two Australian academics, until now this concept has not been formally evaluated.

The pair, from the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, set out to test the hypothesis that elite comedians are at increased risk of premature mortality.

They drew on a list of 53 male British and Irish comics born in the first half of the 20th century – who had been voted by the public as the funniest of their generation – and scored them from “relatively funny”, “pretty funny” and “very funny to hilarious”.

Billy Connolly and Peter Sellers, for example, scored a comedy ranking of 10, while John