Study: Family History Of Alcoholism Raises Risk Of One-Man Show

Experts say growing up in a household with one or more alcoholics could result in this being broken up into multiple acts with an intermission.

CHICAGO—According to an alarming new study released Monday by the University of Chicago, children raised in households where alcoholism is present are at a significantly greater risk of writing and performing a one-man show than those who grow up in a more stable environment.

The study found that males raised by alcoholic parents are 40 percent more likely to someday force their friends to attend a self-penned theatrical production about their life experiences, and the same painful behavior is eight times more prevalent in women over the age of 30 who have alcoholic fathers than those who do not.


According to the report, of the 250 one-man shows that premiered last month, three quarters of them, including Pops, A Life, and Youngstown, Ohio 1976, were directly linked to a relative who abused alcohol.

“Before you know it, they’re caught in the self- destructive pattern of doing the show every other Friday. It’s really tough to watch.”

“Children who have an alcoholic parent or grandparent can start displaying one-man show warning signs as early as 12,” the study’s lead author, Dr. Richard Lowden, told reporters. “And once these kids develop an interest in theater and start working on impressions of their alcoholic family members, it’s a path to disaster.”

“To see them throw their lives away by performing an hour-and-a-half-long monologue for 15 people in a tiny black-box theater is just plain sad,” he added. “Tragic even.”


The study, which asserted that every six seconds an individual from an alcoholic household comes up with the idea to open his one-man show by lighting a cigarette, found that if the urge to incorporate a collage of baby photos into the performance isn’t addressed immediately, a young adult may begin experimenting with dangerously melodramatic lines of dialogue, such as, “You don’t really know rock bottom until you hit it,” or, “People are funny, aren’t they?”

Soon, the report said, these performers become addicted to the thought of directly quoting a Shel Silverstein poem at the conclusion of their show, and are heavily predisposed toward wearing a baseball cap for the sequence in which they portray their father showing up drunk to little-league practice.


“By the time they realize how pathetic they look reenacting a family dinner scene by themselves, it’s already too late,” Lowden said. “Before you know it, they’re caught in the self- destructive pattern of doing the show every other Friday. It’s really tough to watch.”

“The worst part is they are completely oblivious as to how much they are hurting not just themselves, but everyone around them,” Lowden said. “Especially their loved ones, the people who feel obligated to attend the show more than once and then awkwardly tell them how good it was afterwards.”


According to the study, the magnitude of the family’s bout with alcoholism is directly related to the length of the production, the number of accents performed, and how much screaming the actor is likely to do on stage. A performer who grew up with two alcoholic parents is at a much greater risk of wearing a wig during the show.

“Kids who come from households where alcoholism led to violence or sexual abuse are in danger of having the absolute worst one-man shows,” Lowden said. “Ones where the performer puts his own clever little spin on the pre-show turn-off-your-cell-phone announcement. Or ones where the actor plays his guitar. Ugh, just the absolute worst.”


A report released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said that alcoholism is the third leading contributor to one-man shows, outpacing having immigrant parents, surviving cancer, and having an ex-girlfriend.

A desire to be the center of attention paired with a delusional belief in one’s talent remain the leading causes of one-man shows.


“These kids need to know that having an alcoholic parent doesn’t mean they are predetermined to perform a one-man show,” University of Virginia psychologist Harriet Courtly said. “They have a choice. They can engage in this embarrassing, hurtful behavior, or they can drink themselves to death and keep it to themselves like everyone else.”

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