George Carlin’s Daughter Wishes Her Dad Was Here to ‘Rip A.I. A New A--Hole’
Artificial intelligence has already proven itself capable of creating comedy content worthy of virality, but this past Sunday, the popular consumer-facing A.I. platform ChatGPT reached a milestone in its comedy capabilities that we never thought would be technologically possible for a chatbot — it turned George Carlin over in his grave.
Of all the great stand-up comedians in history, Carlin is probably the most quoted, co-opted, misconstrued and misremembered for his thoughtful, powerful and deeply complicated message. Far inferior contemporary comedians and their fans too often invoke Carlin’s name when moralizing on the role of the comic as a “modern day philosopher.” (Norm Macdonald said that the moniker being used on stand-up comics “always makes me feel sad for the actual modern day philosophers.”)
The most ardent and authoritative defender of Carlin’s voice since his passing in 2008 has been his daughter Kelly, who, it should go without saying, would have a better answer than any other living person to the oft-asked question, “What would George Carlin think?” When Dave Chappelle brought Twitter’s CEO and punching bag Elon Musk on-stage to a chorus of boos back in December, Kelly Carlin tweeted a searing, sarcastic criticism of those who have compared the Netflix darling to the late Carlin, saying, “We all know how much my dad loved rich white men.”
But of all the ignorant appropriations of Carlin’s comedy and the fiercely inquisitive mind behind it, none has been more ghoulish, tasteless and tone-deaf than the ChatGPT-generated monologue posted by NBC News reporter Ben Collins on the topic of the recent closure of Silicon Valley Bank. Collins, apparently proud of the artificial creation, tweeted, “Okay, I'm in on ChatGPT now,” and “ChatGPT George Carlin is ready to start the revolution over SVB.”
Kelly Carlin rebutted, “Just fucking shoot me.”
Kelly Carlin’s criticism of the positively tepid procedurally generated rant cuts to the core of the problem with A.I. hijacking the voices of the dead, beyond the obvious, macabre disrespect inherent in the idea — A.I. can analyze every recorded bit of comedy in Carlin’s catalog and create something with the structure of a Carlin rant, but the aesthetic similarities to his actual work are categorically skin-deep. Though ChatGPT (poorly) approximated Carlin’s cadence, the shadow of a voice expressed in the output is, by definition, soulless.
Carlin was comedy’s most meticulous wordsmith, so seeing sophomoric phrases like “Sometimes, the best way to beat the system is to create a better one” even indirectly attributed to Carlin’s voice is insulting when the sentence — and the entire monologue — would better fit a cynically simple commercial for a credit union. In addition, anyone familiar with Monopoly understands how the Hasbro game is already a commentary on American capitalism, which makes the line, “It’s like a game of Monopoly, but with real houses and hotels,” the only remotely funny punchline in a “laughing at you, not with you” sense.
Kelly Carlin also called the A.I. rant “an abomination,” which is likely more gentle than her father would have been on the subject. In fact, the only laugh Kelly Carlin got out of the entire thing was when one commenter quipped, “I think they spelled 'Greg Gutfeld' wrong.”