Comics Say AI Comedy Writers Already Exist: "We Call Them Hacks"
Human comics have nothing to worry about when it comes to competition from AI, boasts stand-up Brad Williams. “I wrote into ChatGPT, ‘Write me a joke about cancel culture,’” he told The Los Angeles Times. “It responded, ‘My toaster got canceled for making the toast too Black.’ So for now, the humans’ job is safe.”
Are we sure? Already, virtual versions of Jerry Seinfeld and Tom Brady have been performing online sets, albeit of dubious quality. But comedians are confident that AI won’t be taking their jobs anytime soon. AI can only pander to the masses, says John Poveromo, host of the Dystopia Tonight podcast, while “skilled comedians craft material that brings the audience to them.”
After all, says Poveromo, AI is only capable of essentially remixing what comedians have already created. “In comedy, we have that in human form: We call them hacks,” he says. “And in the same way a skilled comic can blow a hack off the stage, I have no doubt in a live setting they would do the same to anything AI can generate.”
Comic Sarah Fetemi says dads and their corny puns are the only ones that AI will put out of the comedy business. AI joke-writing “definitely goes out of its way to be PC,” she says. “Which makes sense, coming from the fact that it’s coming from a PC.” (We get what Fetemi is saying here, but “makes sense, coming from the fact that it’s coming from a PC” is pretty much the definition of a dad joke.)
But if formula comedy is the best AI can do, then “writing jokes will be one of the very last tasks AI will be able to do convincingly and effectively,” says comedian Matthew Broussard. “Meaning, against all logic, I chose the career with the most stability.”
Tom Rhodes is yet another comic who doesn’t “worry about (AI) replacing comedy. Nothing compares to a live performance where anything can happen.” Besides, Rhodes points out, the best comedy is intensely personal. “AI could never imitate the ingenious quirky witticisms of my mother and the way she looks at the world.”
But here’s a caution to all of these overly confident comics: It’s been less than one freaking year since the world was introduced to tools like ChatGPT. Already, comics admit that AI can generate some pretty decent dad jokes (along with some nonsensical duds). We’re rooting for the humans here, but keep an eye on how AI comedy writing progresses -- it might get to actually funny faster than any of us think.