George Carlin impersonated by AI in an interminably long ‘comedy special’

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The late comedian George Carlin has had his voice and delivery style impersonated in an AI ‘comedy special’. It’s frankly horrible.

Because there’s no better application for cutting-edge AI technology than using it to rip artists off, a new ‘comedy special’ appears to employ a mixture of speech synthesis and chatbot-derived jokes to impersonate the late comedian George Carlin.

The interminably, exhaustingly long hour-long special, uploaded to YouTube on the 9th of January, is the work of a self-described ‘comedy AI’ called Dudesy (a name that no one would self apply where I come from). It’s part of the podcast of the same name run by presenters Will Sasso and Chad Kultgen, who also react cartoonishly to the ‘comedy special’ in the latest episode of their show.

Imitating Carlin’s influential and often close-to-the-bone style of humour, the special, respectfully titled I’m Glad I’m Dead, touches on such topics as the police, mass shootings, death, and even the rise of AI itself. In fairness, some of the gags are perfectly fine, but like so much AI-generated stuff, it becomes exhaustingly one-note to listen to, and entirely lacks the highs and lows, peaks and troughs and nuances that made Carlin’s actual routines so captivating – it’s just one long, ear-jabbing ramble, illustrated with gaudy images generated using Midjourney or something like it.

Understandably, the comedian’s daughter, Kelly Carlin, has reacted to the video with disgust.

“My dad spent a lifetime perfecting his craft from his very human life, brain and imagination,” she wrote on Twitter/X (as covered by Variety). “No machine will ever replace his genius. These AI generated products are clever attempts at trying to recreate a mind that will never exist again,” she wrote. “Let’s let the artist’s work speak for itself. Humans are so afraid of the void that we can’t let what has fallen into it stay there.”

Ironically, the latter section of the routine, in which the chatbot version of Carlin mounts a defence of the stuff branded as artificial intelligence, misunderstands the widespread anxieties surrounding its use. The Carlin impersonator says that AI will free us from the ‘shitty jobs’ we all hate – which rather misses the point that we need those jobs to eat or pay the massive bills that keep roofs over our heads.

Meanwhile, the fake Carlin goes on to predict – or perhaps threaten – that this is just the beginning, and that other departed comedians and celebrities will be similarly revived in the near future. I’ve seen some arguments that George Carlin himself would have admired the video’s irreverence, though the counter there would be that he’d probably also dislike that software created by billionaires can be used to rip off hard-working artists, alive or dead.

There’s also argument that I’m Glad I’m Dead is an ingenious use of nascent tech. But by the same token, using, say, an array of batteries and cables to revive a dead relative and have them dancing around your living room would also be pretty ingenious – but also morally indefensible and frankly disgusting.

Read more: ChatGPT, the rise of AI, and writing about film

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