Picture this: take a vast library of comedic scripts from stand-ups, famous sitcoms, and iconic comedy films. Feed this data to an advanced artificial intelligence, like GPT-4 (which has already proven its capability to understand and generate text based on context). Then, ask for a monologue on a topic in the style of (insert comedian name here). What would the results be? Terrible AI puns or something truly laugh-worthy?
Do AI Jokes Indicate Human-Level Artificial Intelligence?
Before I answer that, let's back up a little. I have watched a lot of stand-up comedy in my life. Some of the content has been amazing. And some, well, not so much. We know with recent advancements, artificial intelligence models can analyze vast volumes of text, identify patterns, and generate intelligent, relevant content: the good, the bad, and the ugly. But can an AI program actually generate belly laughs?
After listening to a recent episode of the widely acclaimed podcast "Freakonomics," I have the impression that many underestimate artificial intelligence's potential for comedy.
According to their deep-dive episode, "Can AI Take a Joke?", artificial intelligence lacks the tools to fully understand and replicate human humor and creativity. But are we simply not looking at the problem the right way?
Is There a Key to Rendering Truly Funny AI Jokes?
The one wild card not mentioned during the Freakonomics episode was prompting.
Imagine giving a scripted and structured comedy act to 5 different comedians. Of course, you will get five different delivery styles and five varying outcomes. The same goes for prompting. The old saying comes to mind, "It's not what you said, but how you said it." Except with prompting, a variation of that adage could be, "It's not what you ask, but how you ask it." We are finding there is some skill, as well as creativity, in how you prompt an artificial intelligence program.
The point isn't to discredit the analysis presented in the "Freakonomics" podcast. After all, it offers a comprehensive overview of AI's potential in various fields. Instead, this is about pushing the boundaries of our understanding of artificial intelligence and the capabilities of the AI.
I am not sold on the narrative that "Artificial Intelligence can't take a joke" and want to lean more into "Let's teach the AI to crack a joke." Instead of limiting artificial intelligence to what it can't do, focus on what the AI tools could achieve. Our insights technology team at Bellomy pushes those boundaries with every monthly update release of our AI-driven insights technology solutions.
Artificial Intelligence vs. Jerry Seinfeld
Before the Freakonomics episode aired, my Bellomy colleagues and I were playing around with the idea of AI puns and humor in general and wondering whether the smartest AI could also deliver zingy one liners. My colleague, James Hess, used the same artificial intelligence engine that powers our Bellomy AI Workflows and posed the following question:
"Write a comedy bit as if delivered by Jerry Seinfeld about modern-day instant cameras (Kodak, Polaroid, Fujifilm brands). Also, include something about the small printers that print small smartphone pictures."
This is how the AI responded — cue the intro music to "Seinfeld"...
(Jerry steps up to the microphone with his classic inquisitive look.)
Jerry: "Have you seen these modern-day instant cameras? They're making a comeback! Polaroid, Kodak, Fujifilm... It's like we've stepped back into the 80s. But with better hair."
Jerry: "And I'm thinking, wasn't the whole point of modern technology to move forward? Why are we reverting back? First vinyl records, now this? What's next? Are we all gonna start carrying around big boomboxes on our shoulders again?"
Jerry: "You know what these instant cameras remind me of? When you'd be in a restaurant and someone would ask, 'Hey, can I take your picture?' Now, instead of waiting a week to see how bad you looked while chewing, you can see it instantly!"
Jerry: "Instant regret. That's what it should be called."
Jerry: "And here's the kicker: These photos come out, right? They're blank. And everyone gathers around, waving it, shaking it, like they're trying to conjure some kind of magic spell. 'Come on photo, reveal thyself!'"
Jerry: "But let's say you're not into the vintage vibe. You've got your smartphone, right? I mean, who doesn't? You've got 10,000 photos stored. But do you print them? No! Except now... they've got these tiny printers for your smartphone."
Jerry: "And I'm thinking, who's this for? If I wanted to print pictures, I'd go to a photo lab. Now we have printers the size of a sandwich, and the photos; they're even smaller! It's like making a sandwich and just eating the croutons!"
Jerry: "And it gets weirder. People take a photo on their smartphone, print it out with these tiny printers, and then what do they do? They take another photo of the printed photo to post online! We've come full circle!"
Jerry: "At this rate, by next year we'll all be painting portraits. 'Hold still, this will only take eight hours!'"
(Audience applause and laughter)
Jerry: "Thank you, thank you. Remember to back up your photos, folks. Or just print them. Either way, try not to go too retro!"
(Exit to applause)
The AI Gets the Last Laugh
I think these were pretty good, and I could imagine them being delivered in the self-aware style and voice of Jerry Seinfeld. The "hold still, this will only take 8 hours" part, in particular, evoked a chuckle.
I think we are well on our way to teaching artificial intelligence the subtleties of humor that could provide invaluable insights into the complexities of human intelligence and creativity. I am excited to see how AI tools develop. And for those of you needing material for #dadjokes, it is an amazing resource — especially the AI puns!
Navigating the Boundaries of AI
Not all AI models are created equal. Nor are the uses and applications of those models. Much like the stand-up comedy example, put AI into the hands of five different companies, and you would probably have five different applications and usages.
Our insights technology team here at Bellomy takes a “human in the middle” approach. We create tools that are geared to be as self-serving as possible: You are the pilot, and AI is the co-pilot. But like any tool, training and usage are required to gain expertise.
Please reach out if you're curious to learn more about how Bellomy is helping businesses and organizations navigate the boundaries of AI — with our senses of humor intact!
Written by Adam Spencer, Bellomy Text Analytics Product Manager
Disclaimer: Bellomy AI Workflows – Qualitative Transcript Analyzer and Generative AI Conversation Engine were used in assisting with some of the content for this article.