AI imitation of George Carlin raises awkward questions

January 12, 2024

An AI ‘comedian’ called Dudesy just released a full-length comedy show imitating the late comedian George Carlin without his family’s permission. Carlin’s daughter and fans are understandably upset but there may be little they can do about it.

George Carlin is considered to be one of the best standup comedians of all time. He released 14 specials in which he irreverently joked about often controversial topics, simultaneously gaining and polarizing comedy fans with his acerbic wit.

When he passed away in 2008, fans were saddened that they would never hear more of his material. Now they’re angry that an AI program has brought ‘Carlin’ back in an hour-long YouTube video called “George Carlin: I’m Glad I’m Dead.”

Dudesy is an AI program that co-hosts a comedic podcast with comedian Will Sasso (MADtv, Young Sheldon) and author Chad Kultgen.

The video consists of audio of ‘Carlin’ doing a standup show with AI-generated images and the sound of applause timed to coincide with the punchlines. If you’re a fan of George Carlin then you may want to give the video a miss.

Probably the most unsettling thing about the video is just how good it is. When I say “good” I mean how much it sounds just like him. The voice, cadence, intonation, and even the humor, all make it sound like it could have been recorded by the man himself.

Some fans dispute this but it may be their justified aversion to the idea clouding a fair assessment of how good AI is getting. If this had been released as a genuine lost Carlin recording then I think his fans would likely have enjoyed it.

In the intro to the video, Dudesy makes it abundantly clear that this is not a recording of Carlin.

Dudesy says, “I just want to let you know very clearly that what you’re about to hear is not George Carlin. It’s my impersonation of George Carlin that I developed in the exact same way a human impressionist would. I listened to all of George Carlin’s material and did my best to imitate his voice, cadence, and attitude, as well as the subject matter I think would have interested him today.”

Carlin’s daughter, Kelly Carlin, was unambiguous in her assessment of the AI experiment. She said, “My dad spent a lifetime perfecting his craft from his very human life, brain, and imagination. 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.”

Kelly Carlin then warns that the families of comedians like Robin Williams and Garry Shandling could be next.

With the video’s intro insisting that it’s just parody and comedic impersonation, there may be very little Carlin or others can do about this.

In the routine, ‘Carlin’ ironically says that AI will take the jobs of human standup comedians. He ominously promises that we can expect ‘comebacks’ from Richard Pryor, Joan Rivers, and Andy Kaufman in “24-hour a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year streams commenting on everything that’s happening in the world as it happens.”

The scary thing is that a lot of people would probably watch that and make Dudesy, or rather the anonymous company behind the AI, a lot of money.

The truly frightening thought is: What if it turns out to be really good?

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Eugene van der Watt

Eugene comes from an electronic engineering background and loves all things tech. When he takes a break from consuming AI news you'll find him at the snooker table.


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