From Silicon to Stand-Up: AI Entertainers At Edinburgh Fringe

Comedians using AI as the future of comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe 2023

In an unexpected twist at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, AI has turned into an unlikely punchline generator – has the future of comedy been rewritten?

Leading this peculiar parade is none other than Vanessa 5000, a creation by clown Courtney Pauroso. Her posters dub Vanessa 5000 as “Artificially intelligent. Genuinely stupid. ChatGPT ain’t got nothing on Vanessa 5000’s sweet synthetic a**.”


  • In LA, AI’s rise sparks concerns about its impact on entertainment, leading to industry strikes over fears of humor dilution.
  • “Artificial Intelligence Improvisation” show tests algorithms’ comedic prowess as humans deliver chatbot lines, merging improv with machine-generated wit.
  • Boyd Branch finds amusement in tech’s foibles, while comedian Pierre Novellie doubts AI’s ability to grasp comedy’s complexity, citing the challenge of context and cultural nuances.

The Path Towards A Comedic AI Future

In LA, where AI’s domination of conversations is evident, concerns about its impact on the entertainment industry have led to writers and actors striking in the US. One writer admits, “Perhaps I shouldn’t say this but, to be honest, you can get a bad but workable outline for a script and then have a person go in and make it funny, and I’m sure a studio wants to say ‘yeah, let’s just do that!’ but obviously that’s not what we want. And I think it definitely takes a bit of the soul out of anything you make.

But can computers genuinely grasp the nuances of humor? The show “Artificial Intelligence Improvisation” sets out to test this proposition by pitting algorithms against human audiences. The performance involves humans delivering lines generated by chatbots, resulting in a blend of improvisation and machine wit.

Piotr Mirowski, co-founder of the show and a research scientist at a leading AI lab, challenges the program with the request to “tell Sky News a great joke.” The AI’s response: “Why don’t scientists trust atoms?” “Because they make up everything.”

Pauroso, a native of Los Angeles, sees AI’s looming influence as both daunting and delightful. “There’s a lot to think about and to play with,” she muses, her laughter intertwining with her concerns. “I think we should be scared,” she continues, “but also it’s just really fun to play with the fear aspect.

Laughing With Or At Tech? You Decide…

Boyd Branch, one of the show’s actors, believes there’s a comedic goldmine in the future of AI.

Every time Alexa speaks to me and gets my music request wrong, I find it hilarious.” he shares. “So yeah, I think robots can be super funny, but it’s the context, right? We’re laughing at tech in a way that’s awkwardly inserted into human conditions… and so I think the humor of the robot actually emerges on stage when we watch our relationship to it kind of crumble.

While algorithms have managed to conjure some basic puns and one-liners, they have yet to master comedy’s intricate art. Comedian Pierre Novellie is a skeptic, states, “Comedy is the last thing that AI is going to get near because not only do you need to actually invent AI – and not just a language summarizer – but you need to fill it with cultural knowledge, reference points, sensitivity levels. Even normal human comedians struggle to dial their jokes into the right crowd at the right time, every time. But that’s what’s interesting about stand-up and fun. The context and the variations are infinite, much more so than anything else.

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