Comedy and Artificial Intelligence: Do We Laugh When a Thing Gives the Impression of Being a Person?

By Michael M. Meany, Tom Clark and Sam Joseph.

Published by The International Journal of New Media, Technology and the Arts

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: October 31, 2014 $US5.00

Using an award-winning comedy duo of artificial intelligence agents as a case study, this paper argues for a reappraisal of the human/non-human dichotomy. Henri Bergson’s 1911 essay, titled “Laughter, an essay on the meaning of the comic,” provides a fundamental theoretical proposition for comedy. He suggested a “new law” of comedy: “We laugh every time a person gives us the impression of being a thing”. This paper asks: will Bergson’s “new law” stand if it is inverted? Will we laugh every time a thing gives us the impression of being a person? Central to Bergson’s proposition is the idea that there is an incongruity between the “human” and the “non-human.” Incongruity, with or without resolution, has been seen as a cornerstone concept in many humour theories. Through the case study, this paper examines the perceived binary opposition of “human” and “non-human.” Is there an incongruity between the “human” and “non-human” agents employed in this project? And, if so, does this incongruity need to be resolved to generate humorous effect, or does this incongruity resist resolution?

Keywords: Humour, Comedy, Artificial Intelligence

The International Journal of New Media, Technology and the Arts, Volume 8, Issue 2, November 2014, pp.21-34. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: October 31, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 573.434KB)).

Dr. Michael M. Meany

Senior Lecturer, School of Design, Communication and IT, The University of Newcastle (Australia), Newcastle, NSW, Australia

Dr. Tom Clark

Senior Lecturer, School of Communication and the Arts, Victoria University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Dr. Sam Joseph

Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, Hawaii-Pacific University, USA