As It Happens
A new comedy special starts with the quote, “I’m sorry it took me so long to come out with new material, but I do have a pretty good excuse. I was dead.” The voice sounds like comedian George Carlin, but that would be impossible, as Carlin died in 2008.
YouTube channel releases a video that mimics the voice and intonation of the comic who died in 2008
Philip Drost · CBC Radio
· Posted: Jan 12, 2024 5:45 PM EST | Last Updated: January 12
This undated image shows the late comedian George Carlin, who starred in a HBO documentary in 2020. (George Carlin Estate/HBO/The Associated Press)
As It Happens6:44AI used to create comedy special of dead comedian George Carlin
A new comedy special starts with the quote, “I’m sorry it took me so long to come out with new material, but I do have a pretty good excuse. I was dead.”
The voice sounds like comedian George Carlin, but that would be impossible, as Carlin died in 2008. The voice in the special is actually generated by an artificial intelligence (AI).
“This is not my father. It’s so ghoulish. It’s so creepy,” Carlin’s daughter, Kelly Carlin-McCall, told As It Happens host Nil Köksal.
The YouTube account Dudesy, which is described as a podcast, artificial intelligence and “first of its kind media experiment,” released the hour-long special on Jan. 9. CBC reached out to the producers of Dudesy and its co-host Will Sasso for comment, but did not get a response.
Sasso and co-host Chad Kultgen say they can’t reveal the company behind the AI due to a non-disclosure agreement, according to Vice. The channel launched in March 2022.
Carlin-McCall said the channel never reached out to the family or asked for permission to use her father’s likeness. She says her father took great pride in the thought and effort he put into writing his material.
“The whole point of being an artist is expressing yourself,” said Carlin-McCall. “To have some machine-slash-comedian … doing it for him really feels like beside the point.”
She says listening to the special wasn’t painful, but it did make her angry.
“There’s just a protective nature of wanting to protect the unique person that he was and the unique mind that he had,” she said. “Anything else, it’s not him. So why are you pretending it is?”
Impression or out of line?Ahead of the special, a voice calling itself “Dudesy the comedian AI” tells viewers that what they are about to hear is not Carlin, but instead, an impression. It claims the special is no different than a human impressionist, in the same vein as comedian Will Ferrell impersonating former U.S. president George W. Bush.
“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’ve interested him today,” states the special in the opening.
But Carlin-McCall says she’s not impressed.
Kelly Carlin-McCall said the channel never reached out to the family or asked for permission to use her father’s likeness. (Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)”It is not a very good impression. First of all, let’s just be honest about that,” she said. “I think it’s a way of skirting around the legal issue. And the problem is, is that there really isn’t a lot of legal clarity right now about this.”
This isn’t the first time Dudesy has used a celebrity to create its own special. Last year it created a one-hour special hosted by an AI version of football star Tom Brady.
According to Sasso and Kultgen, they were sent a cease-and-desist order to take down the AI video of Brady, which they did.
Carlin-McCall says her family is looking at what their rights are.
“It frustrates me even more that these are comedians doing this. Do they understand the can of worms as artist of what they’re opening?” she said.
“I’m not OK with this. I would like them to apologize and say, well, it was just a wild experiment and it didn’t work and we apologize and pull it down.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Philip Drost is a journalist with the CBC. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interview produced by Chris Trowbridge.