We all knew we’d get here at some point. Between AI being used to pull John Lennon’s vocals out of old recordings for The Beatles’ first single in decades to that incredibly viral Drake song that turned out to be AI-generated, AI is slowly but surely making headway into the creative space.
But, while using the technology to grab real vocals that John Lennon actually recorded seems like a worthwhile use of AI since it is using something that Lennon himself actually created, I would never want AI to write lyrics or to sing a song that it THOUGHT John Lennon would have written or sung. That’s exactly, however, what someone did with the late comedian Goerge Carlin.
As reported by Variety, a YouTube channel called Dudesy which calls itself a “comedy AI,” posted a new AI-generated special from the late comedian called “George Carlin: I’m Glad I’m Dead.” The video explains that, after listening to all of Carlin’s material, the AI created a new special filled with what it believes Carlin would have talked about and the jokes he may have written about these new topics.
“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. So think of it like Andy Kaufman impersonating Elvis or like Will Ferrell impersonating George W. Bush.”
Kelly Carlin, the late comedian’s daughter, posted a statement on X/Twitter Wednesday evening in response to the video, saying that “no machine will ever replace his genius” and that those who are interested in his work should instead rewatch the 14 specials he created.
“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. Let’s let the artist’s work speak for itself. Humans are so afraid of the void that we can’t let what has fallen into it stay there…Here’s an idea, how about we give some actual living human comedians a listen to? But if you want to listen to the genuine George Carlin, he has 14 specials that you can find anywhere.”
I wholeheartedly agree with Carlin’s daughter. While it’s human to wonder what Carlin may have said if he was alive to create a new stand-up special in today’s world, the best an AI can do — or any human — would be to take an educated guess. We’ll never know for sure what Carlin himself would have talked or joked about, and this morbid curiosity to create it results in what is simply a shadow of what the great comedian would have done if he were alive today.
While today’s focus is on Carlin, I think this applies to anyone who has died and been “brought back” using artificial intelligence. While it may be interesting at the least, bringing people “back to life” using AI could be dangerous at its worst. We’re trusting the AI to guess what they would think in a world that they never existed in — an impossible task given how complex we are as human beings.
Of course, this is just another form of attempting to immortalize ourselves, something that we shouldn’t be attempting in the first place. While I could talk about how the quest for immortalization is actually the wrong one and that we should instead focus on enjoying our time while we have it, I think Ricky Gervais — a fellow stand-up comedian — said it best in his series Afterlife when he quipped “I think life is precious because you can’t watch it again.”