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The George Carlin AI special wasn’t actually written by AI, creators admit

Published Jan 29th, 2024 4:21PM EST
George Carlin HBO special
Image: HBO

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Who knew that, in 2024, one of the stories with the most twists and turns would be about George Carlin? Okay, it’s not really about George Carlin — it’s about AI, and that makes all of this back and forth make a lot more sense… until we find out that AI wasn’t involved at all.

Last week, the creators of the “George Carlin: I’m Glad I’m Dead” AI special were sued by the Carlin estate. The special, which claimed to use AI to write the jokes and perform them in Carlin’s voice, was called “a piece of computer-generated click-bait which detracts from the value of Carlin’s comedic works” and “a casual theft of a great American artist’s work” by the complaint filed in court.

Now, the creators of the special are claiming that it wasn’t created using artificial intelligence at all. As reported by The New York Times, spokeswoman Danielle Del told the newspaper, “It’s a fictional podcast character created by two human beings, Will Sasso and Chad Kultgen. The YouTube video ‘I’m Glad I’m Dead’ was completely written by Chad Kultgen.”

That’s an interesting statement, considering that the video itself, which is now taken down from YouTube as part of the demands of the lawsuit (but can still be found by people who re-uploaded it on some other channels), featured the Dudesy AI character saying “It’s my impersonation of George Carlin that I developed in the exact same way a human impressionist would.”

“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.”

Does “my” refer to the AI or Chad Kultgen? I imagine that will be one of the pieces that the lawyers disagree on if this lawsuit actually makes it to court. Speaking of which, despite the admission from the creators of the video, Carlin estate lawyer Josh Schiller said that the lawsuit is moving forward. “We don’t know what they’re saying to be true,” he said. “What we will know is that they will be deposed. They will produce documents, and there will be evidence that shows one way or another how the show was created.”

We’ll see where this one goes, but it does continue to pit creators of content — whether it be AI or humans — against the people from whom they are drawing their inspiration. It makes you wonder if AI-generated comedic performances created by someone other than the actual comedian will eventually be allowed but require revenue share between parties — something like the music industry is entertaining right now.

While some people are using AI to create a fake performance from George Carlin, Google is making an AI doctor that can help diagnose patients. Whatever happens, it’s going to be a weird future, and AI is going to be a big part of it.

Joe Wituschek Tech News Contributor

Joe Wituschek is a Tech News Contributor for BGR.

With expertise in tech that spans over 10 years, Joe covers the technology industry's breaking news, opinion pieces and reviews.

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