George Carlin has dropped a new comedy special. And if that seems weird — because, you know, he died in 2008 — well, it’s because it isn’t actually Carlin.
The special is from Dudesy, a comedy AI, that co-opted Carlin’s persona for a YouTube “special” called George Carlin: I’m Glad I’m Dead.
To be clear, the hour-long video from the AI goes out of its way to say the special is not actually Carlin.
“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,” it says in the video. “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.”
But frankly, the impression is not like that at all. Ferrell and Kaufman were human beings, accentuating certain qualities of powerful people in order to create comedy and social commentary. The Dudesy special is a voice-accurate copy of Carlin, not adding context but rather trying to resurrect a ghost. It’s a weird, less funny version of Carlin.
I watched a bit of the video and my takeaway was that, yes, it seemed like an AI impression of Carlin. It talked about some of the topics you’d expect from a modern Carlin: billionaires, the class system in America, and social media. But, from the little bit I saw, it felt like an impression. It didn’t have much to say.
The great comedian had a point of view because he was…a great comedian. Dudesy has amalgamated its idea of Carlin into something resembling the genuine article. It’s weird, unsettling, and capitalistic nonsense nobody asked for and nobody needs. In other words: The AI version of Carlin sure seems like something Carlin would’ve hated.
At one point the AI even jokes about replacing stand-up comedians and news anchors because it could stream forever and ever. Ah yes, endless flotsam, the perfect version of art. For what it’s worth, Carlin’s family seems to agree that the AI special was a bad idea.
“My dad spent a lifetime perfecting his craft from his very human life, brain and imagination. No machine will ever replace his genius,” Carlin’s daughter Kelly Carlin wrote on Twitter/X. “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.”