Can robots make humor? The ultimate man-versus-computer joke competition.

Computers do everything for us these days. They tell us how to drive from place to place using GPS coordinates, they recommend which movies we should watch on Netflix, they suggest potential mates for us on dating websites. Will they soon be creating jokes for us, too?

We explored the surprisingly thorny issue of computer-generated humor for Wired, examining why programming successful robo-jokesters is considered one of the Holy Grails of artificial intelligence—and why reaching that goal has proven so darn difficult. Then, to determine just how far we’ve come in computer-generated comedy, we devised a new matchup between man and machine to establish once and for all who’s funnier: We pitted celebrated stand-up comic Myq Kaplan against Manatee the joke-telling computer.

Here are examples of some of the jokes submitted by the two contestants. Can you tell which is made by man, and which is made by Manatee? Find the full results here.

Fingers comic (1)

Robot comic (1)

Then, listen to Joel and Myq discuss the contest and what it means for the future of humanity on the NPR show On The Media. Here’s Joel’s segment, and here’s Myq’s.

2 responses to “Can robots make humor? The ultimate man-versus-computer joke competition.”

  1. Lewis Cave

    I would imagine writing a comedy program for an AI robot would be tough because comedy is so subjective. Some of the jokes I tell make one person laugh and another want to punch me. How on earth could a robot understand all the human drama involved.

  2. Joe Toplyn

    Yes, comedy is subjective, but that doesn’t mean that a computer can’t learn to tell jokes. All it means is that a joke-telling computer, like a joke-telling human, has to take its audience into account.

    For example, a joke-telling computer could write a joke about Hillary Clinton for a Republican fundraiser and a different joke about Donald Trump for a Democratic fundraiser. Both jokes would work only if told to their intended audiences.

    In fact, to answer the question posed in this blog post, I believe that soon computers will be creating jokes for us. To find out why, read my blog post here: