These plucky little bots use AI to generate comedy bits on the topic of your choice.

On 21 January, Konan University chose the Osaka Cancer Center as a testing ground for their research into comedic robots. The particular style of comedy in this case is called “manzai” which is closely tied to Osaka’s culture and strongly resembles American comedic routines of the early-to-mid 20th century like Abbott and Costello or Burns and Allen.

The most common type of manzai centers on a two-person team consisting of a tsukkomi and boke which are very similar to the roles of a “straight man” and “funny man” respectively in western comedic duos. Here’s an example featuring a very young Hitoshi Matsumoto and Masatoshi Hamada, better known as Downtown.

In Japanese comedy, there is perhaps no harder an act to follow than these two gents, but here to give it a try are a pair of cute little robots: AIchan and GONta.

AIchan: “Thanks, I’m AIchan.”
GONta: “Hi, I’m GONta. Been a while since we last came to Earth, eh?”
AIchan: “Sure has.”
GONta:  On the Earth it’s the end of January, and it’ll soon be Setsubun. It’s really exciting.”
AIchan: “Hey hey! Why do you look so glum? Make an excited face like this.”
GONta: “Oh…. Yeah…. How about this face?”
AIchan: “Now you got it. Say, what do you know about Osaka?”
GONta: “There’s a famous tower there.”
AIchan: “No. That’s Tokyo. In Osaka takoyaki is famous.”
GONta: “Yeah, same difference.”
AIchan: “In what way? Did you got a virus in your head or something?”
GONta: “It didn’t go in.”

Sure it may not be gut-bustingly funny stuff, but to their credit AI-chan and GONta are using an AI program that when given a current event, scours the Internet for information about it, and then builds a comedy routine based on it, all in about a minute.

It’s an impressive feat but not without its glitches. In another bit they mispronounce the name of boyband Kanjani Eight as “Sekijani Eight” (“Cough Johnny Eight”) by misreading the kanji “関.” Still, that may even add to AIchan and GONta’s quirky charm and managed to get a few giggles out of the patients at Osaka Cancer Center who attended their show.

These robots are going to need more than giggles, however, if they want to hit the big time. Last year the duo tried their motherboards at the M1 Grand Prix annual manzai competition, but were knocked out in the first round.

▼ The following is their routine from M1 about tennis star Naomi Osaka.
(Sorry no English translation.)

Still, like most comedians AIchan and GONta are driven by a deep void in their souls which allows for an inhumanly singular purpose to create funny material. However, for their AI to truly be able to shape great jokes, it should be able to read and react to the audience as well through voice and facial pattern recognition software with infrared scanners, just like real comedians do.

Then and only then can they come up with crowd-pleasing zingers like “Why Japanese people?!” and maybe even improve to point of cleverly hiding their robotic genitals under teacups like some of the greats of Japanese comedy.

Source: Sankei News
Top image: YouTube/AIchan to GONta