‘Casual theft’: Legendary comedian’s estate files suit against AI-generated stand up special

As the world continues to march toward insanity, many have longed in recent years for the slicing sarcasm of comedy legend George Carlin.

Had he not died of heart failure in 2008, Carlin would likely be saying things that would give the left COVID-backed coronaries.

Well, with the help of an AI program called Dudesy, YouTubers Will Sasso and Chad Kultgen resurrected Carlin for a one-hour stand-up special called “George Carlin: I’m glad I’m dead.”

(Video: YouTube)

As AI-generated images of Carlin fill the screen, a voice that sounds eerily similar to the comedian delivers a routine that an attorney for Carlin’s estate says amounts to “computer-generated clickbait.”

The estate is suing the makers of the video. The lawsuit, filed in California Federal Court, alleges “copyright infringement and a violation of the late comedian’s right to publicity,” according to NBC News.

“Defendants’ AI-generated ‘George Carlin Special’ is not a creative work,” the suit argues. “It is a piece of computer-generated clickbait which detracts from the value of Carlin’s comedic works and harms his reputation. It is a casual theft of a great American artist’s work.”

“Carlin, one of the most legendary standup comedians in history, dedicated his life to perfecting his craft, only for a couple of podcasters and a mysterious AI to slap together a special called ‘George Carlin: I’m Glad I’m Dead,’ without permission, and posted it to Youtube,” the Carlin estate said in a statement to NBC News.

In addition to Sasso and Kultgen, the lawsuit names as defendants “a number of unnamed individuals involved in the making of the video and in developing the AI technology,” according to the outlet.

The lawsuit speaks to the heart of last year’s monthslong Hollywood writers’ strike which was fueled in large part by the studios’ use of AI to produce scripts.

The stand-up special makes clear it is only impersonating Carlin, but the routine was generated after Dudesy poured through “all of his material.”

“If there’s one comedian I really love who would have a lot to say about everything going on in the world right now it’s George Carlin,” the Dudesy AI bot explained during Sasso and Kultgen’s podcast. “So I watched and listened to all of his material to develop my impression of him.”

(Video: YouTube)

“I learned that AI cannot replace Geroge Carlin and therefore AI cannot replace me and my pal Chad,” comedian Sasso said in a podcast that examined the reaction to Carlin’s virtual comeback. “It is interesting how heated people get about it.”

Unlike other AI-generated Carlins, Dudesy didn’t just mimic the comedian’s voice, it challenged the “art form,” Kultgen said.

“The other ones, it was just ‘look, we can kind of mimic his voice,'” he said. “This isn’t just mimicking that, it’s taking the art form itself, an hour-long of standup comedy, and saying ‘I can do the art form as well.'”

Carlin’s daughter, Kelly Carlin, called Sasso and Kultgen “unscrupulous.”

“I understand and share the desire for more George Carlin. I, too, want more time with my father. But it is ridiculous to proclaim he has been ‘resurrected’ with AI,” she said in a statement. “The ‘George Carlin’ in that video is not the beautiful human who defined his generation and raised me with love. It is a poorly-executed facsimile cobbled together by unscrupulous individuals to capitalize on the extraordinary goodwill my father established with his adoring fanbase.”

According to Josh Schiller, attorney for the Carlin estate, AI was in danger of becoming “a tool that allows bad-faith actors to replace creative expression, to exploit the already existing work of creators, and to get rich at the expense of others.”

“My dad spent a lifetime perfecting his craft from his very human life, brain and imagination. No machine will ever replace his genius,” Kelly wrote on 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,” she continued. “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?” she suggested. “But if you want to listen to the genuine George Carlin, he has 14 specials that you can find anywhere.”

 

Melissa Fine

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