For their latest episode of South Park in March 2023, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone turned their attention to the hype surrounding ChatGPT and, more broadly, open AI.
In this episode, Stan, one of the main characters, uses ChatGPT to respond to text messages from his girlfriend, Wendy. The messages appear to be heartfelt and personal, making Wendy swoon at the belief that her boyfriend is being romantic. The use of ChatGPT then spirals out of control and is used by multiple characters to write school essays. The episode ends with Stan launching into a monologue about how Big Tech took open AI, “packaged it, monetised it, and pushed it out to all of us as fast as they could in order to get ahead” with little thought to the consequences.
Stan also suggests that, given AI’s potential, it should be democratised, something everyone can contribute to, rather than control going to a handful of companies. A serious point made in a show not designed to be taken too seriously.
Regulatory implications aside, it presents an interesting question as to AI’s role in the world of comedy and entertainment.
Parker and Stone are no strangers to AI’s potential
Trey Parker and Matt Stone are flipping the script on AI. In December 2022, the duo started their own AI entertainment studio, named Deep Voodoo, which develops ‘deep fake technology, cost-effective visual effects services, and original synthetic media projects’, and they have received $20 million in funding for this project.
While the creators of South Park may poke fun at discussions surrounding AI, they mean business when it comes to the technology’s applications in the world of graphic design and visual content creation.
How well do you really know your competitors?
Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.
Your download email will arrive shortly
Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample
We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below formBy GlobalData
Can ChatGPT create comedy?
Open AI programs such as ChatGPT generate prose, not facts. Depending on the resources it is fed, the program can wax lyrical on any topic and sound convincing. In this sense, it seems well suited to the world of creativity and scriptwriting. However, by its own admission, ChatGPT does “not have opinions, motivations, or emotions”. Motivation drives effective character creation, and understanding emotion is essential to comedy. If the program cannot feel amusement, then how can it be a good judge of what is amusing?
Would a South Park episode be as funny without nuance, satire, or sarcasm? In this author’s opinion, no.
Open AI, unless informed by the data, does not understand, for example, why killing Kenny in every episode in earlier seasons was amusing to the show’s fans, or why Randy’s pronunciation of ‘crème fraiche’ is legendary. It requires an understanding beyond logic, which today’s AI platforms are incapable of doing.
The AI killjoy
Nobody wants AI to take away tasks that are actually enjoyable to perform. Writers, artists, and creative people may dabble in open AI, mainly out of curiosity to see what it churns out when fed a particular request.
However, the desire to exert creative license and control, and to enjoy the creative process, wins out over having an AI program create a script to order. The human element is vital in the creative process, and no more so than in comedy.
The ChatGPT South Park episode can therefore be considered a lighthearted mickey take of the talking points surrounding open AI, exploring the ethical concerns that come with it. Until AI becomes truly sentient, it will not become a comedic genius.