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Computer Joke Generator

August 21, 2013

A computer program tells jokes, some of which are judged both original and funny.



Computer-generated comedy. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

(Jupiter Images)

Here’s a joke for you: “I like my coffee like I like my war: cold.” Not bad, for something written by a computer. The program was created by David Matthews and Sasa Petrovic at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Informatics.

SASA PETROVIC (University of Edinburgh):

We kind of wanted to see if we could formulate humor as a statistical model: basically come up with a mathematical model for generating jokes.

Petrovic says the jokes took the form of “I like my X like I like my Y,” then a one-word punchline. He and Matthews came up with a few basic rules for making this kind of joke work, and programmed them into the system. Human judges found the computer’s one-liners funny 16 percent of the time. That’s about half the hit rate of jokes written by humans – and significantly better than control versions of the program, which created similar sentences without following the comedy rules. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.