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A Computer Created A Pretty Good Ashton Kutcher Burn Today
Friday, February 28, 2014 - 02:54 PM
There's a specific genre of formulaic joke that you see a lot of on the internet. The way this joke works is that you take two topical but unrelated news stories and jam them together.
It's easier to show than explain, so here's one from Andy Borowitz, who does this sort of joke a fair amount: "KIM JONG-UN: BIEBER JUST A FEW ARRESTS FROM BEING MY FRIEND"
A lot of people despise this joke form -- let's call it Two Headlines -- because at their worst these jokes vaguely indicate towards cleverness without really containing any truth, premise, or point of view. The worst ones wring laughter out of an audience that mostly just seems pleased to have identified the references.
One person who seems to think that these jokes are very formulaic is Darius Kazemi. Kazemi builds Twitter bots, and awhile ago he built one called @TwoHeadlines that autogenerates these jokes. I'm not sure how much Kazemi intends Two Headlines as a critique of this sort of humor, versus how much he's just having fun building something.
But if you follow @TwoHeadlines, a weird side effect is that you being to realize that even the most formulaic jokes still require human intelligence to fill them in.
Here's a few @TwoHeadlines tweets as proof:
WhatsApp to Broadcast Review of Fourth Quarter and Fiscal ...— Two Headlines (@TwoHeadlines) February 28, 2014
Citigroup 'Pissed' At Bill De Blasio Over NYC Horse Carriage Ban Proposal ...— Two Headlines (@TwoHeadlines) February 28, 2014
Iran ups ante with Jos. A. Bank— Two Headlines (@TwoHeadlines) February 28, 2014
The last one is kind of a funny visual (A nation attacking an American men's suit store), but otherwise there's not much there in any of the jokes. That said, I came here not to bury @TwoHeadlines but to praise it. This morning, @TwoHeadlines made a joke that I think is completely recognizable as a joke.
Mila Kunis and Bitcoin: ENGAGED!— Two Headlines (@TwoHeadlines) February 28, 2014
So here's the logic of this joke, or at least the logic my brain imputes on it. Mila Kunis is actually engaged to Ashton Kutcher, not a cryptocurrency. Kutcher is an actor and a tech geek, and many people consider him to be overexposed and overvalued. Bitcoin is a tech phenomenon that likewise, many people consider overexposed and overvalued.
So there's a pleasing logic to swapping the two, and there's an added level of enjoyment from the idea that, if this Twitter bot could know that it was making jokes, this might be the kind of joke it would in fact make. Twitter bots probably get tired of hearing about Bitcoin all the time.
So, there you have it. A computer made a serviceable joke. Whether that makes you feel exhausted about Two Headlines jokes, or excited about the promise of the @TwoHeadlines bot, is up to you.