A Robot – Gasp!—Who’s Also a Stand-Up Comedian

My fellow stand-up comedians, I have met the enemy, and her name is Heather Knight!

Stand-up sketch comedy from an aspiring actor robot!
Source: marilynmonrobot.com
Stand-up sketch comedy from an aspiring actor robot!

Knight created the horror of horrors in the comedy world — a robot that tells jokes.

Knight, who’s studying robotics at Carnegie Mellon, runs Marilyn Monrobot, a business that develops “socially-intelligent robots.”

In a demo video on think site Ted.com (watch the video), Knight introduces “Data,” a robotic stand-up comedian. The robot is the Nao robot from Aldebaran Robotics, which is widely used in academic robot research, and then Knight and her fellow programmers developed the comedic sequences.

In his stand-up routine, Data tackles everything from medical humor, the 'fighting' Swiss, television — and yes, that go-to for laughs—my home state of New Jersey.

His first joke is about a man who went to the doctor and the doctor said, “I have bad news and worse news. The bad news is you have 24 hours to live.” The man replies, “That’s terrible! How could it be worse?” The doctor replied, “I’ve been trying to reach you since yesterday.”

The crowd went wild.

He’s an adorable, charming little guy that moves well — so well, that you cut him slack, laughing more at his jokes like you would if it was a little kid.

Then he tells a joke about the Swiss in a war — how could people fear them when they all they have is that tiny little pocket knife. The punchline is: “Hey, if you get past me, the guy behind me has a spoon!”

Again, the crowd went wild.

Critics wrote him off as nothing more than a recorder to play back jokes, but what sets him apart from your average tape recorder, aside from his adorable moves, is that he gauges audience feedback via laughter and cards Knight gave the audience.

In the demo, if the audience liked a joke, they held up the green card. If they didn’t, they held up red. He apparently, interprets the feedback and chooses the next joke accordingly.

Needless to say, the audience was a sea of green.

And when the comedy world finds out, it will be a sea of red.

The robot's secret weapon is explained on MarilynMonrobot.com: "it will analyze your feedback (without self-loathing)."

Stand-up comedian Harrison Greenbaumsays that's not a pro — it's a sign little Data will never make it in the biz.

"That robot's not a real stand-up comedian until it develops a drinking problem and suffers from family issues," Greenbaum said.

Andy Engle, founder of the Manhattan Comedy School, points out another weakness — Robots don't have hearts.

"The whole point of stand-up comedy is that it's personal and from the heart," Engle said, adding that he would never book the robot at his club — the only place this robot would likely get booked is on YouTube .

Oh, it’s on, robot!

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  • Cindy Perman is a writer at CNBC.com, covering jobs, real estate, retirement and personal finance.

  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.