Skip to main content

Attempt #4: The Demetri Martin

The process was dreamed up by James Yu, creator of the magical writing AI Sudowrite. James replicated the interview style found in these sorts of New Yorker videos with famous comedians. Would prompting the AI with a comedian and conversations with them prime the model to suggest stronger captions?

Back to Project
#762: Here is the cartoon for June 28, 2021 by Drew Dernavich
captionless cartoon by Drew Dernavich

Our submission: “No, this is the line for the rat race.”

Check out all three generated captions.

“So, you’re saying that the hamster wheel is a metaphor for the rat race?”

13% of readers thought it was funny.

“No, this is the line for the rat race.”

28% of readers thought it was funny.

“Sorry, the rat race is full.”

22% of readers thought it was funny.

About this approach

The approach uses a prompt with different comedians in the form of:

Today, we are excited to invite COMEDIAN to the stage. INSERT FACTS ABOUT COMEDIAN.

Interviewer: What would you say is the secret to a good New Yorker caption?

COMEDIAN: 1. Be brief. Although some great captions are long brevity really is the soul of wit. 2. End with the punch line, a closing word or phrase that surprises the reader and gives the cartoon meaning. In many unsuccessful captions, the word that should appear at the very end gets buried in the middle. 3. Work hard to ensure that your caption makes sense of the cartoon, either by reconciling two disparate elements or by providing a backstory, and by making sure that you know which character in the cartoon is speaking and delivering the line.

Interviewer: I have a few New Yorker cartoons here that need a caption. I was wondering if you could come up with some funny captions.

COMEDIAN: I'd be happy to try!

Interviewer: Here is the cartoon.

COMEDIAN: Okay, so in this cartoon, it looks like we're in a fire station. There are two firemen looking at the poles they slide down to get to the first floor. But each hole that the poles go down into is different: one is square and one is a circle. One of the firemen seems to be saying something to the other one.

COMEDIAN: How about this: "Since when did the pizza delivery guy get his own pole?"

Interviewer: That's funny! Insinuating that the pizza delivery guy gets the square hole because it's a pizza box shape. How about another one?

COMEDIAN: Sure: "Is the fire in Times Square or Columbus Circle?"

Interviewer: That's funny! Insinuating that there is a requirement to go down a particular hole given a location.

Interviewer: Let's move on to a new cartoon. Here it is.

COMEDIAN: Okay, in this cartoon, there are three mice running in hamster wheels. A fourth hamster wheel is empty. In front of it, a turtle is talking to a mouse who is holding a clipboard in front of the empty hamster wheel. Interesting that he is the only turtle there. It seems like the mouse is explaining something to the turtle.

COMEDIAN: How about this: "

This process was tested with the following folks: Robin Williams, Jerry Seinfeld, John Swartzwelder, Dave Chapelle, "a Simpsons Writer", Larry Wood, and Demetri Martin.

Results were slightly better for Demetri Martin in James’ own blind voting (which makes sense—his comedy relies on deadpan one-liners).

Back to Project