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Google set to destroy humor with new algorithm

If explaining a joke kills it, what happens when Google deploys new comedy algorithms on YouTube?


Lauren Rae Orsini


Posted on Feb 13, 2012   Updated on Jun 2, 2021, 9:29 pm CDT

How do you quantify comedy? Is Keyboard Cat measurably funnier than, say, Dramatic Chipmunk, or is that all just a matter of opinion?

Google, YouTube’s data-obsessed owner, has just the algorithm to figure it out, and it’s putting it to use with early results from the YouTube Comedy Slam, a new gamelike feature that pits one funny video against another.

Sanketh Shetty of the YouTube Slam Team writes on the Google Research blog that although the group already teamed up with Google to determine musical talent, they needed to start from square one in order to analyze comedy.

Shetty wrote that it wasn’t just video viewer reactions that went into the algorithm, but also the way each user submitted his or her comedy video to the Slam.

“We captured the uploader’s belief in the funniness of their video via features based on title, description and tags. Viewers’ reactions, in the form of comments, further validate a video’s comedic value,” wrote Shetty.

Naturally, a significant amount of analysis went into identifying the prevalence or lack of one simple, three-letter word: lol.

“We noticed that viewers emphasize their reaction to funny videos in several ways: e.g. capitalization (LOL), elongation (loooooool), repetition (lolololol), exclamation (lolllll!!!!!), and combinations thereof. If a user uses an ‘loooooool’ vs. an ‘loool,’ does it mean they were more amused?”

To anyone who thinks that Google might be taking this comedy stuff a bit too seriously, all we can say is, “LOOOOOOOOOOOL.” You haven’t met many Googlers, have you?

Now that the algorithm has determined the candidates, it’s up to voters to determine the ultimate winner. Shetty says more than 75,000 people have already voted, but you can still vote in the ongoing Comedy Slam

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*First Published: Feb 13, 2012, 5:10 pm CST