Over 50 years ago, the late and great George Carlin listed off the seven words you couldn’t say on television. Based on a lawsuit from the iconic comedian’s estate filed in federal court in California today, at least two of those words may apply to the creators of an AI generated special that uses Carlin’s style and voice to a 2024 effect.
“Defendants sought to capitalize on the name, reputation, and likeness of George Carlin in creating, promoting, and distributing the Dudesy Special and using generated images of Carlin, Carlin’s voice, and images designed to evoke Carlin’s presence on a stage,” states the complaint, put in the federal docket in California Thursday against podcast hosts Will Sasso and Chad Kultgen.
Dropped online on January 9 on YouTube the just over one hour special openly claims that “for the next hour I’ll be doing my best George Carlin impersonation just like a human being would. I tried to capture his iconic style to tackle the topics I think the comedy legend would be talking about today.”
Packed with hackneyed AI generated graphs, George Carlin: I’m Glad I’m Dead tries to tackle contemporary topics such as Reality TV, Trump and the election and even AI itself. At the same time, while trying to put its best Carlin out there, the just over one-hour special from “Dudesy …comedy AI” tries to sidestep its grafting of copyrighted material from Carlin, who died in 2008, by listening “to all of George Carlin’s material and did my best to imitate his voice, cadence and attitude.” Stressing the “impersonation” aspect of the result, George Carlin: I’m Glad I’m Dead is not a great impersonation of the legend, but it certainly gets the jo done if you aren’t paying too close attention.
In no small sense, and with the digital grey zone that AI floats in legally at present, that’s the problem says Carlin’s estate.
Asserting the Dudesy Carlin “has no comedic or creative value,” the suit actually declares that the AI version “misrepresents Carlin’s art.”
In a precursor to today’s lawsuit for various damages, the comedian’s daughter Kelly Carlin took aim at the Dudesy Carlin almost as soon as it appeared online. In a January 10 thread, as Deadline noted at the time, the younger Carlin, who holds a large chunk of her father’s estate, wrote:
BTW: For your reference, the real George Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” routine from 1972 are, in order, “sh*t, p*ss, f*ck, c*nt, c*cks*cker, mother*cker and t*ts.” Use your non-AI generated imagination to think which ones would apply in this situation.