Humor & Code (Project Blackbird)

Eyebeam Roadshow/Jeff Crouse
Participants: 12, ages teen – adult

Like television, film, audio, and other traditional media, software can be a very effective medium for humor, which, in turn, can be a powerful tool for activism, editorial, and hilarious jokes. Beyond simply rendering our CG, hosting our Flash animations, or providing a target for nerd jokes, the computer can be exploited for its strengths (interactivity, procedurality, logic, networkability) to achieve the funny.

In this workshop, participants will work together to answer questions such as: what is humor in the context of software? Are there such things as funny algorithms? We will explore tropes and mechanisms frequently used in software – not just games, but software art and plain old software – that can be used to achieve a humorous effect. And ultimately, invent the field of software comedy in the same way that there are comedy writers, actors, and even singers. We will explore what makes good humor in traditional media by looking at several comedy styles such as absurdism, prop humor, sketch comedy, improv, and black comedy, with special attention to parody and satire. We will also look at some software artists who have already struck software comedy gold, including Cory Archangel, Max Goldberg (“YTMND”), Ze Frank, and Evan Roth. We will apply the ideas of game theorists and other prominent software gurus such as Ian Bogost, Chris Crawford, and Tim Berners-Lee to the styles of comedians such as Tim and Eric, Andy Kaufman, Yakov Smirnov, Douglas Adams, Stephen Colbert, Mr. Show, the Wondershowzen team, and Eric Fensler to produce funny software.

The workshop will culminate in a stand-up style presentation during the 01SJ Biennial and include public performances by workshop participants on Saturday, September 18, 5:30pm. (Participants are not required to perform, but are encouraged to).

All of the example code will be provided in openFrameworks and we will do a brief introduction to openFrameworks on the first day, but the workshop is not language-specific. You may also work in Processing, Flash, HTML — whatever kind of code you write. Prerequisite: you must be able to write some kind of code, or be ready and excited to learn.