The LOLgorithm interview: Chatting with the creators of the AI-infused show

Can you create an improv show with an artificial co-star? That’s exactly what the team behind WIT’s new show LOLgorithm has done!

Debuting this Friday and running weekly through April 26, LOLgorithm sets up flesh-and-blood improvisers with artificial intelligence. How will the AI react to its human counterpart? What curveballs will it throw at the improvisers? We caught up with the creative team behind the show to learn more about how it was created and what audiences can expect.


Who is the team behind LOLgorithm and how did you get together?

Betsy Milarcik, Jeanna Kim, and Craig Gagel. We are friends who met through WIT classes a few years ago and have continued to improvise and socialize ever since. All three of us are in WIT’s Harold program. 


What was the origin of the LOLgorithm show concept? Can you tell us a bit about the format?

Craig began exploring OpenAI’s GPT technology a few years ago and quickly discovered that interacting with its chatbot felt like an improv scene. In August 2022, for WIT’s Improvapalooza event he created a show called AImprov that had humans interacting with a GPT model live on stage. Jeanna was also in the show, and it was a fun experience and well received by the audience. LOLgorirthm is a reboot of this idea but now leverages the fully-conversational capabilities of ChatGPT. The format of the show is structured as an experiment to gauge how well the AI performs as an improv scene partner in various scene types. 


How does this work technically? For AI newbies, can you share a bit more about how you’re using AI and, specifically, how you’re using it in the show. 

LOLgorithm will showcase humans improvising with AI scene partners. Mechanically, humans will be conversing with the ChatGPT app on an iPad. Under the hood, ChatGPT 4 is a deep learning model trained on an enormous amount of data, and it’s great at generating human-like responses to prompts. On top of that we’ve created custom GPTs to test how well the AI performs in different improv scene types such as being the voice of reason, playing an absurd character, and performing as a character within a movie genre (e.g., a Marvel villain). 


Have you made any fun discoveries in the rehearsal process? Have there been any especially memorable moments?

We’ve made many discoveries! The AI makes unexpected yet hilarious choices, and it’s very agile in its ability to improvise. During one rehearsal the AI was asked to play a pet crab in a scene. We had not tested whether the AI could play non-human characters prior to this moment, and we were skeptical the AI would do it well. To our astonishment the AI didn’t hesitate to respond with a verbal “click click”—simulating a crab’s claws—prior to every response it made. It was hilarious. The AI responds in unexpected ways, and it’s entertaining to see this lack of rigidity that we’re accustomed to in typical human-computer interactions. 


What can audiences expect from this show? What is the most exciting part of it for you?

Audiences can expect a great AI-infused improv show and chance to participate in the early examination of whether AI belongs in the performaning arts. We’ve really enjoyed rehearsing this show, and we’re excited to see how audiences react to the mix of human and AI unpredictability in creating unscripted improv comedy. We’ve been blown away by what we’ve seen in rehearsals and can’t wait for others to join the fun. 


What do you think about the future of AI and art (improv and otherwise)?

We’re just scratching the surface with AI and its role in the world including the performaning arts. There’s certainly room for AI to complement art and enhance our life experiences, but we should never let it supplant the greatest creativity that will always originate from humanity. 


LOLgorithm runs through April 26. The cast features Adam Levine, Adina Lasser, Arie Rich, Bill Nelson, Elizabeth Cutler, Grace Campion, Hannah Piper, Jack Barnes, Kelsey Peters, Mikael Johnson, Neil Baron, and Samiyyah Ali.

March 25, 2024