Comedy Visited the Uncanny Valley on This Week’s “SNL”

One of this week's sketches relentlessly mocked AI

SNL AI sketch
A "Saturday Night Live" sketch explored the place where AI and comedy meet.

On this week’s episode of Saturday Night Live, Emma Stone joined the ranks of SNL‘s Five-Timers Club. It isn’t hard to see why: in her appearances on the show, Stone has gotten to take her skills at comedy to unexpected places. The 2019 sketch “The Actress” could stand on its own as a short film, and her comic timing in 2016’s “Wells for Boys” is also perfectly suited to the sketch’s unpredictable energy.

Stone’s appearance in a Please Don’t Destroy sketch this week took things in a slightly different direction. The premise is fairly simple: a disclaimer points out that some of the footage of Stone was corrupted after the sketch was filmed. “[U]sing advanced AI technology, we were able to seamlessly replace any lost shots of her,” the disclaimer reads. You can probably see where this is going.

There are a lot of attempts to use AI to make visual effects look really good. This sketch poses a different question: what if the graphics were, in fact, absolutely terrible? (Last season’s “Serious Night Live,” in which Kyle Mooney asked the crew to “Irishman me” so he could play his younger self, is something of a predecessor to this one.) Before too long, Punkie Johnson shows up with a low-resolution image of Stone’s face superimposed over hers. The sketch gets increasingly bizarre from there.

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It isn’t too hard to think of this sketch as something of a response to studios’ demands during the SAG strike concerning actors’ likenesses and AI technology. You can try to emulate the faces of actors with cutting-edge technology, this sketch seems to say, but there’s always going to be something just a little bit off about it.

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