What Happens When an AI Chatbot Takes Over a Popular Local Comedy Show?

This Saturday night, the popular comedy show Knights of the Arcade hands the reins to a robot for an unpredictable adventure.
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The long-running comedy show “Knights of the Arcade” at Arcade Comedy Theater has been bringing packed audiences into a fantasy world equal parts wacky and surprising for years. An onstage riff on the rules and world of “Dungeons & Dragons,” the show has received nods in Pittsburgh Magazine’s Best of the ’Burgh Readers’ Poll, as well as other audience awards around town.

Now, a robot is running the show. For one night, at least. 

Saturday, February 25, the AI chatbot known as ChatGPT will serve as the dungeon master for the Knights.

Why should that appeal? Well … ask the robot.

“Pittsburgh Magazine readers should come to the Knights of the Arcade show because it offers a unique and entertaining blend of comedy, improvisation, and the excitement of Dungeons & Dragons,” ChatGPT told us in an interview. “With the use of ChatGPT as the guest DM, the show is sure to be filled with unexpected twists and turns.”

Brad Stephenson, a co-producer of Knights of the Arcade who co-stars as the rampaging Stone Cold, developed the idea in partnership with the internet marketing company Level Agency, where he is a senior vice president. “Level Agency has been using AI tools for a while,” Stephenson says. “I was playing around with ChatGPT a little bit when it launched to see what it could do for D&D and RPG storytelling.

“I started playing with it, and it was developing some really cool storylines.”

At Level, which is sponsoring the show, Stephenson and the Knights team spent time “training” ChatGPT about their fantasy world and its tone. The chatbot can remember what it’s told, so information a user gives it — say, about the slightly absurd tone of a Knights show — can be retained over multiple chat sessions.

How did the robot respond to requests to be … y’know, funny? “There was a lot of booze-related humor,” Stephenson says, noting that ChatGPT randomly rewarded one player with an object called the “Chalice of Endless Bourbon.”

“There were some things about rubber chickens; it’s like, ‘Okay, that’s what it thinks is funny.’”

ChatGPT says that comedy should focus on subjects that remain funny regardless of personal experience — and admittedly, that framework would encompass rubber chickens. “The comedian should focus on timeless humor that transcends trends and current events,” ChatGPT says. “This type of humor will endure and provide a lasting impact on the audience.”

Okay, ChatGPT knows humor — at least mechanically. But does it know Dungeons & Dragons? I asked the robot to pitch me on the concept of the popular game … but, for a bit of an improvisational twist, I asked it to do so in the style of a Victorian-era mystery.

“Ah, the timeless and enigmatic game of Dungeons & Dragons. Allow me to explain its intricacies,” the robot replied. “Imagine, if you will, a group of intrepid adventurers, gathered around a table, poised to embark on a journey into the unknown. Armed with nothing but their wits, their imaginations, and a set of polyhedral dice, they delve into a world of magic and wonder.”

Pretty accurate.

The adventure kicks off at 9:30 p.m. at Arcade Comedy Theater.

Categories: The 412