Edinburgh Festival, Generated · 7–31 Aug 2020

Press and Coverage

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ImprovBot has had a great response! Here we round up the reviews and commentary, and various media coverage.

The Stage, UK ★★★★

It also wouldn’t be an Edinburgh Fringe programme without at least one show based around an attention-grabbing gimmick that ends up provoking unexpectedly deep thoughts. This year’s eccentric talking point is ImprovBot.ai (★★★★), which bills itself as “the world’s first AI-generated Arts Festival programme”.

The ImprovBot itself takes the form of a Twitter feed (@improvbot_ai), whose nonsensical stream of bot-generated listings inspires sporadic humour but also unexpected nostalgia for leafing through the last-minute word salads contained within the pages of the fringe brochure. After all, the perfect storm of virus transmission and technological advances leaves us wondering whether we’ll ever see that publication again.

The ImprovBot also raises the question as to whether algorithms might one day replace art and whether the fringe might welcome a chosen-at-random show such as “Pandora Fanny: This is a real tragicomedy about control and sparkling interviews… ’Beautifully compelling’ (West Edinburgh Stage).”

In the meantime, we can make do with comedy troupe the Improverts’ daily Zoom riffs on a randomly generated ImprovBot title, for some semblance of a human connection to the Edinburgh milieu.

14th Aug 2020: Virtual Edinburgh Fringe 2020, Week 1, “Innovative virtual offering” [link] [archive.org]

The Guardian, UK

This year, in the absence of a programme, the University of Edinburgh is generating its own by means of an artificial intelligence bot. Invented by Melissa Terras to emulate the neural network of the brain, the software was programmed by Gavin Inglis to plough its way through eight years of fringe data. Now it is regurgitating almost-plausible summaries at hourly intervals on Twitter.

It’s too early in the festival to know which will be the hits. Will it be The Waters of Leaves (“the haunting story of a man who’s seen a medical coming of age story”) or Michael McIntyre: The Truth Plays (“a grimmer to a mad and delicate scene”)?

I’ve got a good feeling about Wedding Mission, which “explores how the secrets are spiralling out of the past”, even if the smart money is on The Bridge of Miss Martin Death, “directed by Talene Borshow, Charles Party and God”.

Proving you can’t keep a good idea down, the Improverts are broadcasting nightly improvised takes including the likes of Shanghai Haunted Nations, Missing Angry and Mortal (“the adventures of the Tempest with the streets of Canada”), their creativity bubbling up like a comedy speakeasy in an era of theatrical prohibition.

10th Aug 2020, Edinblurb festival: the AI bot creating new fringe shows every hour. [link] [archive.org]

BBC Radio Scotland Drivetime, UK

7th Aug 2020, Drivetime with Lucy Whyte. The Improverts talk the festivals, improv comedy, ImprovBot and Creative Informatics. [link] [archive.org]

Scotland on Sunday/Scotsman, UK

ImprovBot reminds me of classic media satire BrassEye in the way it skewers the language we use to talk about the Fringe as much as the Fringe itself. The clichés, the hyperbole, the narcissism, the absurdity exposed by blending it all together into a word soup.

I want to see a lot of these shows – Cathedral Garden Ghosts is an accidentally beautiful title, The Last Arts Company a timely and poignant one – and I probably will.

16th August 2020. Robot-generated word soup on fake shows is superb satire, by Andrew Eaton-Lewis, p. 41. [link] [archive.org]

Edinburgh Live, UK

The bot will riff on this data to devise the world’s first AI-generated event blurbs for an imagined festival of comedy, plays, musicals, and cabaret. It will come up with more than 350 show descriptions – ranging from the bizarre to the hilarious… None of these sound remotely unusual, but would all definitely be performed in the C Venues.

7th August 2020, Scientists have created an AI bot that generates fake Fringe show names – and they’re hilarious. [link] [archive.org]

SpringWise, UK

Perhaps most interesting about the work by the University of Edinburgh is that it demonstrates the current limitations of AI. The show descriptions generated so far are fairly nonsensical and do not pose much risk to real-life writers and performers worried about being replaced in the future. However, the zany descriptions will no doubt be a lot of fun for the comedy troupe tasked with translating them into action, and with those following along on Twitter. Indeed, at the end of the day, that is very much in keeping with the spirit of the Fringe.


Chortle, UK

12th August 2020, If computers made Edinburgh Fringe shows.. [link] [archive.org]

The Leaders Council, UK

12th August 2020, No ifs, ands or bots: the Fringe goes digital [link] [archive.org]

Mirage News, Australia

10th August 2020, AI centre stage in new take on Festival Fringe. [link]

The National Tribune, Australia

10th August 2020, AI centre stage in new take on Festival Fringe. [link] [archive.org]

Oiot, Poland

7th August 2020, Pierwszy festiwal sztuki stworzonej przez sztuczną inteligencję właśnie otwarty. [link] [archive.org]

Журнал «Код», Russia

7th August 2020, Нейросеть провела свой первый фестиваль искусств. [link] [archive.org]

Goloskarpat, Ukraine

7th August 2020, Вперше Штучний Інтелект проведе найбільший в світі фестиваль Edinburgh Fringe [link] [archive.org]

khabarfarsi.com, Iran

7th August 2020, ه توسط هوش مصنوعی این جمعه برگزار می شود. [archive.org]

PC News, Russia

7th August 2020, В Эдинбурге пройдет первый в мире фестиваль, программу которого создал ИИ. [link] [archive.org]

Zhongguojinrongtouziwang, China

7th August 2020, 爱丁堡大学的人工智能将产生边缘表演 [link] [archive.org]

Digit, UK

7th August 2020, Edinburgh University AI to Generate Fringe Shows. [link] [archive.org]

Habr, Russia

7th August 2020. В Эдинбурге пройдет первый в мире фестиваль, программу которого создал ИИ [link] [archive.org]

Exame Informatica, Portugal

6th August 2020, Fringe. Um festival de artes com curadoria de um algoritmo de Inteligência Artificial. [link] [archive.org]

Eyerys, Indonesia

6th August 2020. ImprovBot, The ‘World’s First’ AI-Generated Arts Festival Program For The Edinburgh Fringe. [link] [archive.org]

Toranji, Iran

5th August 2020, اولین جشنواره هنری ساخته شده توسط هوش مصنوعی این جمعه برگزار می شود. [link] [archive.org]

The Stage, UK

5th August 2020, AI system to create imaginary Edinburgh Fringe show descriptions. [link] [archive.org]

USA News Hub, United States

5th August 2020, ‘World’s first’ AI-generated arts festival program opens this Friday [link] [archive.org]

The Next Web, The Netherlands

5th August 2020, ‘World’s first’ AI-generated arts festival program opens this Friday. [link] [archive.og]

Deadline News, UK

3rd August 2020, AI centre stage in weird and wonderful take on Festival Fringe. [link] [archive.org]