In a statement today, hundreds of public figures warned that artificial intelligence could cause mass extinction. In fact, Sylvester Stallone is so concerned about the threat of AI that he’s filming a remake of “Rambo” called “Roomba.”
How I wrote it:
I decided to write a joke about this news story because it was covered widely by the media. Plus the topic handles “artificial intelligence” and “mass extinction” seemed to have enough associations that I could link to make punch lines.
I started by brainstorming on what kind of “artificial intelligence” might cause “mass extinction.” A killer robot like the Terminator might do it, but didn’t seem surprising or silly enough to be a punch line.
So I thought more about robots and decided that the Roomba vacuum cleaner is silly enough to be a punch line. But how could I link “Roomba” to the second topic handle, “mass extinction”?
To do that I tried using my Punch Line Maker #2: Link the topic to pop culture. “Mass extinction” suggested “violence” and “being attacked.” What pop culture figure did those associations suggest?
Thinking about “Roomba” again, I noticed that it’s almost a perfect anagram of “Rambo.” And “Rambo” is associated with violence and being attacked. So I realized that I could use that wordplay to link my punch line, “Roomba,” back to the topic.
But making that connection would require the audience to take a few mental steps. To make those steps easier, I added an angle that logically links the topic and “Roomba” without telegraphing that punch line: the angle mentions a “public figure”–Sylvester Stallone–and the movie he remade after warning us about AI.
Wordplay is often used to create punch lines, but usually it consists of word substitution or a pun. I was pleased that I was able to employ a more unexpected type of wordplay, an anagram.