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Piotr Mirowski, co-founder of Improbotics, talks to us about improv comedy performance with AI at Art AI Festival 2019

We were delighted to host Improbotics at the Art AI Festival for the second year! The troupe was co-founded by Piotr Mirowski, a research scientist in artificial intelligence, and Kory Mathewson, a recent PhD graduate of the University of Alberta, Canada.

Piotr explains in this short video diary how they developed the concept of a comedy improv performance with an AI and how it works in practice. The video is interspersed with some scenes from this year’s performance, which took place at Phoenix in Leicester.

We can’t wait to see how this performance develops further – roll on 2020!


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Performance : Human+Machine – Improbotics

Improbotics is both an improvised comedy show and a live Turing test: an actual artificial intelligence-based chatbot is performing in the show alongside human improvisers. The AI sends lines to one of the improvisers via an earpiece. The cast’s impossible and hilarious challenge is to justify - physically and emotionally - lines that may make no sense at all. The audience’s challenge is to guess who is the AI and who is Human. Piotr Mirowski, a research scientist in artificial intelligence as well as a theatre and improv actor, comes back to Art-AI Leicester to direct Improbotics and to talk about the science of chatbots and the use of AI to inspire performance artists. Last year, Piotr and his collaborator Kory Mathewson presented HumanMachine, their work on AI improv; Improbotics takes this further with a full cast of professional theatre actors and of seasoned improvisers.

Improbotics was co-founded by Piotr Mirowski (London, UK) and Kory Mathewson (Edmonton, Canada), two research scientists in artificial intelligence as well as professional actors and improvisers, who were joined by Jenny Elfving (Stockholm, Sweden), drama and language instructor at KTH, as well as by large casts of improvisers in their three respective hometowns, making this a fully international collaboration.

Improbotics, which has performed at Improvaganza and at the Rapid Fire Theatre in Edmonton, in London, at Camden Fringe, at Brighton Fringe, at Impro Amsterdam, at Festival International de Théâtre d’Improvisation Subito! in Brest, France, and Presens Improkällare in Stockholm, was featured in the New York Times (“A Robot Walks Into a Bar. But Can It Do Comedy?”, 8 August 2018) and New Scientist (“AI tries bad improv comedy to trick people into thinking it is human”, 14 September 2018). The troupe at encouraging an arts-meet-science interdisciplinary exploration of how actors can seamlessly perform while controlled by a machine.

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HumanMachine : AI Improv

HumanMachine is Piotr Mirowski’s alter-ego Albert. He will be sharing the stage with a computer called A.L.Ex and a remote hacker friend mYlez (played by Kory). Albert draws his performance from Improbotics, and is a member of a large cast of human improvisers taking their lines from an AI.  For this performance, the audience plays the role of judges in a Turing test.

Piotr's collaborator in today’s performance is Kory, a PhD student at the University of Alberta and an award-winning improv comedian.

More about the artist here:


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