Conner O’Malley’s New Standup Special Is A Scathing Critique Of Our AI Reality

So weird. So good. Credit: YouTube / @omalleyrock

Pressing play on a Conner O’Malley video is a disorienting experience.

Could it be a continuation of a previous character or universe? Could it be another installation of Truth Hunters host Mark Seevers, O’Malley’s creation for the 2016 election that resembled Alex Jones if he were locked in a Wisconsin basement for two years, subsisting only on hot dog relish and stale buns? Sure. Could it be another video featuring the version of O’Malley hosting a late-night show on a bike, cruising through the streets of New York City while also in a blood feud with Greg Kinnear? Of course.

But the video could also be a one-off bit of brilliance, like “Endorphin Port,” a perfect and bizarre send-up of tech’s strange obsession with VR.

So when I saw O’Malley was dropping a stand-up special on his YouTube channel — an increasingly common move for comics — I had no clue what to expect. It was far from your average comedy special.

If you’re unfamiliar with the background and lore of O’Malley’s work, I’ve covered it for Mashable in the past. In general, his work is interested in the absurdity of the modern world. He often makes comedy centered on tech. But, instead of lampooning the companies or billionaires at the helm, he usually portrays a deranged everyman completely besotted by technocrats’ promises. Frequently, these characters intersect with the weird, rightwing manosphere that exists online, the folks who cosplay being in the military, eat far too much meat, and treat capitalism as some sort of religion.

“Imagine Joe Rogan without the money,” O’Malley’s character says in his latest work, which was a surprise moment of crowd-work clarity.

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In the traditional sense, Stand Up Solutions is hardly a stand-up special, even if it was filmed in front of a live Brooklyn audience. O’Malley plays a character named Richard Eagleton, who gives a presentation on a 5G-powered AI avatar he created to do stand-up. If that sounds boring, I promise it is anything but.

I cannot begin to explain the avenues this video takes. There are lamentations on the Toyota Rav-4, background info on Des Plaines, Illinois, and so much about McDonald’s. There are some of the most vulgar images imaginable and a weird, somewhat touching backstory for why Eagleton embarked on his AI quest. There are moments of cultural criticism that somehow arise naturally from this deranged man onstage.

During the hour, O’Malley does a gonzo performance of stand-up, and there are moments where you feel like you’re actually watching a small-time AI evangelist do a real investor pitch. And, as someone who writes about the internet and tech, there are moments where things sound a hell of a lot like, say, a two-hour presentation from a tech giant promising how great AI will be for everyone.

There is a pitch-perfect reveal of what O’Malley’s character believes his AI tech could ultimately do — effectively force-feeding Americans AI politicians — and what it will do, which is help create prisons. And yes, again, I promise this special is funny as shit. It may also be the crassest you have ever watched.

Anyway, enough from me. I’ll embed the special at the bottom of this post. But if you’ve looked at all the AI headlines lately and felt a bit skeptical, this special is for you.

There’s a perfect little moment that totally sold me. O’Malley’s character is talking to the crowd, asking them to guess a problem with the AI he created. “Nobody wants it,” an audience member yells out.

O’Malley doesn’t break from his evangelist character. “Well, you have a negative attitude,” he answers. He then immediately goes on to eulogize a pair of Croatia’s leading vaping artists. It’s all nonsensical and exactly like the world we live in.

Tim Marcin is a culture reporter at Mashable, where he writes about food, fitness, weird stuff on the internet, and, well, just about anything else. You can find him posting endlessly about Buffalo wings on Twitter at @timmarcin.

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