Comedian John Mulaney hosted Saturday Night Live for the first time Saturday opened with a monologue that touched on artificial intelligence and the internet security feature we all love to hate: CAPTCHA. The topical bit may not age well, as the rapid advancement of A.I. continues unchecked, but it felt right for this moment. Who hasn’t been asked if they’re a robot by another robot, aka their computer?
“The world is run by robots,” Mulaney said, “and sometimes they ask us if we’re a robot just because we’re trying to log on and look at our own stuff!” Mulaney slides into an impression of a creepy robotic gatekeeper, speaking in rhyme much like a leprechaun or a troll under the bridge. The comedian looks like he’s repressing an Irish jig while he snarls, “The passwords have passed, you correctly guessed, but now it’s time for the robot test!” It starts at 5:40 into the video below:
CAPTCHA, aka the Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart, is everyone’s least-favorite part of logging into practically anything. The challenge-response test serves as a benchmark for AI technologies and is most effective for weeding out hackers and bots, but the tests inevitably feel like time-wasters to the non-robots just trying to read their email. “Multiple times a day: May I see my stuff please?” Mulaney asks before his impression of CAPTCHA delivers a riddle about curvy letters.
Even though Mulaney was a powerful force behind the show for five years, the former SNL writer found hosting to be a surreal experience. Mulaney made the occasional appearance on “Weekend Update” during his tenure and is best known for co-creating the character “Stefon” with Bill Hader, but this was his first time SNL gave Mulaney center stage.
After a short break, SNL will return on May 5 with Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, as both host and musical guest.
Mulaney’s impressive monologue highlighted his strength for stand up comedy and his ability to capture the human struggle against our daily robot interactions. “You spend a lot of your day telling a robot that you’re not a robot,” Mulaney laments at the end of his monologue. “Think about that for two minutes and tell me you don’t want to walk into the ocean.”