INTERVIEW: HumanMachine: Artificial Intelligence Improvisation, Edmonton International Fringe

This month, we promised you interviews from comedy acts that are partaking in different comedy festivals in the up and coming weeks and today, we are heading all the way to Canada to interview an improv act that is performing at the Edmonton International Fringe Festival. The Fringe happens between the 16th – 26th August and HumanMachine are performing this year. I caught up with Piotr and Kory to find out all about it.

Hello guys! Tell us about Human Machine?
HumanMachine is an experimental theatre company, simultaneously located in Edmonton, Canada (that’s where Kory Mathewson lives and studies robotics) and London, UK (that’s where Piotr Mirowski lives and builds robots). We fuse cutting edge machine learning technology to perform live theatre that challenges the boundaries of possibility: that’s a fancy way to say that we fail often, but hey, that’s what improv is about, right? When your show depends on a live transatlantic video link, 3 to 4 laptops, an artificial intelligence that spews mostly nonsense and occasional comedy gold, one or two robots that can break down or burst in flames, not to forget light, sound effects and musical highlighting, everything can go wrong. We make that happen!


How did you come up with the name of your show that your taking to Edmonton Fest?
We like to be 100% clear with the audience. We let them know exactly what to expect: there will be an artificial intelligence on the stage, that will improvise with us.

What is your time slot?
We will perform at the Studio Theatre, located on 10330 84 Avenue (Southwest corner of the Arts Barns), at the following dates and times: Wednesday 16 August 10pm, Friday 17 August 6:15pm, Sunday 19 August 4:30pm, Wednesday 22 August at noon, Friday 24 August at 8:15pm and Sunday 26 August at 2pm.

Tell us a little bit about your style of improv?
We believe that the best improvisers are the ones that can make anyone shine on stage: that includes to be as daring as taking a random audience member, who may have never performed before, and putting them at ease and making them look good in public. We challenge each other to care more, go deeper into character, and find the funny side of reality. Also, as we often perform alongside robots, and cyborgs (that’s what we call a human improviser who gets lines from an artificial intelligence-powered chatbot), we are extremely patient and supportive of our non-carbon based counterparts!

What will your set be about?
It will be about friendship and making art and comedy using robots working claw-in-hand with humans! The audience will help us define themes and story points, and every show will be just different enough that it is brand new every night, and just similar enough that you can appreciate the consistency in our performances.

What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at the fringe?
TEDxRFT, OffBook, One Man Walking Dead, Late Night Cabaret.

Have you done the Edmonton Fest before? What have been some of your favourite shows to date and why?
Kory has done Edmonton before. He has previously performed in My Name is Jonas, Dirt City, OffBook: The Improvised Musical, Die Nasty Improvised Soap Opera and TEDxRFT – improvising a TEDx talk whose title comes from a suggestion from the audience, and seeing the slides for the first time!

Some acts have already tried it and done shows in the environment, but do You think virtual reality has a space to be used in improv and what other modern technologies do you think could alter the way we interact and watch improv?
Virtual reality separates performers from audience members through another layer of technology. We believe that bringing the audience and the performers closer together leads to greater connections, and for this reason, we place the robots and the human performers on the same stage. HumanMachine is excited about experimenting with emotional understanding and incorporating audience feedback directly into shows: what if the robot could understand when the audience claps or fawns (or boos)?

What have been some of the most unique and different improv sets you have seen this year and why?
Kory recently performed Improbotics (An Improvised Turing Test) at Improvaganza in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. There he saw some very inspiring and innovative improvisation from the Society of Strange and The Showstoppers, Ruby Rocket from Portland, USA, and Dark Side of the Room from Atlanta, USA.

If people want to find out more about you where can they follow you on social media?
You can find us at and on twitter at and

And Finally in three words – Why should people come and see the show?

Robots + Improv = Awesomeness

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