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Comedy Hack Day brings comedians and programmers together in Los Angeles



Programmers and comedians gather for Comedy Hack Day.
Programmers and comedians gather for Comedy Hack Day.
Cultivated Wit

This weekend, comedians and programmers are uniting at Los Angeles's YouTube Space to make funny things together. It's called Comedy Hack Day, and after being held in San Francisco, New York City and Boston, it's here in L.A.

Comedy Hack Day is produced by Cultivated Wit, a company started by several Onion staffers. One of those guys is Craig Cannon, who used to be a graphics editor at the Onion.

"So I did all of those Joe Biden Photoshops that you may have seen before," Cannon told KPCC. "So I had the very weird skill set of doing head swaps."

The most recent Comedy Hack Day winner: The Wearable Furby.

"They made a Furby, essentially that you could talk to as if it were Siri, through the Google Voice API. So, the way it worked is they kind of hacked apart the Furby, took control of its audio features, also took control of certain built-in functions within the Furby," Cannon said.

You can also make the Furby dance, control its voice and even have it give you directions. It came complete with a shoulder mount, making it officially a wearable device.

Cannon says that Cultivated Wit is trying to bridge the gap between comedy and technology.

"There's a space that we'd kind of been exploring at the Onion, between comedy and technology, and kind of seeing what gets traction on the Internet, what actually affects people, and more importantly, what people pay attention to. What can kind of generate a unique emotion, and passion around something," Cannon said.

Cannon started working with one of Cultivated Wit's other co-founders, Baratunde Thurston, at a time when the Onion was moving from New York to Chicago and Cannon was getting more interested in tech products, Cannon said. He helped Thurston promote his bestselling book, "How To Be Black," and toured the U.S. with Thurston, earning the nickname "White Shadow" from following Thurston around.

Another recent Comedy Hack Day winning project was Timesify, which takes whatever story you're reading — such as one from what Cannon calls the modern-day tabloids, like BuzzFeed — and make it look like a respectable story from the New York Times. It even hides slideshows behind the story's ads, so that you can still enjoy clickbait in a Times skin.

Timesify

Along with Comedy Hack Day, Cultivated Wit also helps companies and causes promote a message or cause, using comedy or technology to help spread the word. One of their projects was "F--- You Congress," a site which detailed what they saw as problems with Congress, along with helping visitors tweet their congressperson with their anger.

The event's celebrity judges include actress/Web series darling Felicia Day, music manager Troy Carter and Internet celebs Rhett and Link. You can go see the best stuff the comedy hackers develop in a public demonstration at 7 p.m. this Sunday night at the YouTube Space. Tickets cost $10.