A Robot Walks Into A Bar

Doctrine Man (20 Mar 15)


What’s Funny About The Future?

The Atlantic Council’s Art of the Future Project seeks 5-7 minute stand-up comedy sets inspired by the trials and tribulations of life in the year 2035 as explored in the Council’s Global Risks 2035 report. The best material will be featured at DC Improv, Washington’s premier comedy club, during a future-themed night of comedy on November 15 headlined by Erin Jackson and hosted by Jason Weems.

For all the tools available to policymakers concerned with understanding how life is going to change in expected and unexpected ways during the next two decades, the one that has yet to be used may be the most poignant and entertaining: comedy.

In particular, satire, from the work of writer Mark Twain to the “newscasts” of Jon Stewart, has a rich history in popping bubbles of expectation and shaping how American society sees itself and some of its most vexing social, political, and economic contradictions. With the social-media amplified voices of today, comedy’s universal appeal can be even more important and engaging to a far wider audience that will only become more connected to one another during the coming decades.

Tying all of these influences together, the benchmark Global Risks 2035 report lays out the trends, technologies, and forces that are starting to reshape the way we learn, do business, fight, love, and invent. Like other Art of the Future project creative challenges, this contest will showcase the value of creative thinking about the future, especially technology, conflict, and demography. It will bring in new perspectives, which are increasingly valuable for their unexpected insights. By convening comedians and the policy community for an evening at DC Improv, there is an opportunity to develop the kind of insights about the future that only humor can reveal.

Register to attend the event.


  • The project seeks 10 comedians who can perform 5-7 minutes of jokes based on their analysis in Global Risks 2035. The top entries will be able to perform on stage at DC Improv on November 15, 2016 from 7:30 p.m. to 9:15 p.m (doors open at 6:30 pm). As well, the top entries and DC Improv performances will be showcased on the Art of the Future Project website as we will record all the sets.
  • Entries should feature either stand-up comedy bits or full sets featuring stand-up about the future, and should be uploaded to YouTube and sent to: LifeIn2035@AtlanticCouncil.org.
  • Videos must include at least two jokes about the analyzed issues in the Global Risks 2035 report, and can be from previous on-stage performances. The video does not necessarily have to be you on stage performing live—although that is preferred. For example, it could be you in front of a camera in your room performing the jokes. No entry should exceed 10 minutes. Atlantic Council staff will choose the 10 comics that make it onto the line-up for the November 15 show.
  • On November 15, a panel of judges will review the submissions for the grand prize of $500. The judges include the night’s headliner, nationally touring comedian Erin Jackson, and someone from the DC policy and/or defense community. The show will be hosted by Jason Weems, a Baltimore native and a semi-finalist on NBC’s Last Comic Standing.
  • The entry deadline has been extended to November 2, 2016 due to a technical issue with the e-mail submission.
  • The winner will be announced November 4, 2016.


  • “Besides the tectonic shifts at the geopolitical level, the technology revolutions have changed, and will continue to upend, everyday life for most everyone. The political and social responses to the new technological developments are not as linear as once thought.”
    – Dr. Mat Burrows in Global Risks 2035 (download the report here)
  • Comedian George Carlin on “Saving the Planet”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tncnWp67wQI&feature=youtu.be
  • “Don’t you know, there are some things that can beat smartness and foresight? Awkwardness and stupidity can. The best swordsman in the world doesn’t need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn’t do the thing he ought to.”
    – Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court


Register to attend the event.