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They Did What?: 

Comedy Club trials ‘pay per laugh’ gig

laughing face recognition

Caught in the act! That’ll be 38 cents please.

In a world where people tut and moan at having to pay $0.79 for an app that took months of R&D, programming and art direction, is it any real surprise that those same people might be cautious about spending money on a comedy club? Especially if they don’t know the comedian in question. What happens if they don’t find him or her funny, and sit there in stoic stone-faced misery? They’d be SO cross.

Well, the Barcelona comedy theater ‘Teatreneu’ may have the high-tech solution to the problem: if you don’t laugh, you don’t pay a penny, and if you do, facial recognition software will catch your guffaws, giggles and tee-hees, converting them into a cash ticket price. 0.30 Euro (~$0.38) per chuckle, is the current going rate, which means I’ve been overcharging for freelance work for years.

But big belly laughers aren’t left on the hook for a big bill to wipe the smiles off their face at the end of the evening: the ticket price is capped at a maximum of 80 laughs: or 24 Euros ($30).

To do this, the venue installed facial recognition software in tablet computers designed to pick up smiles and laughs. These tablets were then attached to the back of every seat – presumably those in the front row were being judged by the performers themselves. The tablets allowed the nerdier laughers to look at their statistics for the show, allowing them to share their results on social networks, encouraging people to go an see it for themselves.

So, did it work? Oh yes. On average, the price per ticket went up by a whopping 6 Euros ($7.64), ensuring each show run brought in around $35,600 more than it did with traditional set-price tickets. Audience attendances also rose 35%.

The only problem is skin-flints trying to hold in their giggles to avoid paying up. You know who you are.

Photo: Kzenon/

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