Nine terrible AI-generated jokes about Swedish things

Artificial Intelligence programmes such as ChatGPT have made headlines worldwide for writing scarily accurate essays, poems, and even newspaper articles. We decided to ask ChatGPT to tell us some jokes about Swedish things, and here's what happened.

Nine terrible AI-generated jokes about Swedish things
The ChatGPT tool can write such impressive paragraphs of human-like text that schools in New York have started blocking it. We used it to tell jokes instead. Photo: AP Photo/Peter Morgan via TT

How does this work?

We’re using ChatGPT, an open-source AI model designed for dialogue. Essentially, you type in a question and it generates a response. After testing its article-writing skills (which in some cases were pretty good, in others… not so much), we decided to test how good it was at telling jokes.

Spoiler alert: they were awful.

First off, I asked the AI to “tell us a joke about Stockholm”.

Why was the Stockholm fish so bad at dancing? Because it had two left fins!

Screenshot: The Local

Did you get it? Because I didn’t. I gave it another chance.

Why did the tomato turn red in Stockholm? Because it saw the Swedish meatball!

Screenshot: The Local

Not much better, although this one had at least some reference to Sweden.

I took the AI’s cue for the next one and asked it to tell us a joke about meatballs instead.

Why don't Swedish meatballs like to dance? Because they're too meaty to boogie!

Screenshot: The Local

As I was quickly realising that the jokes were getting a bit meatball-heavy, I went for a different tactic, asking it to “tell us a joke about the northern lights”.

Why did the aurora borealis go to the doctor? Because it was feeling a little polarized!
Screenshot: The Local

Okay, so they do seem to be getting at least a bit better. Maybe the AI is learning how to tell better jokes after all. Let’s ask it to tell us a joke about the King of Sweden.

Why did the king of Sweden wear a crown?  Because he was the ruler of the monarchy!  Note that some of the humor may not make sense due to the lack of context, I recommend using these jokes carefully.
Screenshot: The Local

Yeah, scrap that, it’s definitely not getting better. This one even came with its own disclaimer. Also, as an aside, the King of Sweden is famous for not wearing a crown: he never had a coronation.

Next up: “Tell us a joke about a cinnamon bun”.

Why was the cinnamon roll feeling down?  Because it was feeling a little bun-der-pressure!

Screenshot: The Local

Is it just me or is this one actually funny? Have I been writing this article for too long? Is this a cry for help? Maybe.

Anyway, let’s ask it for a joke about herring.

Why was the herring so bad at telling jokes?  Because it always felt like it was fishing for a punchline!

Screenshot: The Local

Again, this one genuinely made me laugh. Next up, midsummer. This time, I asked it to “tell us a joke about a Swedish Midsummer celebration”.

Why did the Swede wear a flower crown at Midsummer celebration?  Because it was having a fika-tastic time! (Fika means having a coffee break and chat with friends or coworkers in swedish)

Screenshot: The Local

Has anyone told the AI that jokes usually become less funny when you explain them?

By this point, I was getting a bit tired of the traditional joke format and decided to try and get it to tell us a joke about Swedish politics. It refused, saying that it was not “appropriate to create jokes about political situations in general as it might be considered offensive and disrespectful for some people”.

So I asked it to write a standup comedy routine about Swedish politics instead. Here’s a section of it (the rest of it involved a sketch about the Swedish Prime Minister being caught eating a herring sandwich on public transport and compliments on him making Sweden a “renewable energy powerhouse” with “some of the most humane prisons in the world”).

Comedian: "I mean, have you seen the state of Swedish politics lately? It's like a never-ending game of 'Who's the Least Terrible?' And the Prime Minister? He's just the least terrible of them all. It's like going on a date with the girl who's 'not as bad as the others' "

Screenshot: The Local

The AI is clearly not a fan of Swedish politics, or the Swedish prime minister (it may be important to note here that this AI was programmed in 2021, when Stefan Löfven was still Sweden’s prime minister, so this is more of a slight on him than current PM Ulf Kristersson).

I then tried to get it to tell me a joke about visiting Ikea, but by this point I got an error message stating I’d made too many requests, so I’ll end with this: a nice little haiku I asked it to write about Stockholm.

Stockholm's water flows, In canals and archipelago, Nature's beauty glows.

Screenshot: The Local

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Five Swedish children’s songs international parents will inevitably have to learn

You can't hide, and you can't even run. Sooner or later, even international parents will learn these Swedish children's songs. You may as well start now.

Five Swedish children's songs international parents will inevitably have to learn

Babblarnas vaggvisa

“Kom lilla du, kudden väntar nu. Inte läsa mer, Babba, dags att lägga sig.”

Come little one, the pillow awaits. No more reading, Babba, it’s time to go to bed – this repetitive modern lullaby is deceptively simple and soothing, loved and hated in equal measure by parents in Sweden. 

Loved, because it puts the most energetic of babies to sleep. Hated, because afterwards, you’ll be lying there in the dark in your own bed, the lyrics playing softly but insistently on repeat in your head. When you finally remember the order of the characters and their pre-bedtime activities (hint: it’s Babba [reading], Bibbi [listening], Bobbo [playing], Dadda [climbing], Diddi [drawing], Doddo [getting up to mischief]), congratulations, you’ve made it as a parent in Sweden.

The characters were originally created in the 1980s to facilitate children’s language development, but they got a rebirth in the 2000s with a television series for SVT and several new songs. Your children will be able to name them all and they will expect you to do the same. Who knew parenthood was this joyous.

Ekorrn satt i granen

Alice Tegnér is a name you need to know, because she’s the woman who’s to thank or blame for most of the Swedish children’s musical canon. Born in 1864, she was a music teacher from the town of Karlshamn in southern Sweden and composer of some of the country’s most well-known children’s songs. 

This one is about a squirrel who, just as he was sitting down in a spruce to peel some pine cones, gets startled by the sound of children, falls from his branch and hurts his fluffy tail. That’s it, that’s the plot.

Mors lilla Olle

Another one of Tegnér’s greatest hits, this one tells the story of Olle, who runs into a bear when out picking bilberries. To cut a long story short: he feeds the bilberries to the bear, his mother screams and the bear runs off, Olle gets upset that mummy scared his ostensibly only friend.

It’s based on a true story. In 1850, newspapers wrote about how Jon Ersson, then one year and seven months, met a couple of bear cubs at Sörsjön, Dalarna, and fell asleep next to them in the lingon shrubs. Ersson in his 30s emigrated to Minnesota where he was hit by lightning and died. Luck only lasts so long.

Prästens lilla kråka

Prästens lilla kråka, the priest’s little crow (optionally mormors/farmors lilla kråka – grandma’s little crow, or whoever wants to claim the crow), wanted to go for a ride but no one was around to give her a lift. So she took matters into her own hands, but, presumably lacking a driving licence, she slid THIS way and then she slid THAT way and then she slid DOWN into the ditch. Sung while rocking the child to one side, to the other side and then playfully dropping them to the floor.

It often also makes an appearance as a dance around the Maypole on Midsummer’s Eve. 

Lille katt

Astrid Lindgren is not only one of the world’s most famous children’s authors, she is also behind many of the most well-known Swedish songs for children, featuring her beloved characters.

This one starts off “Lille katt, lille katt, lille söte katta. Vet du att, vet du att, det är mörkt om natta” (little cat, little cat, little sweet cat. Do you know, do you know, it’s dark at night – it rhymes in Swedish), followed by similar verses about other animals and family members. It is sung by Ida, the little sister of prankster Emil in the books and films about Emil of Lönneberga. Jazz musician Georg Riedel composed the music, as well as the music for several other Lindgren movies.

Other famous tunes by Lindgren include Här kommer Pippi Långstrump, Idas sommarvisa, Luffarvisan, Jag är en fattig bonddräng, Mors lilla lathund and Världens bästa Karlsson.

These five songs do not even begin to form an exhaustive list of Sweden’s wide, wide, wide repertoire of children’s songs. Which ones can you not get out of your head? Let us know in the comments below!