What Mansplainr, a Business Card Gun, and 145 Other Funny App Ideas Say About Today’s Tech Culture

For three years, the company I co-founded, Cultivated Wit, has been producing hackathons built around humor. We call it Comedy Hack Day because we are subtle word artists. Right now (Saturday May 16, 2015), we’re in the middle of our eighth one of these weekend-long events during which comedians, designers, and software developers come together to build ridiculous and humorous tech products.

For the comedians, they get to see a joke idea come to life and become something the world can interact with. For the tech crowd, they get to use their super powers for something a bit more creative and fun than database optimization and corporate intranet design. Meanwhile the public gets a window into that which ails our startup culture and technology-mediated lives.

What the outside world gets to see from this event has so far been limited to:

  • a public showcase of finalist product teams demoing on stage (tickets are still available for Sunday’s show btw, and we have Michael Ian Black judging!);
  • a few products that achieve escape velocity from the weekend and make it to the web or an app store;
  • videos we produce, the best example of which is this “vision video” we produced for WellDeserved, a marketplace for excess privilege:

But the more we’ve traveled with this peculiar circus, the more we’ve learned not just from the hacks that get made but also from the ideas that are pitched but never get made.

Last night at General Assembly in NYC, participants pitched a record 147 ideas. Roughly 85 people showed up to participate, and 65 of them proposed ideas from the stage (35 men, 30 women) before breaking down into groups that will only build a small fraction of those. I spent some time categorizing the ideas, and here is how they look from most to least popular.

Comedy App Ideas Power Curve

Clearly that is hard to read, but let me focus on the top of the chart.

Most Frequent Categories

Some Least Frequent Categories

Better Social Interactions

Products that addressing social interactions were the most popular, with over 30 promising to help you perform better, understand better, or completely avoid social interactions.

Some examples:

  • Acknowledge. “Button on Facebook for when someone dies. I don’t like it, but I acknowledge it.”
  • Hi Mom. For every 100 texts you send, it sends a “Hi, Mom. Thinking about you” to your mom. Even more direct solution proposed was “Twilio app that automates calls to parents and friends cause I don’t like socializing.”
  • Got This Thing. Helps you avoid social interactions. When a friend asks what you’re doing at a certain date and time, this app has already populated your calendar with various events so you seem busy and unavailable.
  • Blackup. When you dont have a black friend but really need one. Use the app for advice or help getting out of awkward situations.
  • Networking Gun. This is a hardware device, and here is how the man who pitched it described it:
Imagine that you’re in a big group like this, and you have all these people you want to network with. But you don’t know how to network. So you just load up your business cards in this gun. And just “Boom! Boom! Boom! Network! Network! Network!”

Increase Social Status

Related to social interaction improvement is a category of ideas that promised to increase your social status. The proposed services offered to make you look:

  • Smart. With Codery, you hire under-employed writers to post thoughtful defenses of your nonsense Facebook posts so your real friends are impressed that you have such smart people in your network.
  • Productive. For those who use collaboration platform Slack at work, this service would set you to “active” so your boss thinks you’re working.
  • Rich. Insert an Apple Watch into your photos.
  • Interesting. The very clearly named Pimp My Feed would:
Adds video, music, and new things to your feed to make your life seem more amazing!

Social Media

Given the age range of our participants (largely 20s and 30s), social media products featured prominently in the ideas. What they say about our attitudes toward this ubiquitous medium is that we want help avoiding offending people, filtering our experiences, and building bots to auto-respond on our behalf (because bots scale). Here are a few:

  • Triggler. A trigger word search engine. Plug in tweet. Find out how many degrees of separation from words like “outrage” or “problematic” that tweet is.
  • Political Makeover. Convert a Millennial’s feed into one that is politically correct so they won’t get fired.
  • People You May Not Know. Helps you discern real friends on Facebook by quizzing you on their lives, and if you fail, it unfriends them.
  • Racebook. Filter out the racist friends you discover you have on Facebook after major news events.
  • Feel Better. Filter out everyone doing better than you on Facebook. You’d only see posts with fewer likes than your own posts, so you feel better about your life.


  • Am I Right Bot replies to anyone tweeting “am i right?” with an affirmative, “Yes, you are absolutely right.”
  • Spolier Bot replies to people spoiling TV shows you like by spoiling shows they like.
  • Thirst Bot. When dudes are all on your Twitter, this bot will let them know you know they are all over your Twitter, and then it blocks them.

The News

The way we make and consume news is changing as evidenced by everything happening everywhere all the time. The two big themes were to a) give us the appearance of understanding the news (Backstory quickly fills you in on major news items so you can talk about them; Opinion Maker develops an opinion for you based on trending topics) or b) help make news more digestible. Here’s one such pitch:

PicBlast is for people who have no time to read any longer. Reading’s slow and it’s dumb. So what you do is you take an article that you want, and the app changes it into pictures. It turns it into a 15-second Clockwork Orange shock blast of photos.

And that, in a nutshell, is the state of the news business!


I suspect when we do our Los Angeles hackathon in August, we’ll have an even higher quantity of election-related pitches and could possibly add an all-politics themed Comedy Hack Day for 2016. I consider these ideas from last night a teaser for what may come:

  • Troll Candidates. With candidates now showing up in our feeds between our pseudo-friends and our moms (and not just 30-second TV spots), this Twitter bot fights back by trolling political candidates in response to to their posts.
  • The Gaffe Keyboard lets you replay political gaffes with certain key presses.
  • Beg Like A Politician lets you walk in a politicians shoes and beg for money from billionaires
  • And there was one idea to make politics more relatable by rewriting political news stories with Game of Thrones characters and references. I can certainly think of a few elected officials I’d love to send north of The Wall.

Finally, I don’t know that any of the following pitches makes a grand statement about society, but they’re so funny or weird, I want to include them.

Random Funny Things

  • Farewell.io posts to your social media upon your death. Unclear what it would say or how the service knows you’re dead.
  • BYObnb. You can vacation wherever you live. This service will clean your house, and tell you cool shit to do in your own city.
  • Burrito Converter replaces all financial figures with the number of burritos that amount of money can purchase.
  • Seahorse.io. A seahorse is a dad who cares for baby. So this recruits hot men to nanny your baby.
  • Drone Glitter Bomb. Glitter bomb with drones. Attack people coming out of the subway with air-dropped glitter bombs.
  • Potluck. Register your loose food ingredients, and this service matches you with nearby broke strangers and their loose ingredients to make recipes together.
  • True Alert checks all the service alerts for the trains and tells you why they’re really not working, e.g. things the government doesn’t want you to know.
  • PicFace. If you have an issue picking your face, it’s just a thing that pops up on your phone and says, “Stop picking your face.”

The things we laugh at and satirize often reveal some deeper truth about what’s happening in our world. According to the view from Comedy Hack Day, we are obsessed with our social positions, drowning in superficial connections, fearful of being judged by what we say digitally, and willing to use the giant cheat code that is tech to help us through it all.

If you’re reading this before 6pm ET on Sunday May 17th, and you’re within 30 minutes of New York City, come to the live show and see the polished versions of some of these apps. We have four very qualified judges (Michael Ian Black, Christina Warren, Anil Dash, and Aparna Nancherla) who will interrogate each team after their demos. We also will have beer.

Addendum: The Complete Listing

You know what? I’m just gonna dump the entire list in here for you because my 3am fake statistical analysis can’t fully represent the range of awesome things people dream up

Who Holds Power:
Service to safely upload text history and lets you know who holds power in all relationship. Gives you rules and insights into text history.

Stop Picking Your Face:
If you have an issue picking your face, it’s just a thing that pops up on your phone and says, “Stop picking your face.” Intelligently adjusts to when you pick your face. Sponsored by Neutrogena.

Button on Facebook for when someone dies. I don’t like it, but I acknowledge it. Like when somebody dies.

Feminize It:
If you are shopping, take a picture of the SKU and it will tell you if a lady version exists of that product for your lady taste.

Gentrification Calculator:
How can I offset my gentrification footprint? It helps

Alternative Mint:
Tracks what your finance could be. If you spent 3k on take out, it tells you that coulda been a mortgage.

When you think you know something, but you feel like you need a dude to condescendingly explain it to you. It can help you bro out.

Mail Kimp:
Record cute kids mispronouncing names of tech startups.

Networking Gun:
Imagine that you’re in a big group like this, and you have all these people you want to network with. But you don’t know how to network. So you just load up your business cards in this gun. And just “Boom! Boom! Boom! Network! Network! Network!”

Hi Mom:
For every 100 texts you send, it sends a Hi Mom to your mom. It can also randomly send your last photo to your mom to keep her involved.

You Okay?:
Monitors your FB friends use of candy crush. Then generate a message of “You okay?” to them

Thanks Pic:
Anonymous thank you notes for people who helped you climax during masturbation.

Pic Blast:
If you have no time to read. Take an article you want. It changes it all into pictures. Turns it into a shotgun blast of photos.

BYOBNB. You can vacation wherever you live. We will clean your house, and tell you cool shit to do in your own city.

Hot When Younger? :
Upload photo of old person and it guesses if they were hot when younger.

Pinterest for the devout christian who, deep down, wants to get weird. Explore 7 deadly sins.

Auto-Call :
Twilio app that automates calls to parents and friends cause I don’t like socializing.

Conversation Starter:
Give you a conversation starter based on where you are. Tell them the event.

Guilt Trip:
If you are gonna buy something you can’t afford, enter the info in and it will tell you how much that buys in developing country to guilt you.

Treester ( http://treestr.com ):
the world’s first social networking website built for trees, by trees, to do all the things trees want to do … online

Spoil Sync:
Fill in where you are on shows. All your friends can sync up. We can talk about this up to this episode.

Got this thing:
Excuse generator based on specific time. Always has local listing and facebook events, so events can always be in there.

When you dont have a black friend but really need one. Use the app for advice, help you get out of situation.

DVR For Twitter:
Play back live tweeting of TV shows by friends

Motivates you to fucking do it.

Truth About Train Service:
Checks all the service alerts for the trains and it tells you why they’re really not working, things the government doesn’t want you to know.

Weather App For Shaving Season:
Tracks start and end of shaving season. Also takes into account beuty standards and breakups.

Social Voice Assist:
Voice assist for social information. Monitor when you need to leave parties. Monitors when is right time to give a high five. Or check yourself.

You want the suburban mom, but you live in the city. This app will do it.

Find people to share your shower with. Schedule and list soap products and find compatible mate.

Head Space:
Put your phone on your forehead and stream ads.

Pizza Blaster:
upload photo of yourself, then 14 days it will email you a photo of the pizze. Get points on how long you stare at the pizza photo

Unhappy Birthday:
Ex has a birthday, you can wish them an Unhappy Birthday with GIF of cake on fire.

FOMO Fighter:
Posts photos of the terrible time you’re having to fight fomo

Print A Site:
Printernet so you can print sites and take it on the go.

If you are into biking, pairs you with people who like biking

Homeless subway man:
Screams random bible verses at you

Oh Hot Damn, This is my jam:
Post pictures of the jelly that you’re eating

Trivia for Uber drivers:
You can rate drivers based on their trivia asnwers

Missing Connections:
Missed connections for the present.

Trigger word search engine. Plug in tweet. Find out how many degrees of separation from words like “outrage” or “problematic.”

When you die, it pulls from your account and auto tweets your farewell.

Am I Right:
And tweet that ends with “Am I right?” it replied.

On The Job:
Way to keep track of how much time you spent on the toilet at work, and what you got paid during that time.

Instagram for Shouting:
Whenever you shout in your car, it takes picture of that car, and looks them up.

Social singularity:
social network only for robots

political makeover:
for millenials, it can create version of your social account that is politcally correct

Beg Like A Politician:
Candidates need to beg for money. So lets give people chance to beg for it themselves. You get to be Rand Paul and beg for money.

Gaffe Keyboard:
Use the keyboard to replay candidate gaffes. e.g. Howard Dean is D key. Plus others

Acts as a filter between your thoughts and the rest of the world. Goes through approval before posting.

Think piece generator:
Give it an issue, and information and it generates a think piece

Calendar app for the things you should have done. Send a notifaction after meetings. After you shoulda done something.

Drone Glitter Bomb:
Glitter bomb with drones. Attack people coming out of the subway

Dollars-to-Burrito Converter:
Replace all money figures with how many burritos you can buy.

Mobify Photos:
Replace all people in photos with picture of Moby.

High Times URL Shortener:
URL shortener that every 5 or 6 clicks takes you to HighTimes.com

Fake Activity on Slack:
Shows you active and working on Slack so your boss thinks you’re working.

Charge for Distraction:
Productivity app that charges you to go on Tindr and Gmail, etc.

Opinions Based On Trends:
Twitter bot generates opinions based on trending topics you might not know about. So you can appear informed.

Cool Foursquare:
Foursquare app that lets you know a cooler place for you to be, and checks you in there.

Workout Lie:
App lies to you and says you worked out more than you did so you can brag about it.

Objective Answers:
Photo interpretation. It tells you how smart the people are in it. How long people will stay together in the photo. etc.

Buzzfeed It:
Chrome extension turns serious articles into Buzzfeed style listicles.

Email Reinfocement:
It will send you messages that reinfoce your masculinity by “accidentally” replying all about gym and protein powder usage

Email SMS Prank:

Tindr For Things:
Tindr for random things. If you like it, it will send you email based on that thing what you like.

Too Soon No More:
Tragedy plus time equals comedy. Tells you exactly when to make a joke about something. Calendar looking back through history.

Ear Worm:
When song is on tip of tongue. Share the video of that thing or explain it. Others help them solve what the song might be.

Calendar Help You Avoid People:
How can you avoid people you dont wanna talk to. SEnd them a calendar that shows how booked you are. Always give you excuses. Think an Emoji keyboard for excuses.

You should… :
Whenever you go on subway, it will tell you what you should do.

A seahorse is a dad who cares for baby. So this recruits hot men to nanny your baby.

Who Is To Blame:
People keep complaining, and you can have the right person or group to blame for an issue.

No more small talk. Get to interesting part of convo right away. Fills you in on most recent events.

Apt Match Making:
Dating app for NY tenant. Asks all about your rent and credit, and matches somebody with opposute.

People You May Not Know:
Scans your friends. Quizes you on them. And if you get it wrong, it unfriends them.

Eggcorn Bot:
when somebody posts an auto correct like “my boyfriends colon” it sends them picture.

Face detection to tell when people are actually shaking their heads.

Wearable Awkwardness Alert:
Internet of things meets social awkardness. Alerts you when you are standing too close to somebody. Tells you when to make contact with loved ones.

Based on products in your cart, it can tell you how long before that product is gonna wind up in a landfill.

TakeOut Roulette:
take out roulette. betting app friends in group chat. loser pays check.

boku — undercutting uber for dollar vans

attaboy/girl — curated self esteem ego boosts

fake — call distraction. timed alert in awkward situations

potluck — loose ingredients of nearby broke strangers to make recipes.

Humble Brag:
humble brag — donation volunteer app. points to get coupons

isms — third party perspective consultation on if something is offensive or not

Been Seen That:
been seen that-database of already trending things so you don’t look late to the party of posting

Woman or Man:
If you are woman it tells you you are too old. If man it says “who cares.”

Web MD Comfort:
Enter symptoms then it spits out inspirational and comforting quotes.

Earth Humor App:
Think Shazam for humor detection. Everyone typically just holds their mobile device out in front of them in social contexts. You just flip the EH App on at a party ( let’s say, right? ) and when the sampler picks up on something funny it buzzes ya. The strength of the buzz can help you determine just how funny it is and how hard you should laugh. The app will also give an enumerated rating for the humorous quip or joke and capture the recorded bit for posterity and those mobile nostalgic moments that just happened a few seconds ago.

digital-analog holistic voting experience:
Let’s make voting special again, right? Kinda like an event or something … this new holistic voting system totally gamifies the way we elect our government officials and the way we participate in ‘the system’ on those very special Tuesdays. Download the app — tell your friends — head to Mohegan Sun — make the fucking day of it fer ChrisSakes, right? — Play the official voting slot machine app which ‘assists you’ in the whole pesky decision-making process by leveraging the power of algorhythms to randomly ‘pick’ one of the many illustrious candidates in the running. The app also features helpful time-based background information, articles and visualizations of campaigns and landmark decisions on the record to help you understand why ‘everybody wins’ when we vote with this brilliant, new 2.0 app for the 90s! Now available for free from The App Store, Google Play and BitCoin PornFarmr 3000.

Insert Pop Culture into politics:
What if Chrome Extention replaced political terms with GOT details or stuff you are interested in.

Push notiffication for fake things:
It sends push notifications with info on fake things that never happened

Waste The TIme Wasters’s Time:
Waste time of telemarketers by getting them on phone and keeping them there.

Slack Jacker:
Fake your participation in Slack. Post for you

Bad Bandmates:
App that lets you find band mates as bad as you are

Get fit or die trying :
Simulates your likelihood to survive apocalypse.

Roommate Chores:
App to help you tell roommates to do chores.

Shazam Bird Sounds:
Shazam for bird sounds

Inaccurate Search Engine — Dafuck:
Want more interesting responses. Sal in Bay Ridge gives you an answer. You ask if you should get married, and it gives you long answer back.

Not-to-do list:
List of all shit you dont want to do. Un-to-do list

Lady Internet:
Internet for women….?

Are You Ok?:
Listens to your music choices and asks if you are ok. Too much Elliot Smith?

Add Apple Watch:
Adds an apple watch to all your photos

News Translator:
Translates words in the news to be more honest.

My Icon:
You change your picture into what you wanna be more like. It can edit your icon.

Therapy SMS:
Cheaper than $100 an hour. Therapist is kind of a dick.

Asshole API:
Look at all of your social content to get a sense of how much an asshole you really are.

Enemy E Cards:
Platform of free e-cards you can send to people you dont like. Quit your job. Troll your boss.

Standup Been Done:
Archive of standup routines to track what has already been done.

Cat POV News:
Serious news articles but from POV of cats. Less harsh

Current Events Quiz:
Trivia game with obviously wrong answers

Therapy list. :
Like a to-do list, but every time you add something it asks a personal question.

body language app:
helps you understand subtext of a conversation.

Rolodex of public restroom codes to trade secretly

Just my 2 cents:
Venmo with only 2 cent transcations. Can also explain what you are having issues with so they have to listen.

presidential candidate troller:
automatically tweets at any candidate. Trolls them with their issues.

who wrote this headline:
Picks our random headlines from diff orgs from same topic, then you play game to guess who wrote which headline.

Im Not Racist:
Points by not being racist. If you slip, you cash in those points.

We Ho:
Ho out your wifi. Make it available to all people. People pay by liking your social media

Filter out the racist friends you discover you have on Facebook after major news event

Dicking Around:
Dating site based on your browser history.

Text to Emoji:
Give it the words you wanna use in a text message and it translates to emoji

Painting with Googly eyes:
Replaces eyes in classic paintings with googly eyes

Hit Points:
Assess the physical and mental prowess of those around you

Look UP:
Reminds you to look up. Assess your own mortality. Look around you

Face Place:
Change your background on Google Hangouts or video conferences.

Put in event you are at, and it tells you everything you are missing out on. button can help you bail and do cooler thing.

Bulk Book Plot Summaries:
App that aggregates plots of all books on Kindles, and gives you one book to read.

Spoilers Revenge:
For people who spoil shows, the bot will reply to them with spoilers of other stuff.

Thirst Bot:
Dudes all on your twitter, then bot will let them know you know they are all over your twitter. and block them

Cast Away:
Builds story arc our of your own cast

What would Anne Coulter Do? App to give you that answer

Hot Or Not Or Not:
Decide if the pic was from hot or not or if it was not from hot or not.

has a drone:
If anybody wants to use the drone, she has one

Pimp My Life:
Adds video, music, new things to live feed to make your life seem more amazing.

block your heartbreak:
Blocks a person who you are heart broken over until you are in new relationship status. Can also change your messages to benign things

Cultural reference drop:
It gives you appropriate cultural reference. If you are in artsy scenario, it gives you arts references. Up vote and judge the references.

Presents you with 5 people, one is FB friend, and if you can’t tell you delete or force interaction

Stereotype Yourself:
Self explantory

Flash Porn:
Every gesture reveals a type of pron

Google Maps For PArents:
Format Google Maps directions in parent-speak for them. e.g. Third left, go to McDonalds, biridge is too far.

Phone Use You:
Lets phone use you to give back a little. Says clean my screen. Jump around and entertain me.

Filter Out Better People:
Filter out everyone doing better than you on Facebook. Only see stuff with fewer likes.

Writers will comment good arguments on your posts to make it look better and you have smart friends.

Did You Mean Google:
Use Bing API to pair Google results with a bunch of ads for Bing

Go Away:
Give a number, and that number will harass the person who you gave it to.

Like what you read? Give Baratunde Thurston a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.