Looking for a way to attract audiences to stand-up comedy clubs, besides promising that they won’t have any stand-up comedy in them, a club in Barcelona is experimenting with charging its customers by the laugh. The strategy involves using facial recognition technology, as captured by tablets on the back of every seat—since nothing puts customers at ease more than knowing their faces are being monitored and analyzed at all times. This technology tracks the telltale signs of Spaniards enjoying themselves, such as hitching their boots rakishly atop a wine barrel, loosening their blouses to wave wantonly in the breeze, grabbing their lover and lustily embracing all that life has to offer, or chuckling at a joke about the differences between Basques and Catalans.
These signs are then recorded and tabulated at a price of .30 euros per laugh, capping off at a maximum of 24 euros, for a night of particularly ribald entertainment. And so far the gimmick seems to be working: After suffering a blow from increased government taxes on theater tickets, resulting in huge drops in attendance, overall, prices per ticket are now up by 6 euros. Now the system is being copied in comedy clubs all across Spain, suggesting that it could spread to others around the world, and that Dane Cook could soon go broke.