200 Linguists Make Chelsea Handler's Dirty Jokes Funny

Netflix explains it hired an army
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2016 12:03 PM CDT
200 Linguists Make Chelsea Handler's Dirty Jokes Funny
In this Jan. 22, 2016, file photo, Chelsea Handler poses for a portrait to promote the film "Chelsea Does" at the Toyota Mirai Music Lodge during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.   (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP, File)

"I think we can all agree that sleeping around is a great way to meet people," or so jokes Chelsea Handler. But how to make the joke hit in Japanese? With the help of an army of linguists, naturally. At least, that's the path Netflix has taken in order to get Chelsea (which debuted May 11) to the many-lingual masses. In a Tuesday blog post, the streaming service explains that it ran some 5,000 linguists through the gauntlet and whittled the group down to about 200 who will, in a 12-hour time frame, translate her late-night show into 20 languages. "The test included subtitling clips from Chelsea's Uganda Be Kidding Me, Orange Is the New Black, and House of Cards, so we could see how well they interpreted vulgarities, slang, US-centric political terms, and idioms such as 'she's as tough as a $2 steak,'" the company explained.

What they describe sounds like a machine: the creation of one master English template using respeaking technology, as well as people live-streaming the episode as it tapes to "get a jump on identifying tricky phrases, cultural references, or public figures" (it gives examples like "Edumacate Me" and the DMV). Variety notes the whole process—taping to being watchable—happens in about 34 hours, but it points out "the craziest thing about all of this" is that what Netflix has developed is so good that an episode could be ready in 20 hours. "But that would mean that viewers in California would get to see it at 10am, as opposed to midnight ... [and Netflix] can't completely ignore the rules of TV schedules for a show like Chelsea in its current biggest market, the US—and Ambien jokes just aren't as funny right after your morning coffee." Fresh episodes post at 12:01am PT, Wednesday through Friday. (More Chelsea Handler stories.)

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