Voice assistants are still dumb computers programmed to provide you answers to questions and control your Spotify playlist. But just once, I’d love my Google Home to help me out with a joke or two when my brother comes over. After all, what’s the use of a voice assistant if it can’t help you roast your friends? With the help of IFTTT (If This Then That), make your voice assistant say whatever you want (within reason) and pull a few pranks on unsuspecting friends and family. Or, if you’re me, get it to deliver some choice insults to the people you love most.
It’s Evil Week at Lifehacker, which means we’re looking into less-than-seemly methods for getting things done. We like to think we’re shedding light on these tactics as a way to help you do the opposite, but if you are, in fact, evil, you might find this week unironically helpful. That’s up to you.
Creating Jokes Out of IFTTT Applets
To get started configuring your voice assistant for some good old-fashioned ribbing, you’ll need to download the IFTTT app (the web version works just fine, too). IFTTT makes it easy to link services together and trigger actions based on certain conditions (for example, you can get a text message every time rain is in the forecast). IFTTT features integration with both Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant, which powers Google Home. You can learn how to take full advantage of the online platform with our guide to IFTTT.
To link IFTTT to your voice assistants, select your account to create a new applet, and search for the Google Assistant. From there, after granting IFTTT permission to access your Google Assistant, you can choose one of four trigger options, each offering varying granularity concerning particular words or numbers.
After choosing a trigger option, you’ll have to fill in the information fields and provide the applet with your instructions. You can add a command, along with two other optional commands that will provide the same single response. For example, you can tell Google to respond to the phrase “My brother’s visiting,” or “The dog’s back from his walk,” with the response, “Oh, so that’s what smells so bad in here?”
After filling out your command and Google Assistant’s response, you’ll need to pick an action, even if you just want to hear a joke. You can add all kinds of actions, such as flashing your smart lights or sending a text message to your phone, but as a workaround you can simply point IFTTT to something that will live behind the scenes. Choose a service such as Google Drive, and have Google Assistant append to a document or spreadsheet. It will create a new document or spreadsheet named “Google Voice Simple Commands” and let you add whatever text you decide to it. Now, every time you say your bad joke, Google will add your chosen text to the Google Voice Simple Commands document.
While I’d much rather my voice assistant drive the joke home with a “What the f*ck is that aroma?”, it isn’t that easy. If you want to enter some profanity, go right ahead, but the voice assistant is somewhat prudish. Google doesn’t play nice with bad words, and will censor them (which is pretty funny in its own right). You can always misspell the words and see how far your luck takes you. If you know you’re having guests for dinner, and want to pull one over on them with the help of your computerised friend in a speaker, IFTTT makes it simple enough to get an insult or two off before they realise what’s up.