For those of you who don’t know, Mad Libs is a game in which two people sit on opposite sides of a table. One reads while the other tries to think of witty words to fill in conversational gaps. There are a lot of “ums.” And then, if you’re doing it right, your sentences turn out silly and embarrassing, and everybody laughs and laughs.
This systems works out especially great for me, as it’s the exact social dynamic as every date I’ve ever been on.
It goes a little something like this: Let’s say you’re told to pick a noun, a proper noun, a verb and an adjective. You might pick bumblebees (n: bees that bumble); Ace Ventura Pet Detective (proper n: wild-haired bounty hunter, exclusively for animals); corn-on-the-cobbed (v: to eat something typewriter style, as if it were corn-on-the-cob) and radical (adj.: see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).
Then you fill in the blanks.
It was a funeral, so I bought a bouquet of bumblebees to soften the blow. “My condolences,” I said to Ace Ventura Pet Detective, who wiped tears from his eyes and told me it was cancer. “Terminal,” he said. “The world is cold and dark. Life is meaningless.” Then he gently corn-on-the-cobbed on my shoulder, and I felt very radical.
See? Comic gold.
The only problem with Mad Libs books is that, eventually, they end. After catching your breath from that last pirate-themed worksheet and tending to your split sides, you flip to the next page and, bam, nothing but white.
This is what happened to me last weekend, when I revisited Mad Libs for the first time in years. I was elated (adj.), exuberant (adj.) and euphorically (made-up adv.) exalted (adj.). And then it all came to an end.
That’s when I got angry.
So, using my fastidious (adj.) investigative journalism skills, I started digging.
“It’s high time somebody writes a strongly worded letter this Mad Libs creator to inform him that his game has a serious design flaw,” I told my playing partner, rummaging through encyclopedias and phone books. “Who does this scam artist think he is?!”
Due to the aforementioned skills, it didn’t take long to uncover some startling facts.
1) Mad Libs made its world premier in 1958 — which, of course, only fueled my fury. “Think of all the years before 1958 when there was no Mad Libs!” I said to my cohort, who was quickly losing interest in this idea, and this night, and me.
2) Mad Libs was created by the humorist and publisher Roger Price, and the Emmy-winning Leonard Stern, who wrote a ton of episodes of “Get Smart” and “The Honeymooners.”
3) Price and Stern are both dead, which means I can’t tell them off.
Beyond inconsolable (adj.) at this point, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Not only was I going to solve the world’s Mad Lib-deficiency crisis, but I was going to write that letter, too — in a way I knew Stern and Price would have understood.
Pick a noun, an adjective, an exclamation, a noun, a verb, an adverb, a noun, an adverb and a proper noun.
Now, fill in the blanks.
Dear Leo and Rog,
I have a (NOUN) to pick with you.
I was having a (ADJECTIVE) time playing Mad Libs tonight when I reached the end of the book.
“(EXCLAMATION)!” I yelled to my (NOUN). Then I (VERB) through the streets, screaming (ADVERB).
I’ll thank you in advance for a refund. Needless to say, I want my (NOUN) back.