Synopsis of Toy
“World’s Greatest Party Game”
Nothing makes (noun) more (adjective) than a/an (adjective) game of Mad Libs, and you can (verb) that to the (noun)! It’s not an easy thing to do, balancing out-and-out silliness with real educational value, but Mad Libs made it look effortless. How many of us mastered the parts of speech thanks to this addictive little word game? And even after conquering nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs and the like, how many of us still get a chuckle out of a good round of Mad Libs? Educational value aside, there’s just something satisfying about creating gems like, “Gadzooks, Batman! Can’t anybody snorkel my rhinoceros out of this smelly parfait?!”
Co-creators Roger Price and Leonard Stern came up with the Mad Libs idea when the two worked as writers for The Steve Allen Show. Price had already started one game sensation with “Droodles,” but Mad Libs would be an even bigger success.
The concept was so basic, the Mad Libs booklet could promise “Ridiculously Simple Directions on Back Cover.” Each page of a Mad Libs book held a few written paragraphs—anything from short stories to doctor’s notes to beauty tips to business letters to essays like “Why You Should Go To College.” But no matter what the subject or the style of writing, there were always blank spaces, ready to be filled in by Mad Libs players. The spaces were all labeled with parts of speech—noun, verb, adjective, etc.—or with tailor-made items like exclamation, name of person in the room, color, object in the room, and so on. Without looking at the story itself, Mad Libbers filled in the blanks with the first thing that came into their minds. Once all the blanks were filled, the story was read back, complete with your ad-libbed responses. And oh, the hilarity…
The best way to play Mad Libs was in a group of two or more, with one person serving as a kind of “Mad Libs Master,” holding the booklet and writing down the responses. Unfortunately, this method also led to a lot of premature giggling and some frustration on the part of the Mad Libber (“What’s so funny?” “Wait until I read it.” “Just tell me the funny part now!” “No.”) But Mad Libs also made itself available to the solo player. On the flip side of each page was a list of just the blanks, letting you fill in the missing parts without ruining the fun by seeing the story in process.
The first Mad Libs book hit the shelves in 1958, and dozens of sequels and variations followed. Mad Libs were tailored to holidays and events (Bridal Shower Mad Libs, Christmas Mad Libs), and were customized to feature famous characters like Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, The Flintstones, Barbie, Popeye and Scooby-Doo. 1974’s Sooper Dooper Mad Libs became one of the best-selling children’s books of all time, and The Original Mad Libs #1 continues to be a popular buy today.
Price and Stern wrote new Mad Libs every year until Price’s death in 1990, and Stern carried on alone after that. The books have become a rite of passage for kids everywhere, and many a budding comedy writer still gets his first real training by thinking up funny ways to complete lines like “I’m sorry, Mrs. (last name), I lost my (adjective) (noun) and I had to (verb) (adverb) all the way to (place)!”