Before the advent of electronic games, we actually had to use our imagination to entertain ourselves. And, if wordplay was your thing, you probably played a game called Mad Libs. Popular at parties, road trips or anywhere else where boredom reared its ugly head, this simple, and often hilarious, activity has remained popular for over fifty years.
Mad Libs entered the scene long before the 70s arrived, way back in 1958. They were invented by two comedy writers on The Steve Allen Show, Leonard Stern and Roger Price. The idea was simple, but brilliant.
Various stories were printed on a sheet of paper, each with numerous words replaced by blank spaces. Under the blank spaces, you were instructed as to what kind of word was needed – noun, adjective, color, exclamations, and so on.
One player would serve as a sort of master of ceremonies, asking other players to contribute words that would fill in the blanks. The catch was, those players had no idea of the context in which these words were being used. After all the blanks were filled in, the story was read aloud, often with hilarious results.
Sort of like this:
Harold and his lovely wife ______(name) spent their honeymoon at _________(place), dining on a ________(adjective) assortment of _______(animal) _________(part of the body) and watching the beautiful _________(color) sunset together while sipping a cocktail made from __________(liquid).
The result might be:
Harold and his lovely wife Frank spent their honeymoon at the roller rink, dining on a wet assortment of zebra elbows and watching the beautiful green sunset together while sipping a cocktail made from baby oil.
Each booklet came with a number of stories, which were often released under a series of themes, such as holidays, monster movies, cartoons, bridal showers, etc. One of the most popular was Sooper Dooper Mad Libs, which was released in 1974 and found its way to the bestseller list.
Just about anywhere a group of fun-loving people gathered, there was a good chance that someone might pull out a copy of Mad Libs to liven up the festivities. Car trips, summer camp, slumber parties, picnics – all were perfect occasions to play a rousing round of Mad Libs.
Millions of Mad Libs book have been sold over the years by Price and Stern. The pair released new versions every year since their inception. When Price passed away in 1990, his partner continued the tradition until his own passing in 2011.
But that’s not to say that Mad Libs have disappeared. Quite the contrary. Many of the classic collections from yesteryear are still sold online. A quick search should have you playing in no time!
Do you have fond memories of playing Mad Libs with your friends and family back in the day? I hope you’ll share your recollections with all of us in our comments section below, as we pay tribute to this classic game that entertained millions of us in the 1970s.