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What are Mad Libs™?

Jessica Ellis
By
Updated May 23, 2024
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Mad Libs™ are the ultimate car-trip game, a feverish quest for the funniest words and most inadvertent puns. In addition to being a useful tool for teaching the parts of speech, playing Mad Libs™ can be fun for all ages. By creating short stories with key words removed, Mad Libs™ allows you to create your own wacky version, often leading to hilarity run amok.

In 1953, TV writer Leonard Stern and his friend Roger Price famously came up with the concept of Mad Libs™ while hunting for descriptive adjectives for a Honeymooners script. Suddenly obsessed with their new idea, Price and Stern dropped work on the book they were writing together and worked whole hog on their new funny stories. When published in 1958, the game quickly received media attention through Stern’s contacts, and began to sell out in every location.

A traditional Mad Lib™ uses a short subject story, such as a letter home from camp, facts about dinosaurs, or the moon. From the story, key words are removed in several categories, including nouns, verbs, adjectives, numbers and people’s names. One player can see the story, and is in charge of getting words from other players that fit the missing categories. No one but the person with the Mad Libs™ pad should be allowed to know the subject or any other details of the story. Once all the empty spaces are filled, the completed story is read aloud, and generally the laughing begins.

Since the original book of Mad Libs™ was published in 1958, many different versions have been released by Stern and Price. Some of these have specific themes for the entire book, such as outer space, monsters, or school. Recently, books have been released with movie or television themes, including ones for Family Guy, Kung Fu Panda and Indiana Jones. Each page of these books will relate to a different element of the theme, and can result in hours of fun.

Mad Libs™ can easily be played on your own, without revealing too much information about the subject. On the back of each page is a sequential list of the words required for the following page, which the solo player can fill in and then add to the next game. Single players should be warned to play with some caution however, as howling with laughter over a great line can result in many odd looks in your direction. If this occurs, offer to let anyone nearby join in the game: two people laughing hysterically are far more socially acceptable than one.

Mad Libs™ are wonderful for long car trips and parties, and can truly be enjoyed by anyone with a grasp of vocabulary. The hunt for verbs, adjectives and nouns can be beneficial to children, as it will improve their concepts of word categories. Yet educational value aside, the game is highly enjoyable, and remains a consistently popular novelty gift.

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Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for Sports n' Hobbies. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
Discussion Comments
By cayenne — On Jul 31, 2008

Mad Libs are also really good for teachers - elementary school teachers or anyone trying to teach grammar - because the kids/students have to come up with adjectives, nouns, plural nouns, adverbs, verbs, and it's great practice but totally not boring at all. I highly recommend them.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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