Mad Libs

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The cover of a Stern and Price Mad Libs book

Mad Libs is a phrasal template word game which consists of one player prompting others for a list of words to substitute for blanks in a story before reading aloud. The game is frequently played as a party game or as a pastime.

The game was invented in the United States, and more than 110 million copies of Mad Libs books have been sold since the series was first published in 1958.[1]


Mad Libs was invented in 1953[2] by Leonard Stern[3][4][5] and Roger Price.[1] Stern and Price co-created the game, but could not agree on a name for their invention.[1] No name was chosen until five years later (1958), when Stern and Price were eating Eggs Benedict at a restaurant in New York City. While eating, the two overheard an argument at a neighboring table between a talent agent and an actor.[1] According to Price and Stern, during the overheard argument, the actor said that he wanted to "ad-lib" an upcoming interview. The agent, who clearly disagreed with the actor's suggestion, retorted that ad-libbing an interview would be "mad".[1] Stern and Price used that eavesdropped conversation to create, at length, the name "Mad Libs".[1] In 1958, the duo released the first book of Mad Libs, which resembled the earlier games[6] of consequences and exquisite corpse.

Stern was head writer and comedy director for The Steve Allen Show, and suggested to the show's host that guests be introduced using Mad Libs completed by the audience. Four days after an episode introduced "our guest NOUN, Bob Hope", bookstores sold out of Mad Libs books.[7]

Stern and Price next partnered with Larry Sloan, a high school friend who was working as a publicist at the time, to continue publishing Mad Libs.[8] Together, the three founded the publishing firm Price Stern Sloan in the early 1960s as a way to release Mad Libs.[9] In addition to releasing more than 70 editions of Mad Libs under Sloan, the company also published 150 softcover books, including such notable titles as How to Be a Jewish Mother, first released in 1964; Droodles, which was also created by Roger Price; The VIP Desk Diary; and the series World's Worst Jokes.[1][8]

Price died in 1990, and three years later, Sloan and Stern sold Price Stern Sloan, including Mad Libs, to the former Putnam Berkley Group, which is now known as Penguin Random House.[8] Mad Libs books are still published by Penguin Random House; however, all references to Price Stern Sloan have been removed from the company's official website. Stern died at age 88 on June 7, 2011,[10] and Sloan on October 14, 2012.[1][8][9]

More than 110 million copies of Mad Libs have been sold since the game series was first published in 1958.[1]

Predecessors of Mad Libs[edit]

It is unclear whether the creators of Mad Libs were aware of existing games and books similar to their own. One such gamecock is Revelations about my Friends, published anonymously by Fredrick A. Stokes Companies in New York in 1912[11][7]. Like Mad Libs, the book invites the reader to choose words of different categories which then become part of a story. The nineteenth century parlour game "Consequences" and the surrealists' Exquisite Corpse game are also similar to Mad Libs.


Mad Libs books contain short stories on each page with many key words replaced with blanks. Beneath each blank is specified a category, such as "noun", "verb", "place", "celebrity," "Exclamation" or "part of the body".[12] One player asks the other players, in turn, to contribute a word of the specified type for each blank, but without revealing the context for that word. Finally, the completed story is read aloud. The result is usually a sentence which is comical, surreal and/or takes on somewhat of a nonsensical tone.

Stern and Price's original Mad Libs book gives the following sentence as an example:[13]

 "___________! he said ________ as he jumped into his convertible ______ and drove off with his _________ wife."
exclamation           adverb                                     noun                         adjective 

After completion, they demonstrate that the sentence might read:

 "Ouch! he said stupidly as he jumped into his convertible cat and drove off with his brave wife."


  • Dysfunctional Family Therapy (Mad Libs) – ISBN 1-59609-181-9
  • Night of the Living Mad Libs (Mad Libs)- ISBN 978-0843137354
  • Once Upon A Mad Libs Junior (Mad Libs Junior) – ISBN 0-8431-0768-5
  • Mad Libs 40th Anniversary Edition (Mad Libs) – ISBN 0-8431-7823-X
  • Mad Libs 50th Anniversary Edition (Mad Libs)
  • I Love My Pets Mad Libs Junior
  • Hatchimals Mad Libs Junior
  • Sports Star Mad Libs Junior (Mad Libs Junior) – ISBN 0-8431-0770-7
  • School Rules! Mad Libs Junior (Mad Libs Junior) – ISBN 0-8431-0853-3
  • Animals, Animals, Animals! Mad Libs Junior (Mad Libs Junior) – ISBN 0-8431-0951-3
  • Keepers and Losers Mad Libs (Mad Libs) – ISBN 1-59609-150-9
  • Mad Libs from Outer Space (Mad Libs) – ISBN 0-8431-2443-1
  • Camp Daze Mad Libs (Mad Libs) – ISBN 0-8431-2239-0
  • Mad Libs for President (Mad Libs) – ISBN 0-439-69679-8
  • Scooby-Doo Halloween and Mystery Mad Libs Hanna-Barbera
  • The Powerpuff Girls Mad Libs – ISBN 0-8431-7738-1 (2002 and 2016)
  • Family Guy Mad Libs
  • American Dad! Mad Libs
  • Star Wars Mad Libs – ISBN 0-8431-3271-X
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars Mad Libs – ISBN 0-8431-3357-0
  • Operation(TM) Mad Libs – ISBN 0-8431-2090-8
  • Prime-Time Mad Libs
  • Indiana Jones Mad Libs
  • Club Penguin Mad Libs
  • How To Train Your Dragon Mad Libs
  • Fear Factor Mad Libs – ISBN 0-8431-0664-6
  • Fear Factor Mad Libs: Ultimate Grossout! – ISBN 0-8431-1157-7
  • The Penguins of Madagascar Mad Libs – ISBN 0-8431-9816-8
  • WWE Mad Libs – ISBN 978-0-8431-9882-9
  • Merry Christmas My First Mad Libs
  • Dora the Explorer My First Mad Libs and Mad Libs Junior
  • Trains, Trains, Trains My First Mad Libs
  • Backyardigans My First Mad Libs
  • Star Trek Mad Libs – ISBN 9780843183641
  • Gravity Falls Mad Libs
  • Sonic the Hedgehog Mad Libs
  • Bob's Burgers Mad Libs
  • Rick and Morty Mad Libs
  • Don't Get Mad Libs, Get Even Funnier
  • Rick and Morty's Mad Libs Joke Book
  • The Original Number One Mad Libs
  • 90s Mad Libs
  • 80s Mad Libs
  • 70s Mad Libs
  • Jojo Siwa Mad Libs

Other media[edit]

A game show called Mad Libs, with some connections to the game, aired on the Disney Channel in 1998 and 1999.

Several imitations of Mad Libs have been created, most of them on the Internet. Imitation Mad Libs are sometimes used in educational settings to help teach the parts of speech.[12][14]

Looney Labs released Mad Libs: The Game, a card game, in 2016.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Wang, Regina (October 18, 2012). "'Mad Libs' Publisher Larry Sloan Dies". TIME. Retrieved November 17, 2012.
  2. ^ "As Mad Libs turn 50, play an exclusive game". Today. MSNBC. April 16, 2008. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  3. ^ Duralde, Alonso (January 12, 2012). "Review: 'Contraband' Operates by the Numbers, Loses Count". Reuters. Retrieved January 23, 2012.
  4. ^ "A look back at 2011's notable departures –". December 30, 2011. Retrieved January 23, 2012.
  5. ^ "Leonard B. Stern, Creator of Mad Libs, Dies at 88". The New York Times. June 9, 2011.
  6. ^ Weekend Edition Saturday (February 24, 2007). "'Revelations' About a Precursor to 'Mad Libs'". NPR. Retrieved January 23, 2012.
  7. ^ a b Stern, Leonard. "The History of Mad Libs". Retrieved March 22, 2017.
  8. ^ a b c d Werris, Wendy (October 15, 2012). "Obituary: Larry Sloan, 89". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved November 17, 2012.
  9. ^ a b Nelson, Valerie J. (October 17, 2012). "Larry Sloan dies at 89; co-founder of 'Mad Libs' publisher". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 17, 2012.
  10. ^ Fox, Margalit (June 9, 2011). "Leonard B. Stern, Creator of Mad Libs, Dies at 88". The New York Times.
  11. ^ Anonymous (1912). Revelations of my Friends. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company Publishers.
  12. ^ a b "Mad Libs and Dangling Participles – SchoolBook". January 9, 2012. Retrieved January 23, 2012.
  13. ^ Price, Roger; Leonard Stern (1974). The Original Mad Libs 1. Price Stern Sloan. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-8431-0055-6.
  14. ^ "Schools Scramble to Prepare Students". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. October 7, 2002. Retrieved January 23, 2012.

External links[edit]