Tag Archives: Get Smart

It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad lib

When I was a kid, they didn’t make cars with DVD players in them. Even when my son was little, we never had such a thing in the car.

When we went on long trips, we played games like Twenty Questions, “I went to the supermarket” and a word game called Ghost.

Often when we got to our vacation destinations, and there was no television, we played games. I recall many seasons as a kid in Ocean City, playing Mad Libs. I cut my little word nymph teeth on Mad Libs.

For those who don’t remember, Mad Libs were–still are, I guess–short stories written with blanks in them. The blanks call for certain parts of speech to be inserted in various places in sentences within the story. The person who holds the book asks his or her play mates for nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs and exclamations, and occasionally, names of body parts or famous people, which, of course, are provided arbitrarily and without context. After all the blanks are filled, the holder of the book reads the story aloud. Hilarity ensues.

This past Monday, Leonard Stern, co-creator of Mad Libs, died at the age of 88. Amusingly, his Washington Post obituary was written in Mad Lib form:

“As a writer, director and producer, Leonard Stern was a legendary (noun) in show business. He had an (adjective) career that took him to (geographic place) with (celebrity name). Fond of (article of clothing), standing (a number) feet tall with a gray (body part), he (verb) more than a share of (noun), including (liquid).”

I was interested to learn also that Stern was a writer and producer of “The Honeymooners,”  “Get Smart” and a few other classic sitcoms. Apparently, Stern got the idea for Mad Libs when looking for an adjective for a Honeymooners script. He and a friend then began writing stories with blanks in them and took them to cocktail parties; the rest is history.

Yesterday I discovered a website that allows you to play Mad Libs online.*

Maybe on your next family trip to the shore—or at your next cocktail party—you can pull out your iPhone, log in and have a rip-roaring good time.

Rest in peace, Leonard Stern. You were a (adjective) (noun).

*By the way, I tested the Mad Lib-generating website. You can only imagine what I did to Hamlet’s third soliloquy.

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Spywear

Here in the nation’s capital, just as it seems things can’t get any weirder than our weather dominating headlines, we’ve busted open a ring of Russian spies and, over the weekend, began trading Russia theirs for a couple of our own.

As this was happening, I had the same gut reaction I had last summer when our government was battling Somali pirates.  Pirates?  Really? 

Russian Spies?  The Cold War ended 20 years ago, so I confess, I haven’t given spies much thought since.  Except, of course, during the arrest of Robert Hanssen, who sold U.S. secrets to the Russians for diamonds and cash.  That was fun.

Before that, though, I had not given Russian spies any thought since, oh, the last time I watched Bullwinkle.  Or Get Smart.  I was a child of the 1960s but never experienced firsthand an air raid drill.  In essence, I never felt the threat of potential communist attack personally.

At a young age, my frame of reference came from bumbling television spies.  Agents 86 and 99 were the good guys, fighting the fictitious enemy, KAOS, an international organization of evil.  And the real reason I rooted for the good guys was that, at age of seven, I wanted to be Barbara Feldon.

Back then, the enemy could be pretty sexy as well.  Take Natasha Fatale, for example.  Natasha’s character on the Bullwinkle cartoon was svelte and always wore a clingy cartoon cocktail dress.  She and Boris were wily spies from the fictitious nation of Pottsylvania, trying to outsmart a stupid moose.  We didn’t know where Pottsylvania was but its spies spoke with Eastern European accents.  

This summer, as the recent spy-busting events unfolded, national attention zoomed in on one particular accused Russian spy, 28-year-old Anna Chapman, nickname, Lady in Red.  Va-va-va-voom!  When she wasn’t collecting secrets she was posing for suggestive photographs (the most famous of which looks like she’s wearing Natasha’s cocktail dress), working as a real estate agent in New York City and living a seemingly normal life on Facebook.

Apparently, she let her guard down one time too many and, before she knew it, her cover was blown, along with the covers of her compatriots.  Whoops. 

Obviously, I am not the first to make the Anna-Natasha connection.  You can’t ignore the parallels.

But I am betting Natasha never came out of that red cartoon cocktail dress.  It was the 1960s after all, people had their modesty.  Plus, Facebook hadn’t been invented yet.

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