From the Crap Archives: Wacky Summer Mad Libs


Your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from basements, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets. I do this for one reason: Knowledge is power.

Wacky Summer Mad Libs

Author: Roger Price, Leonard Stern and deeply bored, anonymous children

Publisher: Scholastic

Date: 1988

Discovered at: Thrift store

Representative Quote:
 “If none of these smell activities appeal to you, take up a/an fat hobby such as saving dogs or learning how to cook Chinese dinosaurs (page 13)”.

At first glance, Wacky Summer Mad Libs offers little more than just Mad Libs slightly wackier and more summery than the norm. Your Crap Archivst, however, encourages you to roll up your sleeves and delve. Only by digging does crap yield its riches. In this sheaf of used Mad Libs, we have not just a sample of late-’80s grammar-related absurdity. We have, instead, a human and revealing narrative of the id, repression and the contemporary American family.

The completed Mad Libs here have been filled in by three different writers. The first we’ll call Thick-Penciled Child, who at first seems to be a sloppy and witless kid:

Then we have the older, more daring Red-Penned Sibling. Red-Penned Sibling’s early work is no less uninvolving than Thick-Penciled Child’s: lots of “cat”s and “desk”s. Only a “Uranus” indicates the spirit chained within. One day, sick of playing it safe, burning with the wildness of youth, Red-Penned Sibling burst free of the stifling conventions of this family.

Here’s the exuberant result:

Yes, this is crass and stupid. And, yes, Red-Penned Sibling misspells “butt,” “penis,” and “vagina.” But let me be perfectly clear. Anyone who finds nothing to savor in the line “Take a fucken basket full of weiners and monkeys to the patients” actually hates freedom.

Notice, though, that the spelling of “butt” has been corrected. In pencil. And that the dirtiest words have all been circled. Clearly, Thick-Penciled Child was both alarmed and enthralled by such irreverence. Perhaps so alarmed that it was Thick-Penciled Child who brought Red-Penned Sibling’s work to the attention of the third character in this drama: Parent With a Pencil.

Parent With a Pencil restores Wacky Summer Mad Libs to bland decorum on the very next page:

And it goes on like that, so dull and joyless that it’s the Mad Lib equivalent of shopping with your mother for itchy new church clothes.

Highlight: Sadly, our story does not end there.

Later, alone, Thick-Penciled Child attempts a Mad Lib. Terrified of both Parent With a Pencil and the feelings stirred by Red-Inked Sibling’s bawdy imagination, the spiritless kid chooses politeness over humor and caution over art. The result is certainly the most heartbreaking Lib in the canon: one filled in with almost nothing but the “right” answers.

Still, there’s hope. There, snuck in at the very end, far past what Parent With a Pencil is likely to read… see that “sexy”?

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 13, 2009

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