Harry Potter met Lady Gaga at a Truck Stop in Nevada

Try Not to Laugh -- the pinnacle of pass-the-paper-games

Try Not To Laugh

This game is the pinnacle of pass-the-paper games. Or if it’s not, I want to know what is. I used to play it all the time with friends in my 20’s, all those nights a handful of people would find themselves hanging around a living room, those nights that don’t seem to happen now we’re all nuclear families and parents and adults with a capital DOLT instead of semi-aimless semi-adults renting rooms in shared houses. Anyway. I learned it first as a semi-adult game – it can definitely get risqué in the wrong (or right!) crowd – but I loved it so much I brought it into the classroom, where the kids are young enough it doesn’t tend to get too suggestive, but is still hilarious.

I learned it with some gratuitous gender roles and the truly terrible name “He Said, She Said.” But it’s the 21st century, so we’ve shaken up the gender stereotypes and changed the name to Try Not to Laugh.

So yeah – just try.

The Rules

Basically, Try Not to Laugh is a kind of pass-the-paper Mad Libs game. Using the answers people have written on papers, you’ll construct formulaic and hilarious stories. Here’s what to do:

  • Everyone needs a piece of paper and a pencil.

  • On each piece of paper, you’re going to write the answer that could fill in a blank (more on what to write in a second), then you are going to FOLD OVER YOUR WRITING SO IT IS HIDDEN and pass the paper to the person to your left.

  • On the first paper you get, write an answer to the first category below. On the second, write an answer to the second, etc:

    1.     A person’s name that everyone knows, famous, fictional, or friend.

    2. Another person’s name.

    3. A place.

    4. What the first person says.

    5. What the second person replies.

    6. What they do about it.

    7. The moral of the story.

  • Your answers will all go on different papers, so it’s better if they aren’t connected to each other. Write a random answer each time.

  • Everyone should write one answer to each category, and each paper should have one answer for each category. It’s very important that the papers stay in order. If they don’t, the stories get scrambled.

  • For new players, it can help to co-ordinate passing the paper: “Now everyone pass to the left and write a place on your new piece of paper.”

When all the categories have been answered, unfold the papers and read them as follows:

[Person One] met [Person Two] in [Place]. [Person One] said [What the first person says]. [Person Two] replied [What the second person replied]. They [do what they do about it]. And the moral of the story is [The moral of the story].

So if your paper reads:

  • Harry Potter

  • Lady Gaga

  • A Truck stop in Nevada

  • “One is the loneliest number.”

  • “I’ve always preferred watermelon candy.”

  • Hand sanitize and mask up

  • You win some, you lose some.

then your story would go:

“Harry Potter met Lady Gaga at a truck stop in Nevada. He said to her, ‘One is the loneliest number,’ and she replied, ‘I’ve always preferred watermelon candy.’ So they hand sanitized and masked up, and the moral of the story is, you win some, you lose some.”

(It’s really hard to give a decent example of this game, since all the example answers had to come from only one brain — but you get the gist.)

Trust me! It’s worth it!

This game is fussier than many – it needs an organizing hand or mature and focused players, but it’s great. My students would play it every week if I let them. And I still remember a long ago family Christmas (was it the one where my dad leaned back on a candle and had a tiny flame rising from the top of his unknowing head until my sister leapt across the room and whacked him with a book?) when this game put me on the top of the Empire State Building with Johnny Depp. He asked, “Have you ever been in the back of a 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air?” and I replied, “Um, I’m not pregnant.”

I’ll leave you to decide the moral of that story.

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