What a lot of people (myself included) might not know about the creator of the classic word game is that he was a television writer long before he invented Mad Libs. He wrote for “The Honeymooners” and “Get Smart”. In fact, Leonard was responsible for creating the amazing opening sequence to the show and served as executive producer:
Mad Libs had its unofficial birth in 1953 when Stern became stumped while writing a scene for ‘The Honeymooners.’ His friend, Roger Price, was in the room. He recalled the moment to Publisher’s Weekly in 2008.
“I was trying to find the right word to describe the nose of Ralph Kramden’s new boss,” Stern recalled. “So I asked Roger for an idea for an adjective and before I could tell him what it was describing, he threw out ‘clumsy’ and ‘naked.’ We both started laughing. We sat down and wrote a bunch of stories with blanks in them. That night we took them to a cocktail party and they were a great success.”
Five years later, they came up with the name when they overheard an actor tell his agent that he was going to “ad-lib” an interview. The agent said the idea was “mad.”
To date, more than 110 million copies of Mad Libs have been sold.
The New York City native is survived by his wife, actress Gloria Stroock, a son and daughter; two grandsons and a great-granddaughter.