© 1996 by Dan Kimberg and Yuko Munakata
Welcome to the Celebrity Page!
Celebrity is a party game for 9-20 people. You may have
played a similar game under a different name, or a different game under
the same name. Or you might never have played any game with any resemblance
to it whatsoever.
Disclaimer: Celebrity is a pretty sedate game in that it doesn't involve
heavy drinking, recreational drugs, emergency medical services, etc.
At least not necessarily. It's probably not a good
drinking game, and in general if there are a lot of drunk people at your
party, it's probably not going to fly. On the other hand, if your plan
is more along the lines of having a dozen or so friends over for dinner,
Celebrity might be fun. Especially if I'm going to be there.
The Celebrity Page is part of the
Useless Page Project ®.
You will need:
(The general idea is that you should have enough stuff for the number
of people you have. If you have ten people, you will probably only
need ten pens or pencils, although you can get by with fewer if
people can share. Of course, if you're using pencils, someone will
probably snap off a point or two, so you might want to have an extra.
Pens can also run out of ink, start leaking, etc. For additional
information on this topic, consult your writing implement manufacturer,
local library, or consumer advocacy group.)
- 9-20 people
- 9-20 pencils or pens
- 18-40 8½ x 11 sheets of paper (or smaller sheets of paper adding up to
roughly the same surface area)
- 1 hat, pumpkin-shaped halloween basket, or other receptacle
for 70-200 little slips of paper
Before the game really starts, a little preparation is needed:
Now you're ready to play.
- Everyone in the room gets a sheet of paper, to be divided into
eight smaller pieces.
Everyone writes one name on each piece of paper.
All the pieces of paper are placed into a hat.
Teams are selected randomly.
The basic idea is that the hat (or whatever the paper slips are in)
passes around the room clockwise, from team to team. On each team's turn,
one player is selected to give clues (a different player each time, teams
are expected to rotate their players in sequence). That player is given
one minute to try to make his/her teammates guess as many names from the
hat as they can. The team's score for each turn is the number of names
correctly identified during that turn, minus any penalties. When there are
no slips left, or when no one feels like playing anymore, the team with the
most points wins.
What's a legal clue?
The most important and most obvious rule is that, when giving clues, you're
not allowed to say any part of the name itself. So if the name is John
Doe, you can't say, "Jane Doe's brother," but you can say, "that name they
give to unidentified people." A corollary to this is that you also can't
give direct clues about the spelling or pronunciation (i.e., surface
form) of the name. That is, you can't say, "the last name begins with D,"
or "last name begins with the same letter as Denver." Both of these are
direct in the sense that you yourself would be providing the surface
feature you're trying to convey. On the other hand, you could say "the
last name begins with the same letter as the name of that cartoon flying
An alternative rule is that no name whatsoever may be given as a clue. In other
words, your clue for Elmer Fudd can't involve actually saying "Bugs." Try the
game both ways and do whatever you like best.
The penalty for giving an illegal clue is 1 point. If, during the course of
a turn, your team guesses the first name, you give an illegal clue for the second
name, and then you run out of time while giving clues for the third,
your team's total score for that turn is 0.
What's a legal name?
The name of any person or animal, fictional or real, is legal. Characters
in movies, novels, songs, or television shows are all legal. Celebrities,
relatives, imaginary friends, and pets are all legal. Pets in songs are
legal. Imaginary friends of real friends are legal. Plants are... well,
borderline, but Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors is clearly legal. The
major proviso is that at least two other people in the room have to know
the entire name. If you decide to use the name of your second grade
teacher, or the author of an obscure technical reference, you'd better take
a long hard look around the room first.
It is considered poor form, and
possibly a violation of house rules, to use a name well-known to a clearly
defined proper subset of the players. For example, if the players are
mostly members of a psychology department, plus a few spouses or other friends,
don't pick names known only to psychologists, and don't
use the name of the department's computer support person, unless s/he is a
world-famous computer support person.
What's a good name?
Tastes differ, but some things are definitely not a good name. A good name
is not the name of somebody in the room, since gestures are perfectly
legal. A good name is not somebody for whom an incredibly obvious clue
exists (e.g., "the president"). The game is no fun if the hat is packed
with gimmes. On the other hand, you have to pick names people have heard
of, so you can't get too obscure. I personally lean towards names that
people know but haven't thought of in a while - names that are moderately
well known but often forgotten. For example, actors in old TV shows are
often good. But don't fall into the trap of using the same names over and
over (especially Dick York).
What counts as a correct answer?
If someone wrote down George Herbert Stanley Edward Herbert Walker Dweezil
Herbert Bush XIV, are you obligated to get your entire team to guess the
name as it's written? The anwer to this question is: it depends. If the
individual is or was well known by the entire
name as written, then you have to get it all. On the other hand, you don't
have to know the middle names of actors who don't use their middle names,
even if they mentioned it on Entertainment Tonight last week. And nobody's
required to know what all the R's in J.R.R. Tolkien stand for, although to
get it right you have to produce the right number of them.
What happens if an illegal name screws up someone's entire turn?
If you draw an illegal name in the middle of a turn, you have two choices:
you can contest it immediately, or you can try to get your team to guess
it. If you contest it, the clock is stopped while things are sorted out.
In this case, I favor a fifteen second penalty if the name turns out to be
legal, and a two point penalty for whoever submitted it if the name turns
out to be bogus. Of course, if that illegal name was submitted by someone
on your team, you're out of luck.
If you decide not to challenge it, or not immediately, and it screws up
your turn, I suggest that you ask the timekeeper to estimate how much time
you lost, and play that out, with a two point penalty to the offender.
What do you do with the name you're working on when time runs out?
Put it back in the hat.
Why 9-20 players?
It's good to have at least three teams, and four is better. With only
two teams, half the names picked will have been submitted by someone on the
team guessing. This is less fun, so you'd like to have it happen less
often. You also want at least three on a team, because two is just silly.
What are my obligations if I play Celebrity?
If you play celebrity because you saw this page, and
have a great time, you're obligated to send me email.
Obviously, you can manipulate the length of the game by giving everyone
more or fewer slips of paper at the beginning, or by giving more or less
than a minute per turn. Ten slips of paper will kill a few hours pretty
A fun thing to do after all the slips have run out is to put the slips back
into the hat and play again with single-word clues. Players take turns
drawing a single slip of paper from the hat and giving just one word as a
clue. This time, names are allowed, but all the other restrictions stand.
Members of any team can guess, and the first correct answer gets a point.
You can try either passing the hat after every clue or letting a player
keep picking names until no one gets it. It's probably fairer to keep
passing the hat, as the team with the hat is short one guesser, and this
can be a bigger problem if the teams are uneven.
Finally, we once played with the following rule: if it's your birthday, you can get
away with one bogus name. The bogus name on this occasion turned out to be
"Jurgen Hösenflüegen." Like I said, we only used the rule once.