While combing the web to see which of my favorite actors will be appearing on new and returning TV shows this season, I learned that Shohreh Aghdashloo will have a recurring role on The Mob Doctor on FOX. Ah, Shohreh. How do I begin to describe my love/hate relationship with you? Shohreh, Shohreh, Shohreh. I love you for your exceptional beauty, your insane talent, your throaty sexy voice, your appearance in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2. But it’s that very love for you that prompted me to include your name in an especially competitive game of Celebrity, and your name ultimately came back to bite me in the arse. I don’t quickly recover from such things.
I assume that everyone knows, plays and loves Celebrity, but I’ll provide a little 101 just in case. After the dessert plates have been cleared at a dinner party for a dozen that includes your nearest and dearest and some new acquaintances, you bring out a large bowl, paper you have secretly and conveniently pre-cut into strips about a half inch tall and three inches wide, and 12 uni-ball (TM) Vision Elite (R) pens. You ask everyone to write down the names of celebrities — actors, singers, politicians, athletes, historical figures, etc., one per piece of paper — and fold them in half and place them in the aforementioned bowl. Folks can submit as many as they like, but I like to keep the number to around 20 per player. You then divide up into four teams of three.
Determining teams can be a game unto itself. My friend Courtney and I like to use those very same strips of paper to create four sets of triples. For example: 1.) Starbuck Sizes (Tall, Grande, Venti) 2.) Hunger Games Love Triangle (Katniss, Peeta, Gale) 3.) Greek Columns (Doric, Ionic, Corinthian) and 4.) Chipmunks (Alvin, Simon, Theodore). Everyone draws one piece of paper and finds the other two players who complete their set.
With teams established and all the celebrity names in the bowl, the first team designates their first clue-giver — lets say the Starbucks team is up first and Venti will give the clues for this round — while another team sets a timer for 60 seconds. Venti tries to get Tall and Grande to guess as many of the names as possible in one minute. And there’s no passing. Let’s say Venti draws the name Tina Yothers (I don’t think I’ve ever played a game of celebrity where her name wasn’t in that bowl.) Venti could start by saying, “She played Jennifer Keaton on Family Ties.” If Tall or Grande guesses correctly, Venti moves onto the next name. If Tall and Grande are stumped, Venti can say, “Her first name is the same as Ms. Fey who created 30 Rock (“Tina!”) and her last name rhymes with the formal name for moms (“Mothers!”) but change the first letter to the one missing from “It’s fun to stay at the __.M.C.A.” “Y!… Yothers!… Tina Yothers!” Correct!
I’ve seen rounds where 12 names were correctly guessed in a 60 second period and rounds where the team couldn’t get past the first name. The trick is to include a variety of easy, medium and difficult celebrities to keep the game interesting. If the bowl is filled with Barack Obamas and Madonnas, it’s too boring. If it’s filled with Dith Prans and Pierre-Auguste Renoirs, it’s too hard. When the bowl is empty, each team counts up their successfully guessed names; the team with the most points wins. Easy breezy.
I learned long ago when I submitted the name Ntozake Shange (the African American feminist/playwright/poet who wrote For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf) that trying to be clever can haunt you in this game. I ended up drawing the name myself and failed miserably at trying to get my teammates to guess it. She isn’t exactly a household name and that name is very difficult to sound out.
But I wasn’t being a jerk with my inclusion of Shohreh Aghdashloo in the bowl. She was Oscar-nominated for House of Sand and Fog, she won an Emmy for House of Saddam and she went toe-to-toe with Kiefer Sutherland in season 4 of 24, for Pete’s sake. But once again, I drew the name myself and couldn’t get my team to say it correctly. Damn you, Shohreh! I give you nothing but love and you cost me a potential Celebrity victory.
If you’ve never played Celebrity, I encourage you to give it a whirl. And if you’re an old pro, perhaps it’s time to dust off that salad bowl and get the gang together this weekend. But please learn from my mistakes and leave Shohreh out of it. And if you’ve got friends who are super-competitive, but sure to bone up on the filmographies and pronunciations of Saoirse Ronan, Djimon Hounsou, Mia Wasikowska, Ioan Gruffudd and Me’Shell NdegeOcello.
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