Coming up blank 

I've finally figured out why karaoke is so popular. It's because most people are some combo of sadist and masochist, only without the black vinyl fashion sense. It's fun to watch people make asses of themselves and to, on occasion, be the ass in question.

Another cool thing about karaoke is that it lets you try a job without committing to it. Like those photo-imaging techniques that let you try on different haircuts before you ruin your appearance with them, there should be more opportunities to try out jobs, Karaoke-style, before you pick one and spend God knows how many years dreading the alarm clock every morning. Karaoke singer, karaoke surgeon, karaoke pilot, karaoke porn star. I'm not sure how it could be done, but I figure if Julia Roberts movies keep getting made, they can do just about anything.

This job, for example, is one that anybody could try out. I've been out drinking with a great many of you and am certain in the depths of my heart that you, like I do every week, can gas on for a solid 10 minutes about an issue you feel passionately about. All you have to do is find one and then accessorize it with colorful adjectives. It's like finding the right earrings to complement that little black dress. Most people can do it.

Word for word

Since I'm going on vacation this week, I've decided to let you do this column karaoke-style, by making it a bunch of Mad Libs. Mad Libs are a kids' game involving little stories, only at times there are blanks that you have to fill in with designated words -- noun, location, verb, adjective, food, etc. -- all requested out of context, like this example from The Original No. 1 Mad Libs' "Beauty Advice" page: "Every morning, before washing your (noun), massage it gently with a (noun) that has been soaked overnight in a (container) containing warm (liquid)." They inevitably turn out like this: "Every morning before washing your grandma, massage it gently with a potato that has been soaked overnight in a bucket containing warm soup."

See how easy it is to be a writer?

The following are some mini-Mad Libs along the lines of the news events and social comment you tend to get in this spot. While I'm gone, you kids play nice and quiet and enjoy karaoke column writing. But don't do it when you're drunk -- you'll think you're better, but I've tried it and I promise, it won't turn out as good. (And yes, I did see someone playing with Mad Libs recently on "The Daily Show," but I had the idea first and was saving it for vacation, so nyah, I'm using it anyway.)

Fill 'er up

• In his/her newest video, teen pop sensation (celebrity) is seen imitating (activity) with a (cylindrical object/animal/farm equipment). This on the heels of the news of his/her (body part) implants. Are kids (action verb) up too fast these days? Would you let your (age)-year-old (verb) and (verb) with (number) (plural noun) on stage in front of (number) people?

• Despite (adjective) advances in every other field, air travel becomes more (adjective) and (adjective) every day. High fares and delays make people (adjective) and (adjective), but a few rules of behavior can make flying more (adjective). Don't try to carry on a (large object) or fit a (live thing) in a suitcase, as it might get away. If you feel queasy and can't make it to the bathroom, try to (bodily function) in a (container), and not on your (noun). If you feel yourself nodding off, try not to rest your (body part) on your neighbor. Get children to stop crying with a (piece of hardware). And if you plan on drinking a lot, make sure you don't (physical activity) on the drink cart.

• "(Imperative verb)!" is the (superlative) and (superlative) newest reality-based TV game show to enter the race for viewers' (emotion). In it, (number) people are trapped in a (location) for (number) days or until all of their (staple) runs out. The last two contestants then dress in (costume) and paint their faces like (type of performer) and fight to the death using only (kitchen implement). The winner doesn't win anything except the chance to be on TV and any summary endorsements for (product), (product) or (product). The question isn't who'll watch, but who won't.

• Dear Etiquette Chick: I have been invited to a (type of party) for my (type of friend) who is going to be (life-altering experience). I know I have to bring a gift and was considering a bag of (noun) but I'm afraid they will (noise). What should I do? Signed, (verb past tense).

• Dear (disparaging name): Your gift idea is (adjective) and I get the impression you are very (adjective). If you are going to offer it anyway, make sure you first massage it with a (noun) and then soak it overnight in a (container) of (liquid).

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