Althouse just put up a comment about Bob Dylan not being any good at charades, according to Elton John's autobiography. How, Rocketman wondered, could someone who writes lyrics not get the use of "How many syllables?" and "Sounds like?" Commenters quickly pointed out that these were the lowest, least adventurous strategies for charades, and perhaps Dylan was trying for a more elevated level of play.
Excuse me? How are you planning on doing Tom Swift Jr. and His Triphibian Atomicar without resorting to syllables and sounds like? C'mon big fella, let me see you try it. Farther down in the comments, someone complained that it was seldom fun at parties, because there were always one or two couples who were good at it, and everyone else just sort of limped along and kinda watched. I had to acknowledge that this was true, but we had never noticed, because we were that couple, and were entirely focused on teaching our two sons to also be good at this, and to get better ourselves. Competetive people don't always notice that no one else is having fun.
Charades goes back to the earliest days of our courtship, when we went to cast parties for a student one-act "Grendel," an all-male cast with a female director, and the parties were so great they went on for a year. It was an honor to be invited. After only one party, they would not let Tracy and I be on the same team. Her guessing is often inspired, as in, the performer bows, indicating a play, hold up four fingers, indicating four words, then smiles brightly. "Happy Birthday Wanda June?" 4 seconds. Or, before the clock starts, hears the performer ask his opponents "Is that an English name?" and guesses "Morte D'Arthur" just as time starts. 1 second. You can see why people sometimes decided they didn't want to play anymore.
There were good times nonetheless. My roommate striking a butch pose, to which his receivers guessed "man" and he made the sign for opposite. "Homosexual," someone guessed. "Fairy. Gay. Queer. Transvestite." About a third of the group was gay, and they had lots of synonyms and variations. The entire team was too drunk and too wrapped-tight intense to guess "woman." They were screaming, falling over, some in laughter, some in fury for a full two minutes, ignoring him cutting them off to start again because they were Determined. Next round, we gave that team The Oxford English Dictionary. After midnight with drunks, it just seemed natural that the performer would start with Four words. Fourth word, first syllable - "dick." So then they were off for another two minutes of dick synonyms while quiet, gentle Stephanie Bennighof guessed "The Oxford English Dictionary? The Oxford English Dictionary?" with no one listening.
The Wyman family had ridiculously creative evening devotions - because we were fanatics - and this included Bible Charades, just the four of us. Theoretically noncompetitive, because we took turns acting out for the other three, but the intensity never really goes away with us. It ended when the boys were about 14 and 10 and I got so furious I almost had a stroke. I had acted the clues so that they knew it was a book of the Bible, five words, and with great pain I had gotten across "The Axe of the Opossums." Reflect on how difficult that would be. They could not guess, including my wife. I thought that was impossible, and got angrier, demonstrating AXE! and with the hanging-by-the-tail gesture OPOSSUMS! twice, then thrice. They were giggling, and I concluded that they did know the answer and were just playing with me, all three of them. The boys later told me that it was nervous laughter, because they were petrified and couldn't think, because they had never seen me so angry. I mostly believe them.
We never played again, and no one ever suggest charades anymore these last 25 years. In the big picture, I think creative devotions did work, as the older one has done about fifteen years of creative youth group and Sunday School, and the younger is the communications director at First Methodist in Houston.
Maybe we should teach the granddaughters how to play charades...