Professor Liar: A Parlor Game Idea

Professor Liar




Professor Liar is a traditional parlor game in that it mostly just requires your brains. It can also be done as an improv game without the point system, but what’s the point of a game if you’re not crushing some opponent? The goal is to successfully pretend to be an expert on a topic presenting before a panel of experts.




Set up two decks – the noun deck and the expertise deck. The noun deck contains nouns. The expertise deck contains general areas of study or names of fake books, with blanks left for nouns.




Each round, a team selects a “Professor” from its group. The professor then pulls a card from each deck to determine what he is a professor of. An example might be “fruit metaphysics.” The professor then stands before all players of opposing teams. The latter group is called “The Examiners.”


The Professor must answer any question put forth by the examiners for 90 seconds.


The Professor loses if at any point she

1) Hesitates more than 1 second

2) Contradicts herself

3) Misspeaks or Stumbles verbally

4) Fails to answer the question

5) Laughs (although condescending false professorial laughter is permitted)

6) Says “um”


If the professor does not lose, her team gets 1 point.


The first team to 5 points wins.




The Professor may be interrupted at any time, at which point she must address the new question.


The questions must at least tenuously pertain to the subject matter.


Examiners should not attempt to be funny. The goal is to prove that the Professor does not actually know anything about the topic.


What denotes failure is, of course, open to group discretion and should be established by the group. For example, the definition of “misspeak” is very broad. If, say, the Professor accidentally says “Yemen” and not “lemon” during a lecture on “fruit psychology,” she should not instantly lose. She can claim that Yemen is important to our understanding of fruit psychology and attempt to justify.


Variation Ideas


Chomsky Mode – if the professor breaks monotone, she loses.





-Would it be more fun if the prof had to give a 30 second “presentation” then receive questions?






2 Decks:


1) Nouns and Adjectives

2) Fields of Expertise


Deck 1:


1) Acne

2) Air

3) Airplane

4) Alien

5) American

6) Atom

7) Attractiveness

8) Australia

9) Baby

10) Baldness

11) Bank

12) Bat

13) Bear

14) Beauty

15) Bird

16) Blubber

17) Boat

18) Bone

19) Britain

20) Burglar

21) Buttocks

22) Cake

23) Calculator

24) Cat

25) Caveman

26) China

27) Clown

28) Coffee

29) Comedy

30) Computer

31) Corgi

32) Corn

33) Cow

34) Cowboy

35) Death

36) Dictator

37) Dolphin

38) Drama

39) Dress

40) Ear

41) Earth

42) Electricity

43) Email

44) Enemy

45) Father

46) Female

47) Fire

48) France

49) Fruit

50) Gas

51) Gun

52) Hairball

53) Hamburger

54) House

55) Human

56) Insect

57) Japan

58) Jedi

59) Laser

60) Lincoln

61) Liquid

62) Male

63) Mars

64) Missile

65) Money

66) Moon

67) Mother

68) Mouth

69) Mustache

70) Napoleon

71) Navy

72) Ninja

73) Octopus

74) Ottoman

75) Pants

76) Pie

77) Plasma

78) Police

79) President

80) Priest

81) Rattlesnake

82) Robot

83) Samurai

84) Sandwich

85) Scientist

86) Solid

87) Sponge

88) Star

89) Submarine

90) Sun

91) Surgeon

92) Sword

93) T. Rex

94) Teenager

95) Time Traveler

96) Tofu

97) Venus

98) Viking

99) Walrus

100) Zombie



Deck 2


1) Amphibious ____(s)

2) Antarctic ____(s)

3) Applied ____ology

4) Are ____(s) Actually Just Adult ____(s)

5) Behavioral ____ology

6) Can ____(s) Use Tools?

7) Computation via ____(s)

8) Conservation of ____(s)

9) Creating More Aerodynamic ____(s)

10) Criminal ____(s)

11) Do____(s) Exist?

12) Do ____(s) Feel Pain?

13) Evolutionary History of ____(s)

14) Fair Distribution of ____(s)

15) Famous ____(s) and Their ____(s)

16) Feminist ____ Theory

17) How the Internet is Fixing ____(s)

18) In the Company of ____(s)

19) Islamic ____(s)

20) Juvenile ____(s)

21) Lunar ____(s)

22) Marketing to ____(s)

23) Marxist ____ Theory

24) Mechanical ____(s)

25) Medical ____(s)

26) Micro____ology

27) Military Use of ____(s)

28) Molecular ____ology

29) Musical ____ (s)

30) My Time On ____ Island

31) Myth and Fable Among ____(s)

32) Optimization of ____(s)

33) Outmoded ____ Paradigms

34) Philosophy of ____(s)

35) Prehistoric ____(s)

36) Proof of the Existence of ____

37) Quantum ____(s)

38) Robotic ____(s)

39) Schizophrenia in ____s

40) Space-____ (s)

41) Statistical ____istics

42) Superconductive ____(s)

43) Synthetic ____(s)

44) The Habits of Highly Effective ____(s)

45) The Law of Large ____(s)

46) The Law of ____(s)

47) The Periodic Table of ____(s)

48) The Phases of ____

49) The Source of ____(s)

50) The Subtle Difference Between ____(s) and

51) The ____ Cycle

52) The ____ Hypothesis

53) The ____ Problem

54) The ____centric view of Cosmology

55) Theoretical ____ Science

56) Urban ____(s)

57) Use of Language by ____(s)

58) Wave-____ duality

59) When ____(s) Roamed the Earth

60) ____(s)

61) ____(s), Nature’s ____(s)

62) ____(s) in Captivity

63) ____(s) in Christianity

64) ____(s) in the Media

65) ____-____ hybridization

66) ____ Aging

67) ____ Algorithms

68) ____ Cognition

69) ____ Conservation

70) ____ Demographics

71) ____ Economics

72) ____ Ethics

73) ____ Evolutionary Psychology

74) ____ Funeral Rites

75) ____ Genetics

76) ____ Homeopathy

77) ____ Informatics

78) ____ Legal Codes

79) ____ Linguistics

80) ____ Mathematics

81) ____ Mating Rituals

82) ____ Metaphysics

83) ____ Midwifery

84) ____ Nutrition

85) ____ Oppression

86) ____ Paleontology

87) ____ Parasitology

88) ____ Poetry

89) ____ Politics

90) ____ Power Generation Systems

91) ____ Reproduction

92) ____ Seismology

93) ____ Survival Strategy

94) ____ Tectonics

95) ____ Theory

96) ____ ecology

97) ____ engineering

98) ____ology

99) ____ physiology

100) ____tronics


This entry was posted in Games, Ideas. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Professor Liar: A Parlor Game Idea

  1. Todes says:

    that sounds amusing. ill give it a go this weekend

  2. Jonathan says:

    “The Professor must answer any question put forth by the examiners for seconds.” How many seconds? Or do you get seconds for answering questions?

  3. Nina says:

    I wish I had friends that would play games like this with me without finding it silly or embarassing.

  4. Teletheus says:

    This sounds a lot like law school moot court. :)

    It might be more fun, though, with the following changes:

    1. The questioners tried to come up with the most ridiculous questions they could reasonably justify within the game’s framework and still phrase in an appropriately academic-sounding way;
    2. The Professor loses if (s)he can’t keep a straight face; and
    3. The questioners lose—or, rather, the Professor wins—if the Professor can make any questioner laugh out loud while still maintaining the aforementioned straight face.

  5. Morton's Fork says:

    Have you played this ever? I think it could probably use a little refinement in the rules. I suppose that several dominating strategies would quickly develop if people actually played it competitively. Very quickly I think the boring lecture on fundamentals would be a sound professorial strategy.

    “To understand the nature of fruit metaphysics we must first understand the history of man’s interaction with fruit…” queue diatribe on the history of mankind.
    Or alternatively go to astrophysics/cosmology/philosophy/quantum mechanics. Any interrupting question just divert back to main lecture.

    • ZachWeiner says:

      I was gonna have a rule against going off on a tangent, BUT I think the interruption should address it. Maybe there needs to be a rule that the professor may only answer questions.

  6. Morris Keesan says:

    This sounds a little bit like “Just a Minute”, which has been airing as a BBC Radio panel game for umpteen years. “Just a Minute” is an individual game, not a team game. On radio, it’s played with four players and a moderator. The moderator sets the topics, and the players take turns being the first to speak on the topic. The goal is to speak for 60 seconds (just a minute) on the given subject, without hesitation, repetition, or deviation. Points are gained for correctly challenging another player, for being incorrectly challenged, and for speaking at the end of the 60 seconds. This can currently be heard online on BBC Radio 4 Extra, on Thursday mornings at 9:30 British time (and for seven days afterwards, via BBC’s “listen again”).

    • RandomNuggetsGenerator says:

      Oh, didn’t knew about this show (45 years that it’s running !), and hopefully the BBC doesn’t seem to region-block it for non-UK IP addresses – thanks a lot Morris Keesan ! ;)

  7. Tonya Smith says:

    This sounds like an incredibly amusing game. I think bonus points should be awarded for sounding as pretentious as possible.

  8. IIAOPSW says:

    Hey zach!

    So I wrote up a quick script in python to manage the game (keep track of scores, time 90 seconds and generate topics).

    Here is the code:
    (runs in python 3.1.2)

    I really really want to do the same thing to trial of the clone. Do you have a plain text copy? A list of all the items and attributes?


  9. Carlos Coral says:

    I would recommend the 30 second opening lecture and questioner lose conditions for “versus” play. The first one solves both the “Fundamentals” gambit as well as eliminating the need for the first question always being “So what is ______?” Questioner lose conditions make the questioners feel more like they’re playing a game too and less like instruments of the game’s mechanics. Some people are into that, but not everyone.

    Suggestions for people who take the game even more seriously:
    - Allow a 30 second “Deliberation” after the opening lecture for the Questioners to come up with a game plan.
    - Since it is a team game, allow the Professor to divert one question to their “TA” with the requirement that they must always introduce the TA by an alternate (perhaps silly) name and state their area of specialized expertise. The teammate now stands in and is subject to all the previous rules. If an interrupt question is asked, the original professor must take over.

    “That’s an interesting question that I’ve had my research assistant working on. Marsala Kingdom Jones is working on her masters in the gender duality of horned helmets. (original subject: “Feminist Viking Theory)”

    It is absolutely a brilliant improv game which I shall totally be adding to my go-to list of improv games.

  10. PaulC says:

    I am so in.
    Sounds awesome.
    I may make the following modification based on # of players:
    No teams.

  11. william mauritzen says:

    I believe this game would be far cooler if it was called Professor Bullshit.

  12. Nick Aster says:

    Love this concept but it seems too much like a “try not to laugh” game… it would be interesting if instead of teams it was all individuals and, in addition to not being able to laugh or hesitate the rest of the people present would rate you or vote for favorite or something like that… I mean I can talk a load of bollocks about anything, the question is, did I talk a *great* load of bollocks or was I just rambling…

  13. Nick Aster says:

    Actually… another variation of this would be to try to get the examiners to laugh. Just see how long it can go before one team cracks.

  14. ben w says:

    Are you familiar with the UK panel radio show “Just a Minute”? Here’s the first part of a show. Contestants are given a topic and must speak fluently about it for a minute without deviation, hesitation, or repeating a word (!).

  15. Peter Sisk says:

    This sounds like a fun game. I took the script supplied by IIAOPSW and have put it on the web as a Google AppEngine application. You can see it at
    The code is checked into GitHub for anyone who cares. The repository is here:


  16. Kory says:

    Made a drinking game out of it with a few friends. Mega fun. I always win because I rock at public speaking.

  17. Alice says:

    I think it would also be fun to have debate on the chosen topic where both players act as eminent scholars in the field.

  18. Linchuan Zhang says:

    Just read about this game <2 hours ago and played with friends at college. We did it rules-lite, without teams (Just rotating professors with the other five serving as examiners), a scoring mechanism, or actual timing.

    It still turned to be extremely fun, especially when the Mock Trial kid talked about the Periodic Table of Mouths for five minutes in Chomsky mode.

    • Linchuan Zhang says:

      Also, best quote about this game from my Foreign Policy prof:

      “Pfff. I’ve been doing this for two-plus-hour stretches for years and nobody’s caught on.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>