Laura Robinson: Balderdash, Celebrity Name Game, Emmys, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Blank Slate and so Much More!

by Laura Robinson | 06 Apr 2023

Biographies and Interviews

Hi Laura! Thank you for taking time our from you crazy schedule to share your latest projects with us! First, let's talk about what you do in our industry...
I was and still am a board game inventor and now I am also a television game show creator and Executive Producer. My specialty or “lane” is taking great board games to TV.
What is your claim to fame?
Well, I’ve been fortunate to be part of a lot of exciting things in my life but of course, my biggest claim to fame is inventing the classic bluffing game, Balderdash, along with my co-inventor, Paul Toyne! I’m so proud of creating Balderdash, because it has stood the test of time and has given so many people around the world the joy and fun of playing an engaging, hilarious game with their families, writing their own answers and making long-lasting memories! I seriously never get tired of hearing from people how much they love Balderdash, how they play it every New Year’s Eve or Christmas... and how their wacky family member always writes some crazy answer that makes everybody laugh till they cry! Sometimes when I am having a less than great day - maybe a project is taking too long or we’ve hit a roadblock with a network or something -  my husband Mark will say to me, “Laura, you’ve literally made millions of people LAUGH, not many people get to say that!” And I remember that it is something quite unique and special... and for which I truly am so grateful.
You’ve moved into TV game shows... tell us about that.
Well, I have actually been involved in several television versions of Balderdash over the years. I co-created another board game, “Identity Crisis” loosely based on the parlor game, Celebrity and we turned it into a TV format, attached Courtney Cox and sold it into syndication with Fremantle Global Media. The show was called “Celebrity Name Game,” it ran for 3 successful seasons (2014-2017), and it was such a fun, fantastic show to be a part of! Our host was the fabulous Craig Ferguson, one of the funniest guys in TV who won two Emmys for hosting the show. And in season 3, myself and the other execs were nominated for the best game show award and we all got to go to the Emmy’s... what an amazing night! We lost to Alex Trebek and Jeopardy, but wow, how special to be included in the same category. 
Do you have a mantra that you live by?
I have a keynote speech about creating and marketing Balderdash and what I've learned from being an entrepreneur, entitled “Life’s A G.A.M.E.” It’s an acronym and the letters stand for Gratitude, Authenticity, Magic, and Energy. So I guess in a way, that’s my mantra - those four pillars - being grateful for all you have; finding out what makes you feel most creatively, authentically YOU and pursuing that; being aware of the magic in everyday life; and that everything at its foundation really is energy. And positive energy is powerful.
What are you working on now?
My biz partner in my production company, Heath Street Media Inc., Richard Geritts and I recently created a new TV game show based on USAOpoloy/The OP’s fantastic game, “Blank Slate.” We have sold it to Game Show Network/Sony who has just announced this past week that we will be shooting 65 episodes this coming July, with Mario Lopez hosting! We are executive producing with GSN and it will be so great to be back in LA making another TV game show that will entertain and engage so many people.
What do you play with your kids?
I have two wonderful kids - my son, Jack, and my daughter, Julia, and we have always played a ton of games since they were little. Recently we have loved playing Blank Slate at the cottage. It’s so fun, which is why we co-created on a game show version of it. Currently. we’re also really into Codenames, and we all love word games, like Password, Upwords, Tapple, Taboo to name just a few! And we also play a homemade game I played as a child. My mom was a triplet so we always had huge family gatherings at our house every Christmas with all the cousins. We called that game Guggenheim... it was really the parlor version of “Scattergories.” What’s great about playing games is that it gives you and your family face-time which is really so precious and meaningful, no matter old your kids are. We all put down our cell phones, sit together and make each other think and compete and LAUGH... what could be better than that?
What’s the furthest you’ve ever been from home?
Australia - in university my daughter did a semester abroad in Brisbane and my husband Mark and I went to visit her and we went all the way up the Gold Coast and out on a live aboard sailboat to scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef. Thrilling! Plus, one of my best friends lives south of Sydney so I’d been there before to visit her as well. I love Australia... the saying is ‘it’s like Canada... only with better weather."
Do you have any other special talents?
I’m an avid singer, songwriter and guitarist and I’m recording my original songs this spring. I love music almost as much as I love games! Also, I have been an actress for many years. In addition to many movies and TV guest star appearances, I was a regular on the CBS detectives series, “Night Heat” as well as the lead on Lifetime Television’s, Veronica Clare.” And I have written a number of stories and co-authored several books for the series, Chicken Soup For The Soul.
What is it about the Toy and Game Industry that you love?
I was just thinking how much I respect and appreciate the Toy and Game industry community. So many creative, brilliant, fun-loving individuals who have always welcomed me, who take the world and power of play so much to heart and who I love to collaborate with. I have worked with so many -  Paul Toyne obviously - he and I were so young when we were making Balderdash and we just knew we had a great idea and we worked day and night to make it happen. The wonderful Harvey Albert at Canada Games was the first and only pitch we had. He said yes and gave us the license right away and helped up make it the number #1 game in Canada and then take it internationally. The inimitable Kevin McNulty, Mike Gasser and the crazy band of salesmen that were the infamous and incredible Games Gang and then Brian Turtle when he joined those guys at Endless Games. Bob Wann, Lisa Weunnemann and all the folks at Playmonster, Tom Quinn, Dan Klitsner, Mary Couzin and the CHITAG/POP team, Tanya Thompson, Dougal Grimes, Rich Mazel, Rob Angel, Richard Gill, Catherine McMillen,  Lisa Guili and the Educational Insights team,  Tony Serebriany and the whole gang at The Op, Bob Kamp the inventor of Blank Slate and so, so many more. Thank you to everyone for all the fun, friendship and inspiration!
Summer or winter?
Summer for sure! We lived in Los Angeles for 20 years and it’s almost always summer there, which I loved. But I am originally from Canada and we live in Toronto now and I love our gorgeous Ontario summers at the lake in this beautiful area called Muskoka so much! We visit lots of friends and cottages in the summer and I’ll often see an old beat- up, or should I say, well-loved Balderdash game in the corner of their game cupboard, and it always makes me feel so good to know that the game has been played so much, over and over again. Sometimes I secretly sign the corner of the box, “Here’s to laughter and memories that last a lifetime...keep playing! -Laura Robinson.”

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