Staring Contest

Alex and I hosted a staring contest three years ago, and it was one of the funniest parties we’ve ever had. We’ve wanted to do another one for ages, so we invited a few friends over last week for the challenge. The rules are simple: People have to gaze into each other’s eyes without smiling or laughing.

It’s incredibly suspenseful. (Note our friend’s face on the left:)

Doesn’t our friend look like Ben Stiller here?

As I mentioned years ago, staring contests are surprisingly flirty—because, if you think about it, the only time you quietly gaze into someone’s eyes without smiling is when you’re about to make out.

Ben Stiller won.

When it was my turn, I was up against one of my best guy friends. I was embarrassingly bad and couldn’t stop smiling even to begin the game. I was out literally the second it started.

Advice from the good players: Think of something sad or bite your tongue really hard.

Here are the three different postcard invitations we sent out (featuring photos from three years ago) to get everyone in the mood.

It was such an awesome night! I’d highly recommend hosting one if you want to have a hilarious evening. Thanks for everyone who came.

P.S. A cookie swap and a 1930’s party

(Photos by Alex and me. Pinhole Press is one of my beloved long-term sponsors, and they generously let us order our invitations at no charge. Thank you!)

  1. C' says...

    I wonder if there was any hook ups after :D ! ehehe its somehow so intimate !

  2. How fun! Also- that guy in the 8th picture looks Just like David Harbour it’s weird lol

  3. That sounds hilarious! I also love the 1930’s party; I’ve always wanted to throw a 1920’s party!

  4. The collection of images are very good look,pretty and awsome.Its so good and worthful.

    shot for slim

  5. that’s hysterical! what a great idea for a party, jo.

  6. ummm this looks hilarious!! may have to borrow this idea :)

  7. this is a great idea when hosting a party ! it looks like lots of fun. o/ I have a question… wich is name of the guy in the last picture? Patrick? He looks a lot like a friend I had when I was 13! :)

  8. for me this guy doesn’t look like Ben Stiller, rather like David Copperfield.
    I’ve never attended to any staring contest, but I will maybe organize, it looks fun!

  9. Michael Ellsberg’s been doing Staring Parties for years, but his are used more for dating I think. What a fun idea!


  10. That sounds/ looks like it would be such a marvelous evening!


  11. I completely thought the woman in the first pic was Gwyneth Paltrow…was trying to place the movie all AM until I realized these are real folks from your party.

  12. I’ll take the Ben Stiller comparison as a compliment, especially considering he has to get one hour of makeup in order to look like me :) And yes, I do get MANY “you look like” famous people comparisons: Daniel Day Lewis (most common), Ben Stiller, JFK junior (RIP), Pete Sampras, John Malkovich, and others. After reading these comments I’m now more optimistic that I’ll eventually be able to find a date :)

  13. I would completely fail. Within seconds. No chance!

  14. As per usual, I can’t make it through all of the comments but will add on to the intitial 30 in saying that dude is a way shy more handsome than Ben Stiller (who is plenty fine)–me says Ben Stiller plus Daniel Day Lewis mashup. And THAT is a compliment, non?

  15. This sounds SO fun! I’ll have to try it sometime


  16. We had to do this during my yoga teacher training…it was incredibly intense…more serious than funny, but I can see how this would make a hilarious party!

  17. ha! That’s an amazing game, I used to play it when I was young! Do you make silly faces in order to make the other smile or you should stay serious all the time?

  18. Best party idea ever! So doing this!

  19. these photos look hilarious–they really made me laugh.

  20. it looks like funny.i wish i were there:)

  21. Haha the thought of having a themed party like this is so exciting..I will def. try it :) Thanks for sharing!

  22. Why didn’t my friends and I ever have a staring contest party in college!!!!???? This is brilliant!

  23. Love the idea! Looks like so much fun!!!

  24. Yes, it’s Ben Stiller. And I can see you also invited Gwyneth Paltrow.

  25. The party itself is a great idea, but the invitation, oh! Those are awesome!

  26. I love this idea, the photos instantly made me smile :)

  27. what a fantastic party idea. Looks like a lot of fun!

  28. ok – this is really bugging me – the guy in the 8th pic looks so familiar..

  29. This party is seriously great! I couldn’t help but laughing at these photos; I’d probably lose.

  30. Nope, I’d fail in the first 3 secs! But great idea for any party – even kids ones.

  31. Oh, this is BRILLIANT! I’m trying this one out this weekend. Go Ben Stiller!

  32. Jo, this has made my afternoon. what a riot! Thankyou for hostng such an awesome party, one I will definitely do with my friends. What a classic!

  33. david harbour! just looked up his name

  34. first of all, love this idea! second of all, three photos up- is that the guy who was a spy in pan am??

  35. That sounds like a riot! I will be sure to do that in the future, even though it is inevitable I will lose! :) x

  36. Fun! I feel like a big nerd asking this, but is that David Harbour in one of your photos? If not, way more the doppleganger than the Ben Stiller look-alike IMO!

  37. Is that the guy from The Newsroom or am I trippin?!

  38. This is gold. Did you happen to get the idea from a British comedy show called The Big Train? If you’ve never heard of it, please check this out:
    It’s one of my favourite pieces of TV!

  39. Me says...

    Oh my goodness, I love this idea. Am totally going to do this in the fall. Question, though, how much detail did you get into on the invitation? Would love to hear how you let people in on what the party was going to have in store . . . Thanks for sharing!!

  40. This may be my favorite post of yours ever. I was cracking up just looking at the photos. And I agree with others that your friend is way more handsome than Ben Stiller ; )

  41. That is so great idea. Will definitely try with my friends

    xoxo Ra

  42. Ben Stiller would have gone all the way to the pre-cheese-smear final four had it not been for his severe home court disadvantage.

  43. I love this game but I am just like you Joanna, I am smiling before I even start!!

    maria ana

  44. ha! i’m totally not surprised that “ben stiller” won.

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  46. This is so super fun I can’t even believe it. I am so doing this at my next party…or any party I am ever at!!! And the “slack jaw” game is super pee in my pants funny…loves it.

  47. Joanna, my friends and I (in high school), used to play a game called “slack jaw” where you literally let your jaw go limp with your mouth gaping open AND THEN have a staring contest. First person to smile loses… you could up the ante at your next party!

  48. Sounds like such a blast! What fun!

  49. A fun take on a staring contest is a game a friend introduced me to called “Slack Jaw.” You’re supposed to spring it on people and go “3, 2, 1, slack jaw…” and you have to stare at each other with your mouth hanging open (aka a slacked jaw). The first person to laugh or put the jaw back to it’s normal place is out!

  50. My husband and I used to do this all the time with groups of young adults we led on different adventures; but we called it “Straight Face-Off!” It was so handy to get everyone playing on long lay-overs in airports, on train-rides, and even in the middle of the mountains in Guatemala! I always had to go to a really dark place to keep my face from cracking up every time, but one of my craziest friends said she was just much more centered/zen than me because she could beat the pants off of any one w/o having to dig herself into a pit of despair! :)

  51. I just might make out with every single staring buddy, not bad…if I weren’t married :p

  52. Oh, this sounds so fun, but i don’t think i could keep a straight face! xoxo

  53. I cannot even look at the pictures without laughing!

  54. What a fun idea! Definitely unique! My friends and I went to an 80s dance party recently. We had so much fun meeting prior at a girlfriends house, we thought all we need is to create a theme and go to each others houses. Going to run this idea by them! Thanks.

  55. I’ve never heard of a party like this, but it sounds like fun. I would probably be terrible at it! haha

  56. thanks for these hilarious comments! S, yes, we had a tournament bracket. and jennifer, the photo is actually by brooklyn photographer Anne Hall; she did a series called “horses and their girls” — i love that photo, too:)

  57. LK, it’s SUCH an ice breaker. everyone was like fast friends by the end of the night.

  58. LK says...

    What a hilariously great idea. I would be out immediately but it would be so much fun to try and what a great ice breaker for the friends who don’t know each other!

  59. This is the best party idea I’ve ever heard! Simple and cheap! I can’t wait to try this out with my friends!

  60. This is brilliant! Not to brag but I’m pretty impressive in staring competitions! The trick is to concentrate on a point of the person’s face, like the corner of their eye or an eyebrow hair. That way you avoid fits of laughter and inevitable blinking when your eyes start watering!

  61. Hahaha! What an incredible idea!

  62. This is such a great idea! Will do it this fall and see how it goes :-)

  63. I would never in a million years have thought of this as a party theme. Genius!! I haven’t played the staring game in so long. It’s probably a good thing because i’m sure i’d be first to lose. :D

  64. What a fun idea! I’d be like you and would be smiling and laughing before the game even started. I guarantee my husband could win at this, though!

  65. Love the picture of the child with the horse – it is you?

  66. SO fun!!! Although I would probably be like you, Joanna, and be “out” as soon as it started! Plus my husband is an Air Force officer and in training he had to learn to be completely stone cold for formation (or something like that). It doesn’t matter what I do, he can keep a straight face. Basically he would ROCK this game.

  67. that look so much fun!

  68. j says...

    I LOVE this idea!! I want to have a housewarming party but want the attention elsewhere, this sounds like the perfect solution! x

  69. This comment has been removed by the author.

  70. ben stiller, no doubt! ha.

  71. S says...

    Hahaha. Was there a tournament bracket involved?

  72. what a fun party idea! looks fun!

  73. This just cracks me up, what a fun party idea! He totally looks like Ben Stiller and congrats to him for being a pro starer! :)

  74. hey joanna – that’s mary o’keefe! i used to work with her. sounds fun, hope you’re well!
    x jeannie

  75. Priceless! I am sooo doing this with my friends. I might be able to win! Thanks and love the idea…obviously!

  76. love this, these photos made me smile! cute idea!

  77. B says...

    This. is. such. a. good. idea. I never would have thought of this! And I’m sure I’d be with you in the can’t-stop-laughing-before-the-game-starts boat, I couldn’t even look at the pictures without feeling awkward and laughing!

  78. How fun! I started laughing the second I saw the pictures. I’m sure I would lose in a heartbeat.

  79. Seriously, one of the best themed parties EVER. I can totally see how it’s suspenseful. I’d be one of those wierdos jumping up and down because the suspense would be killing me lol!

    – Sarah