Sunday, July 24, 2016

I want some action - By Michael Buzzelli

It’s summer, and it’s action movie season. In the winter, you get “The Room,” “Tangerine” and “Beasts of No Nation,” also known as “the list of films no one has ever heard of.”

They’re great movies; just don’t expect to find any of them in the DVD discount bin at Kmart.

In the summer, you get your monsters, spaceships and ghosts. The rule is big explosions and as many as possible. I love sitting in a movie theater watching other people run around on the big screen.

Popcorn tastes better when the end of the world is involved.

I’m serious.

I was eating the small popcorn (still the size of six microwavable bags) at a period piece called, “Love and Friendship,” and it just didn’t taste as good. I was very disappointed in the film. Not one person in that movie chased anyone – not even on horseback! There were no fiery death scenes. There were no people flying backward (no green screens and no actors trussed up in harnesses).

I’m convinced explosions and car chases give the popcorn flavor.

That, and salt.

By the way, “Love and Friendship” was about love and friendship! I was shocked. Actually, the title was ironic, but in a subtle English manor-born kind of way.

There were actual jokes in the movie, but they were jokes of the kind that would cause rich, white women to clutch their pearls and say, “Oh, how droll! How very droll!” Picture Margaret Dumont (shout out to my Marx Brothers fans).

But I digress, like I do. The topic at hand is summer action movies.

These films are perfect for people with attention deficit disorder. You know, people who get easily sidetracked or go off-topic.

Stop looking at me!

Earlier in the summer, the superheroes rolled through. Batman fought Superman, and then they teamed up to stop the bad guy.

Captain America fought Iron Man, and then they teamed up to stop the bad guy.

Professor X fought Magneto, and then they teamed up to fight the bad guy.

These superheroes need to take an anger-management class. For the record, I know Magneto isn’t a superhero, but he always ends up helping the good guys in the third act.

There’s a new Jason Bourne film coming, titled “Jason Bourne.” I’m surprised it took them this long to come up with the title. This is the fifth in the movie franchise.

One of them was a Jason Bourne movie without Jason Bourne! But Jason Bourne is back in “Jason Bourne,” or rather the titular star Matt Damon returned.

He’ll be crashing through windows, beating down bad guys and trying not to die for two hours while the bad guys will sit in a dark office looking at computer screens saying things like, “Give me a close-up on three,” “Enhance the image” and “Oh my God! Is that him? It is. That’s Jason Bourne.” They’re also shocked Matt Damon returned to the franchise.

Mike Buzzelli is a stand up comedian and a sit down author. His book, "Below Average Genius," a collection of humor columns culled from the Observer-Reporter, can be purchased here.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Catching some Pocket Monsters - by Michael Buzzelli

Run! They’re in your backyard. They’re at the Carnegie Museum of Art. They’re at Starbucks. My phone is telling me they are everywhere. In your house, on the train and in a boat; with a mouse, with a fox, with a goat. No, it’s not Sam I Am. Strange creatures are popping up wherever there are smartphones. The Pokemon invaded our world … albeit virtually.

Pokemon Go is sweeping the nation, and it’s causing unimagined consequences. Nerds are getting out in the sunshine! They’re also wandering down dangerous back alleys, crossing into traffic and ignoring their day jobs.

I’m new to the Pokemon Universe. I just learned this week Pokemon are fictional creatures who battle each other for sport. Essentially, it’s Fight Club for fictional critters. I’m probably not even supposed to tell you this. The first rule of Fight Club is to never talk about Fight Club. Strangely, it’s also the second rule of Fight Club. I don’t know what the third rule is, but I bet it has something to do with zipping it.

The Pokemon are fighting each other for sport. It’s a good thing they’re fictional, or PETA would be on our butts so fast. That’s fantasy creature cruelty!

Apparently, these Pocket Monsters … i.e. Pokemon (portmanteau?) are everywhere. They’re in animated television shows, movies, comic books, toys and trading cards. Pokemon is the second-most successful video game franchise in the world. They fall right behind those brothers, Mario and Luigi. Don’t ask me where Pac-Man falls on the list. That’s the only video game I play, probably because Pac-Man eats his problems away.

Balbasaur, Beedrill, Wartortle, Psyduck, Alakazam, Primeape and, of course, Pikachu are all out there, minding their own business, waiting to be caught and trained to fight. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen one, but they’re very cartoonish creatures. They’re the most nonthreatening monsters since Herman, Lily, Eddie, Marilyn and Grandpa.

Pokemon Go is played in an “augmented reality.” I haven’t been in an augmented reality since college. Much like the aforementioned Italian brothers, my augmented reality involved mushrooms. Nowadays, an augmented reality means there’s an image on your phone overlaid onto whatever was really in front of you, like an overhead projector casting an image on a wall.

I don’t begrudge these happy little monster catchers. I don’t mean to disparage them. They’re out in the world having fun. Don’t we all need more fun in our lives? I remember making fun of people for reading “Harry Potter.” I shouted, “It’s a kid’s book!” It was long after I got caught up in the fervor of the books and the movies. I even cried when they buried the elf (not a euphemism).

Side note: I was recently on a podcast, Sinister Dreamcast, with Nick, Julianna and Megan, and we were discussing the importance of entertainment. Art, music, books, television and movies can be soul-renewing. They can enliven us.

For the rest of the article, click here

Mike Buzzelli is a stand up comedian and a sit down author. His book, "Below Average Genius," a collection of humor columns culled from the Observer-Reporter, can be purchased here.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Cereal Killers - by Mike Buzzelli

I’m logging this in the “now I’ve seen everything” category. Apparently, the cereal-making company Kellogg’s opened a restaurant in New York City that serves – get this – Kellogg’s cereal. Apple Jacks, Froot Loops and Frosted Mini-Wheats are all on the menu.

We are officially the laziest nation in the world. We can’t even open a box of Frosted Flakes, pour them into a bowl and splash milk on them by ourselves. Think about this. Would you buy a bowl of Raisin Bran in a restaurant? I mean, you can go into a 7-Eleven or bodega (as they say in NYC) and buy a small box of cereal and eat it out of the carton while chugging on a milk. You’re done – and you saved about 10 bucks plus tip. I don’t think I ever had a hankering for cereal so bad I wished they sold it in restaurants.

Because the restaurant is in Manhattan, they will “hipster up” the cereal for a modest fee. I’m sure you’re wondering, “How do you make cereal fancy?” Well, I’ll tell you. “The Pistachio Lemon” has Special K, Frosted Flakes, pistachios, lemon zest and thyme thrown in, and “The Chai Line” is Crispix and fresh peaches with a Chai tea powder garnish. If you order the “Honey Buzz,” you get a bowl of Honey Smacks with toasted pecans and banana chips. The menu was designed by a real chef. Christina Tosi, founder and owner of Momofuku Milk Bar created all of the recipes, like “Life in Color,” which is a bowl of Froot Loops with lime zest, marshmallows and passion fruit jam.

I’m sure you’re doubting this, but I assure you, I don’t think I’d ever come up with anything so silly on my own.

When I heard about this, you may have heard my reaction. That “Oh, please. Spare me!” off in the distance was probably me. It was the sigh that shook the world. I watched people eat there in a video clip on “CBS Sunday Morning.”

I can’t get over it.

I’m reminded of the old adage, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” I’m going to be opening a late-night restaurant in New York that serves Doritos, both Cool Ranch and the original Nacho Cheese flavor. Maybe, if you’re lucky, I’ll throw in some lesser-known ones like Salsa Verde and Black Pepper Jack.

I’m calling my new place “Munchies.” We’ll only be open from midnight to 4 a.m. That’s all we’re going to sell – Doritos in bright red, ceramic bowls. Maybe we’ll show up in a late-night cable movie like “The Bride of Frankenstein” or “Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy.” Heck, maybe we’ll just play vintage infomercials like “The Slap Chop,” “Shake Weight,” “Thigh Master” and “Snuggie.” I will decorate it with comfy couches. I’m trying to get the Frito-Lay Co. to go in on it with me.

For the rest of the story, click here

Mike Buzzelli is a stand up comedian and a sit down author. His book, "Below Average Genius," a collection of humor columns culled from the Observer-Reporter, can be purchased here

Sunday, July 3, 2016

A trip to the old Curiosity Shop - by Mike Buzzelli

The other day, I saw a small boy with a pigeon feather. He was fascinated by it. He caressed its soft plumage. I wanted to yell, “Put that dirty, disgusting thing down!” I mean … yuck. Seriously. It was a pigeon feather.

I had to remember my mantra: “Not my kid. Not my problem.”

Before I get nasty letters, I need to inform you I would swoop in and save a toddler from running into traffic, but I won’t advise parents on parenting. You can’t go into the grocery store and knock Fruity Pebbles out of some random dad’s hand and say, “Your kid shouldn’t be eating that crap.” Not twice. Not in the same Shop ’n Save, at least.

But I digress, like I do. The boy with the feather was filled with wonder. He was so curious about the filthy thing. Kids have a natural, innate curiosity. They want to explore and examine their world. It would have been precious had it not been something so gross.

Side note: At the Long Beach Aquarium a few years ago, a parrot landed on my head and would not leave me. The parrot sort of latched on. The zookeepers had to untangle me. Otherwise, I would have had to spend my life in the bird enclosure. My friend, Justin, and his sons thought it was the funniest thing they had ever seen. He didn’t hurt me in any way, but I’ve had an Alfred Hitchcock-sized case of ornithophobia since. P.S. I tried explaining to a therapist it’s not an irrational fear of birds after you’ve actually been attacked by one.

Meanwhile, I was wondering what happened to my own curiosity. Where did it go? When did I lose my sense of wonder? I was curious about my curiosity (yeah, I didn’t see the obvious point at the time). I remember being thrilled by the unknown. I was saddened I no longer get that tingle when I encounter some new experience.

I remember being very excited by small things. A perfectly spherical rock, a unique soap fragrance (Moringa leaf, spicy, Geranium Verbena), a flower in bloom, a new word like tsiperifery (a sort of black peppercorn thingy). Wondrous lovely additions to my world.

Somewhere I got stuck in the “meh” zone.

Side note: “Meh” is an interjection bored hipsters use to express their ennui. I’m using it ironically, which of course makes me one of them.

I’m going to have to grow a beard and drink Pabst Blue Ribbon.

For the rest of the story, click here.  

Mike Buzzelli is a stand up comedian and a sit down author. His book, "Below Average Genius," a collection of humor columns culled from the Observer-Reporter, can be purchased here

Monday, June 27, 2016

My Sunday - In Brief(s) - By Michael Buzzelli

I continue to find new and interesting ways to embarrass myself. Yay, me!

Every month, I attend the Pittsburgh New Works board meeting. The group meets to plan our annual festival. Each September, we produce 18 one-act plays with regional theater companies for the six weeks of the festival at the Carnegie Stage (formerly Off the Wall Theatre). It’s a lot of hard work, but it is fun, too.

But I digress, like I do. The board meetings are informal. We’re definitely not suit-and-tie people. I wear jeans and a T-shirt to most meetings. Last Sunday, I showed up in a new pair of shorts. Once I got to the meeting I realized that the shorts were probably too big for me.

Raise your hand if you can see where this is going.

After the meeting, my fellow board member Vernee and I decided to write up some action items at brunch. It was a casual note-taking session that included food and drink. I told you we were an informal bunch. We passed several crowded restaurants on a walk up Penn Avenue. It dawned on me it was Father’s Day when Vernee turned to me and said, “It’s Father’s Day.”

I’m quick like that.

There is a relatively new restaurant called Bakersfield. They serve Mexican food and play rock ’n’ roll music while John Wayne movies run in the background. Why it’s named after a dusty, little desert town in California remains a mystery. It’s a small chain with several locations around the country (none of them are actually in Bakersfield, Calif.). The drinks are strong, and the food is delicious.

I just don’t know if I’ll ever be allowed back in.

Since it was Father’s Day, the restaurant got progressively more crowded as our meeting went on. After guacamole, chips, a margarita and a taco or two, we finished our “meeting.” No, really. I took notes!

We paid the check. I stood up, yawned, stretched and my shorts fell to my sandals. I probably would have gotten away unnoticed, but I decided to blurt out an expletive, which caused people to look up from their burritos and see the man standing in his underwear in the middle of a crowded restaurant. The server, a nice young woman, had heard me utter the expletive and came back to check on me. Then, she noticed my pants were down around my ankles. She covered her mouth, like the creature of the Black Lagoon came ashore and kidnapped her sister. Maybe she covered her mouth to suppress a laugh, but it looked like a face of shock and horror to me.

The good news is I didn’t run away, because I would have tripped on my shorts and fallen in the aisle. No one wants to see me on the ground with my nearly naked butt in the air in a Mexican restaurant, or any restaurant for that matter.

For the rest of the story, click here
Mike Buzzelli is a stand up comedian and a sit down author. His book, "Below Average Genius," a collection of humor columns culled from the Observer-Reporter, can be purchased here!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Why so serious? By Michael Buzzelli

This week, someone asked me, “How can you joke when the news is so horrible?” I said, “I joke BECAUSE the news is so horrible.”

Bad news is everywhere. You can’t get away from it. I go onto Facebook to look at pictures with my friends making duck lips at each other, and I even get news there. I remember when the newsfeed was just people posting pictures of dinner, vacations and new babies or puppies. Now, I get an actual newsfeed.

I was a pretty serious kid. I know. I can hardly imagine it myself, but I was. When I was a kid, I remember going to my first family funeral. The first funeral I remember. My aunt Eleanor died when I was pretty young. At the funeral parlor, people were joking and laughing. I got so angry. I couldn’t figure out why they were telling funny stories while I was grieving. My nana said, “Laughter is how we cope. We remember people from the stories that fill us with joy and happiness.” I’m paraphrasing. I was 11 and don’t remember the exact words, but I caught the gist.

I don’t think it’s the exact moment the light bulb went off and I became funny, but I learned that laughter was one of our greatest tools. A few years ago, I had to write a preface for my book, “Below Average Genius.” The publisher wanted something from me that explained to the readers who I was. It became my mantra:

I believe in laughter.

In our daily lives, we are bombarded by negative thoughts and negative people. Around the water cooler, we discuss war, gas prices and politics. The media is replete with grim images and tales of tragedy from around the world. We are fed a constant diet of death and destruction. Push it away. I say no more for me. There are leaner, lighter meals. I have chosen to embrace comedy.

I believe in laughter, from the giggle to the guffaw.

I believe in telling a 2-year-old a knock-knock joke. A small girl covers her mouth when she smiles. A young boy holds his stomach and howls. I am renewed, revitalized and ready for anything.

Laughter is not only the best medicine, it is a necessity of life, the essence of joy, the true window into our soul. When other people search their lives for meaning, I have discovered that comedy is the universal truth. It is present in even the most dour soul. Everyone wants to laugh, the saints and the sinners, the faithful and the skeptics, the Democrats and Republicans, the good, the bad and the ugly. Especially the ugly. What else have they got?

I love a dirty limerick. A skewered song. A ribald riddle.

I believe in the Sunday comics. I kneel before the gods of standup. I still have faith in the sitcom. I believe in the joke, the pratfall, the silly face.

Through laughter we can find the light.

For the rest of the story, click here

Mike Buzzelli is a stand up comedian and a sit down author. His book, "Below Average Genius," a collection of humor columns culled from the Observer-Reporter, can be purchased here!

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Yogurt Explosion - by Michael Buzzelli

Welcome new readers!

I’ve been getting a lot of Twitter hits lately, and I thought it was time to introduce myself to some of the new people. Here’s how this works: Every week I do something dumb or embarrassing. Then I write about it. The stories are true with some comedic embellishment. Longtime readers probably wonder how I can possibly be this stupid and live in the world.

I share the story and I feel better (not brighter). Then people write back to me about how they related to my stupidity in some way or another. Then they feel better. Other people read the article and think, “Wow! I am so much smarter than that guy!” And they feel better. It’s a win-win.

Then I get paid. It’s a beautiful system.

It was recently pointed out to me I have a catch phrase and I use it in almost every column. I was unaware that I used this particular string of words so often. Some longtime readers wait with baited breath for the signature phrase to pop up in the column. Hint: It usually does.

It’s not really an episode of “Happy Days” until Fonzie goes, “AAAAAA.” Everyone wants Mork to say “Shazbot” or “Nanu Nanu.” People waited every week for Norm to walk into Cheers so the gang could shout out his name. Catch phrases were really popular in the olden times.

But I digress, like I do. P.S. I just used it.

Here’s the stupid thing that happened this week: I was attacked by yogurt. Let me explain. When I pulled back the foil lid, the yogurt burst forth. It exploded onto my shirt. Little white flecks sprayed my black shirt. I looked like an image from the Hubble telescope.

That was bad enough, but I had to eat the remaining yogurt with a plastic fork. The jar of plastic spoons was empty. What was I to do? I was sans spoons. Eating yogurt with a fork isn’t as difficult as eating soup with one, but it wasn’t exactly easy. This particular Greek yogurt had oats, pumpkin and flax seeds in it. Flax seeds and oats! I kept thinking that they put flax seeds in shampoo, and oats in soap. I was eating something that had ingredients from shampoo and soap. If you can get past that, it was actually pretty tasty.

There I go digressing again. I do see the pattern.

In the past, I’ve explained how I tripped along the Champs Elysees and nearly died in Paris. I have shared stories about staring down venomous snakes. I’ve recounted tales about how I assaulted a crowd in a comedy club with Archway oatmeal cookies.

For the rest of the story, click here.

Mike Buzzelli is a stand up comedian and a sit down author. His book, "Below Average Genius," a collection of humor columns culled from the Observer-Reporter, can be purchased here!