Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Cultured Butter - by Michael Buzzelli

Earlier this month in Harrisburg, a unique tribute to Pennsylvania dairy farmers was unveiled. “The Culture of Stewardship” is art crafted in butter. Yes, I said butter. A half ton of butter, to be precise. The sculpture depicts farms, rolling hillsides, forests and hills and premiered at the 2017 Pennsylvania Farm Show.

I have heard of artists who work in oils, but not butter. I didn’t realize that butter could be art. I only work with butter in the medium of toast, and by “medium” I’m strictly referring to the setting on the toaster.

I couldn’t help but think “The Culture of Stewardship” would have looked perfect next to Roy Neary’s “Devil’s Tower,” constructed completely out of mashed potatoes (in the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”). Don’t you think they would have looked delicious together?

Side note: There are several mashed potato sculpting contests around the country, including one at the Long Island Potato Festival. It seems to me mashed potatoes would be easier to make into things, unless they’re lumpy. You can’t carve out a smooth bust of Venus with lumpy mashed potatoes.

But I digress, like I do. The husband and wife team of Jim Victor and Marie Pelton built the panoramic butter tableau. Victor and Pelton are artists who work in butter, chocolate, cheese and mixed-food media. Their work is quite astonishing. They’ve made sculptures of children at play, motorcycles and, of course, cows. They even did Michelangelo’s David, but gave him a surfboard and dressed him in board shorts. Since it was beach-themed, they should have used cocoa butter.

Sculpting art from butter sounds like laborious and messy work, especially with a thousand pounds of the yellow goop. Victor and Pelton work in frigid temperatures to maintain the consistency of their medium.

I wonder if they’d get in trouble for using I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! or other margarines? By the way, the exclamation point is actually part of the butter substitute’s name. It’s a very dramatic margarine.

Not to go off on another tangent, but I can’t think of any other item at the grocery store that is both a product and a sentence. Please write in, if you can think of one.

But I digress, again. I grew up loving art, but I don’t believe in wasting food. You can see my dilemma. While I marvel at the sand sculptures at the Three Rivers Regatta, I turn my nose up at food art; literally and figuratively, as it probably stinks after a while. You could never have a permanent collection.

For the rest of the column, 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.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Monday, Monday, Can't Trust that day - by Michael Buzzelli

I would like to officially welcome you to the first Monday of 2017. There are going to be a lot of them this year, exactly 52. They won’t all be good, but they won’t all be bad, either. For the record, my favorite Mondays are Memorial Day, Labor Day and Presidents Day (listed in order of preference).

For the most part, I tend to agree with one of the most famous philosophers of our time, who once said, “I hate Mondays.” Yes. If you guessed Garfield … the cat, not the late president ... give yourself a gold star for your forehead.

I get most of my words of wisdom from cartoon characters.

When Pogo said, “We’ve met the enemy, and he is us,” it stayed with me for a long time. Mostly, because it was engraved on a commemorative sippy cup I got from McDonalds, Burger King or Howard Johnson’s.

But I digress, like I do. Garfield made a fortune on hating Mondays and loving lasagna. Ninety-nine percent of the people I know hate the beginning of the work week and love Italian food. In comedy, that’s called low-hanging fruit. You’ll see a lot of that around here. Cerebral comedy might rear its ugly, wrinkled brain every now and again, but look for bad puns and an occasional double entendre in this space.

I’m just glad we’ve successfully navigated 2016. As you know, not everyone made it out alive. If you were a celebrity in 2016, you were probably sweating bullets until that ball dropped. I know many a fine musician and actor who went “Whew!” at midnight. Somewhere in a protective bunker in the Midwest, Betty White was chewing on her fingernails.

I’m ready for the New Year. I am just not ready for Monday. They seem to come quicker and faster as I get older.

I’m going to be with you on Mondays now, every other one. I’m cutting back to do more work in film and TV. Just remember, the camera adds 10 pounds. I have 27 ½ cameras on me right now.

But I will be here for you on the biweekly basis. We will trudge off to the salt mines together. Through rain, sleet, hail and snow. In Pennsylvania, that could all be on the same day!

I think Monday needs a rallying cry, something to get us moving in the right direction. The day needs some pithy saying that works like prune juice on our soul.

King Henry cried out, “Once more to the breach, dear friends!” That works really well when you’re busting down walls in seaside French towns, but maybe it’s not the best rallying cry as you get on a bus and go to work.

“Once more to the Park and Ride, dear friends!” doesn’t have the same ring to it.

For the rest of this column, click here

Monday, January 2, 2017

New Year, New York? No, Thank You - By Michael A. Buzzelli

So this is New Year’s; another year over, and a new one just begun. I was so busy making plans for Christmas, I didn’t make any plans for New Year’s Eve. I admire people who make party plans well in advance. You have to be serious about parties to get it together during the hoopla of Hanukkah and the chaos of Christmas.

When I was younger, I wanted to go to Times Square to watch the ball drop. Recently, I learned that once you enter Times Square for the holiday, you have to stay until the New Year begins. The square is then divided into different viewing sections referred to as “pens,” where attendees are directed sequentially upon arrival. Talk about herding people like cattle. I’m surprised they’re not branded with a hot poker and sold at auction. Moo.

There are no public restrooms there. Some people are trapped there for eight hours without access to a port-o-john. That doesn’t sound like a party to me. I’m not going to feel very festive if I’m walking around with a full bladder. When I’m deciding to find someplace fun to hang out, my first question is always, “Does it have a decent bathroom?”

It’s why I no longer go to concerts and/or sporting events.

Once you get in there, you do get a party favor, a glittery foil horn or a noisemaker. Big whoop. Actually, that should be the brand name of the party favor: The Big Whoop!

Every year, a celebrity or political figure is in charge of the grand descent of the big, shiny ball. An unusual number of special guests have been given the job of Head Ball Dropper. Lady Gaga and Cyndi Lauper have been among the small number of people who have pressed the button that “activates” the ball drop. Actually, the button is just for show, like the buttons on a Fisher-Price Busy Box. There’s a control room where the ball is monitored and controlled so it drops at the precise second. Pressing a button at the precise moment is a lot of pressure for a celebrity. You can’t give that job to a rainbow-haired singer or a musician who wears a meat dress. Besides, you don’t want to start 2017 at 11:58.

Imagine the disappointment if people were counting down and the ball dropped prematurely. The crowd would say, “Ten. Nine. Eight … oh wait … the ball has already descended. Um. Happy New Year … I guess.”

I know a lot of people who won’t make it till midnight. They’ll wake up on the couch and find that “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” has rocked out, and only the D-Listers are performing – entertainers so third-tier that they’re not even considered for the inauguration.

“Let’s go live to Ian Ziering and Jaleel “Urkel” White, where they’re going to ring in the New Year with Vanilla Ice in Indiana at midnight – Central Time!”

But I digress, like I do. Where will I be for the beginning of 2017? That answer still eludes me. More importantly, who will I kiss at midnight? You’d better pucker up, just in case.

You can read Mike Buzzelli's column in the Observer-Reporter on alternate Mondays starting January 2, 2017. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Tuning up for Christmas - by Michael Buzzelli

It’s here! Time flies when you’re stuck in mall traffic, bargain hunting and going to office parties. Christmas is upon us. Heck, in a day or two there will be nothing left but crinkled wrapping paper and regret.

I love Christmas. The twinkling lights, the half-price merchandise and the chance to get together with friends and family. But I’m going to miss the music most of all. I love Christmas music. I don’t know when it happened, but I am a recent Christmas music convert. The sappy sentimentality of holiday music literally and figuratively rings my bell. I think because most of them are songs about love and joy.

I think it started when I moved back to Pittsburgh, seven years ago (gulp). Every year, I go to the Holiday Pops concert at Heinz Hall, and I have my car radio affixed to 3WS for non-stop holiday music, and I find myself humming the tunes in the shower. Don’t try to picture it.

I love almost all of it. Almost. I change the dial whenever I hear, “Hey Chingedy-chig. EEE AWWW! EEE AWWW!”

Sorry, Italy, you can keep “Dominic the Italian Christmas Donkey,” especially when Lou Monte sings, “La la la la” ad infinitum. I think he’s trying to get on my nerves. I can’t imagine the guys in the recording studio going, “Yes! Add a few more ‘La la’s’ in there, Lou! That’s it. Bray even louder in the next take.”

I am part Italian, but apparently my ears are from another country.

Also, I’d like to give that little girl a hippopotamus. Maybe it will shut her up. Gayle Peevy topped the charts with that song back in 1953. I like a good novelty song like the next guy, but the joke gets old really fast. Trust me. I’m an old joke expert! Ask anyone.

Then there’s “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” I’ve always loved this song, until I really examined the lyrics. It’s got a real date rape vibe.

When it was written back in 1949, it was a scandal for a woman to stay overnight with a man. Clutch the pearls, Mabel!

Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski recently rewrote the lyrics to emphasize consent. They made a happy little P.C. version. They spin it a whole new way. In their version, the male lead replies with lines like “Baby, I’m fine with that” and “Been hoping you get home safe.”

I contend that she doesn’t really want to leave. So, I have decided to rewrite the song myself.

Her: “I really can’t stay.”

Him: “Text me that you got home OK.”

Her: “My mother will start to worry.”

Him: “There’s the door. Better scurry.”

Her: “My father will be pacing the floor.”

Him: “No. Seriously. There’s the door!”

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, December 19, 2016

Going Dutch - Pennsylvania Dutch - by Michael Buzzelli

When people mention a television show I’d never seen or a song I had never heard, I used to joke, “I’m Amish.” I always thought it was funny, until someone believed me.

For the record, there are no olive-skinned Amish people. I’m Greek, Italian and Irish. The Greeks and the Italians invented civilization; they would never go backward. The Irish side might. They’re a hearty people who are used to being without amenities. Don’t believe me? Read “Angela’s Ashes.”

This week, I was plunged into darkness. A truck took out the cable on Monday. It couldn’t be fixed until Friday. I was told I was going to go a week without television or internet. Suddenly, I was Robinson Crusoe.

When I was outside shoveling the snow earlier this week, I saw it there, a big snake-like cable in a big, loopy pile. I would have used a sad-face emoji to express myself, but, alas, there was no internet.

It turns out a week without television and internet isn’t so bad. It was like a vacation from reality. I was in a news blackout. I didn’t know what was going on. At work, I did hear that the dad from “Growing Pains” died. All that information out there flowing at us a trillion bytes a second, and Alan Thicke was headline from the water cooler. I’m glad I don’t normally gather my intel from the break room.

I remember watching “Growing Pains,” but I don’t think I could tell you anything about it. I used to get it mixed up with “Family Ties.” The ’80s and early ’90s were kind of a blur. I remember telling someone I had only seen one episode of “A.L.F.” and they looked at me like I was the one from another planet. When I got my first apartment in the early ’90s, I didn’t buy a television set. I went through my whole life never seeing the Fresh Prince, Urkel or that family of dinosaurs. I don’t think I’m missing anything.

But I digress, like I do. I learned a lot by not having access to news, weather and other pertinent data.

It turns out that you feel less cold if you don’t know the actual temperature. I was outside dusting snow off my windshield, and I was feeling fine. Later, when I started the car up and saw the temperature on the dashboard, I got a sudden chill. I may never listen to local weathermen again.

Frankly, broadcast news puts me in a bad mood anyway. It’s easier to digest in the newspaper (hint: subscribe).

It was a good week to be without television. All the primetime shows are in reruns, and I’ve seen “Frosty,” “Charlie Brown” and “It’s A Wonderful Life.” I could probably act out scenes from each in my living room. Not that anyone wants to see me dancing around my living room with a broom and a corncob pipe.
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, December 11, 2016

Christmas at supersonic speed - by Michael Buzzelli

It should come as no surprise to many of you, but I’m not ready for Christmas. I just put the Halloween decorations away yesterday.

I know that some of you finished your holiday shopping in September. Everything was wrapped and under the tree by Black Friday. I would have absolutely no holiday spirit if I said, “I hate you people.” Instead, I will just admit being envious of the organized and efficient among you, but, seriously, you guys are putting me at the bottom of the bell curve.

Now, I’m not quite as bad as the guy who buys everything at the gas station at 11:30 Christmas Eve. That’s hard to pull that off. You have to look really excited when you say things like, “Hey! I got you an assortment of air fresheners for your car!” And, “I thought you would like this tiny jar of mayonnaise and some beef jerky!” And/or, “Slushies for everyone!”

Side note: I just learned that there is really a guy named Sheetz. I thought it was a made-up store name. There is a real-life Joe Sheetz. However, there is no Bob AM/PM Market or a Linda 7-Eleven.

But I digress, like I do. I’m having trouble believing that Christmas is around the corner. Remember when we were kids? Thanksgiving to Christmas seemed like an eternity, a vast chasm between one holiday and the next. We needed an advent calendar to count the days away. I’ve been too busy to open the little windows on my advent calendar.

A few nights ago, I went to Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens to see their Winter Flower Show with a group of friends. It was the perfect trip to put me in the Christmas mood. Everything was merry and bright. It was worth going just to see the giant Fraser fir bedecked in lights and tasteful ornaments. They have a terrific toy train running around a track with festive toy buildings, including a mini replica of the Phipps Conservatory with a plant inside; the model only has room for the one plant, whereas the real thing has hundreds, if not thousands. My friends and I walked around enjoying the evening. It’s quite spectacular at night. I ooh-ed and ahh-ed all over the place.

At one point, my friend Chris asked about another mutual friend, and I said, “I just saw him. In August.”

August. My life is flying by. You can’t claim you just saw someone if it was four months ago. Labor Day was not around the corner, but it sure feels like it.

Time is a ski slope, and I’m hitting a downhill slalom, speeding downward in a perpetual panic. I hope I don’t break anything.

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, December 4, 2016

Ain't that a kick in the head - by Michael Buzzelli

It’s not every day you see a giraffe kick a lioness in the face, unless you watch a ton of Discovery Channel.

The BBC is promoting a new wildlife documentary. In a clip of their new show, an African cat pursued a giraffe, but the tables turned when the giraffe fought back, smacking the lioness in the face with his two front legs. Ouch. For the record, I was on the giraffe’s side, but then I felt bad for the lioness. She was just doing her job, picking up dinner for the family. Then, dinner struck back.

The show will be coming to America soon. I hate the title. The producers are calling the show, “Planet Earth II.” Of course the name bothers me. It either happens on Planet Earth or somewhere else. You can’t call it Earth II. That conjures up images of alternate realities or desperate doomsday scenarios where we have to move to another planet because we wrecked this one.

If we do have to someday leave home and start again in another solar system, I hope we come up with a more original name, like Utopia, Eden or East Hawaii (come on, you’d go if it was called East Hawaii). Renaming a second Earth-like planet Earth II or New Earth is terribly unoriginal. It’s like that neighbor kid who loses his dog, Buddy, and names the new dog Buddy Two. I think it’s disrespectful to Buddy One and to the planet Earth.

The mistake was calling the first show “Planet Earth.” It’s a bit pretentious, but it is, after all, on the BBC.

I have a problem with this network. For an English television station, they sure show a lot of “Star Trek” reruns. I guess the ones with Jean-Luc Piccard make sense. He’s played by a British actor. However, for some unknown reason, you can find Kirk, Spock and the Klingons on there at three in the morning. There is nothing remotely English about the first “Star Trek,” except the episode with Joan Collins in it.

But I digress, like I do. Nature shows are hard to watch. I didn’t want the giraffe to end up as main course for a pride of lions, but I didn’t want the lioness to be hoofed in the head. It’s a no-win scenario, like the Kobayashi Maru (yet another “Trek” reference).

It’s all about perspective. Picture the slow-motion footage of a frog catching a fly with his tongue. That always looks cool. Now imagine you zoom in for a close-up of the fly’s face, and he’s surprised, panicked, horror-struck. Suddenly, you’re hoping the fly will get away.

I realize flies have very few facial expressions. They always look surprised, because they have big, bulgy eyeballs. I guess if you have thousand visual lenses, you’d always look surprised, too.

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.