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!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Decade After Natalee Holloway’s Death, Her High School Decides It’s Finally Okay To Resume Senior Class Trips To Aruba

By James J. Hamilton
MOUNTAIN BROOK, ALABAMA—Mountain Brook High School is the alma mater of Natalee Holloway, the eighteen year old student who disappeared and was presumably murdered on a senior class trip to Aruba in 2005. Over a decade later, Mountain Brook's Principal Andrew Davis said the school will finally resume senior trips to the Caribbean island. "Students always loved those trips and it's a shame that one bad experience had to ruin it for everyone," Principal Davis said. "We held off for ten years, but I think by now we've made whatever point we were trying to make." Noting that prime suspect Joran van der Sloot recently admitted in undercover footage that he is guilty of Holloway's death, Principal Davis remarked that "We have some closure now, so we should be good to go, right?" When asked what steps the school would take to ensure students' safety in Aruba, Principal Davis said "Two words: Buddy system."
James J. Hamilton (@jamesjhamilton) is a comedian from Pittsburgh whose awesome genius is matched only by his incredible humility. Check out more of his writing and stand-up HERE on his website. 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

People Watching People - by Michael Buzzelli

Last weekend, I was on the boardwalk in Virginia Beach. I was soaking up rays of sunshine, listening to the waves crash in the surf and, above all, people watching. Sightseeing the sightseers. A tourist of tourists.

Technically, I was also a tourist, but a long time ago, I lived in Virginia, disqualifying me from being an actual tourist. I had a Virginia driver’s license.

But I digress, like I do. I was enjoying my favorite spectator sport: watching other humans in their natural habitat.

There were street performers. I found most of them unimpressive. We’re still doing the robot? Guys are still breakdancing with beatboxes? Ho hum. I did give a dollar to a random dude who did a backflip. Mostly, I handed him a buck to enrage the actual street performers and to make his girlfriend laugh. Mission accomplished, by the way. Most of the street performers were waiting around for a big crowd to gather before they started. Mission not accomplished.

One act impressed me. I did see a guy jump through a hoop of fire while balancing on a giant yoga ball. He had his kid carnival barking for him. The kid said, “If you drop a dollar in the hat, I get to go to college. If you drop more money in the hat, I don’t have to go to college.” The duo was wallet-worthy.

I moved on, enthralled by the people on the street. A multitude of men, women and children walking up and down the boardwalk.

I love people, but not in large groups. They make me kind of crazy. So, I put the mental in judgmental.

There was the guy who walked with his arms straight at his sides like Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance (I’m reaching deep, deep down in my reference bag for that one).

There was the loud wife who ordered her meek husband about.

There was a guy who looked scary, but helped a drunken man wobble over to a park bench. It was a sweet gesture I didn’t expect from a guy in a Tupac T-shirt. The adage about books and covers remains true.

I got to one particular corner, between street performers and outdoor bands, where I found a street preacher. He was on a tirade about hell. I almost felt sorry for him, because no one was paying attention. I kept thinking he would have been more successful if he had been on the boardwalk asking people to pray for our fallen soldiers on Memorial Day weekend, instead of threatening fire and brimstone. I hear you can catch more Christians with honey than with vinegar, or something like that.

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, May 30, 2016

The Sounds of Summer - by Michael Buzzelli

It was just around the corner. It just took a long time to round that corner. Summer is here.

Monday night I drove down Banksville Road and noticed they put water in the Dormont pool. You know how the dog gets really excited in the car when you near the park entrance? That was me. I scrabbled around the car, saying out loud, to absolutely no one, “The pool has water in it. The pool has water in it.” It was shimmering, glistening and blue. It was also about 60 degrees out that night, but it didn’t matter. The pool has water in it.

I’m a summer person. I like walking barefoot in the grass. I like to spread out on a beach towel and read a book. I like to jump and splash around in the pool like a drunk manatee. I like fresh air wafting through my bedroom. I would hug a tree, if I didn’t mind getting bits of bark on my new shirt.

I’d write a poem to summer if I could write poems. For those of you who think my humor writing is horrible, you should read my poetry. My poetry is like Ipecac. It induces vomiting.

I can think of very few downsides to the season. OK. There’s the added noise pollution. If you’ve ever had a neighbor rev their lawn mower at seven in the morning on a Sunday, you share my pain. Ten extra demerits if he also has a leaf blower.

When I lived in Los Angeles, the apartment had a gardener who would use a metal rake to clear leaves from the sidewalk. Imagine the sound of metal scraping along on the cement. Scritch. Scritch. Scritch. Why he was there doing it on a Sunday at 7 a.m. is beyond me. It took every ounce of restraint to not chuck my alarm clock out the window. Any heavy object from the nightstand would have been sufficient, provided I hit him on the head.

There’s another noise of summer I don’t like. The windows are rolled down and I am hearing other people’s music at the stoplight. I don’t want to hear your music. I don’t want your sounds to overpower my sounds. If I wanted to listen to (place name of famous country singer here), I would have tuned in to (place name of country radio station here). I’m over here learning about the town of Humansdorp in South Africa from Ari Shapiro and Audi Cornish (no, I didn’t make up the name of the town or the people). But I can’t hear about the life and times of three-time Olympic athlete Cornelia B├╝rki (from Humansdorp) because someone done someone wrong in the back of a pickup truck (or whatever).

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, May 22, 2016

The emperor gets some artwork - by Michael Buzzelli

A few weeks ago when I was in Washington, D.C., I went to the recently renovated and revitalized Renwick Gallery. I love art and alliteration (apparently).

I went to see “Shindig” by Patrick Dougherty. He’s a stick sculptor. For real, though. He works with twigs. He builds giant people-sized bird’s nest-like structures. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s a really impressive pile of twigs.

Look him up. I’ll wait.

When you say to people you stood in line for 30 minutes to see twigs arranged in a pattern in an art gallery, they think you’re a little crazy. I take comfort in the fact that I was not the only one.

If starting out with giant bird’s nests isn’t weird enough, artist Jennifer Angus took an entire room and decorated it with dead bugs in elaborate patterns. Dead bugs. Five thousand insects carefully arranged and pinned to the walls. It was actually pretty until you got up close. If something can be pretty and disgusting at the same time, it was her work “In the Midnight Garden.” I learned later in a short film about the project that the hot pink walls were painted with a natural dye derived from a tiny cochineal insect. Let me be clear: The walls were painted in bug secretions.

There’s that awkward moment when you place your hand on the wall to steady yourself as you tie your shoe and realize you’re touching bug “secretions.”

I’m not an idiot. I know what secretions are. I am the idiot who would accidentally touch it.

The show was called “Wonder,” and it did instill a lot of wonder. I sat down at the gallery to watch a short video about every piece in the collection.

One piece was a rubber and metal labyrinth, made from recycled flip-flops. I didn’t love it, but after the film I liked it even less. The film was so pretentious that my eyes rolled so far back in my head I thought I would be staring at my brain.

Picture it: Discordant notes clang on a black background. Words appear and disappear on the screen, one after another, words such as “sustainable,” “organic” and “earthy.” The buzziest of buzzwords. I was waiting for “paradigm shift” to show up. Then, words such as “faithful” and “rebellious” popped onto the screen.

No. Your art can’t be both faithful and rebellious. You’re not casting out money changers from the Temple of Jerusalem.

You are talking about some old shoes that are welded together to create a maze! My sarcasm gun went from the stun to kill setting.

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, May 15, 2016

Time keeps on slipping, slipping into the future - by Michael Buzzelli

Not to brag, but my bedroom is in a different time zone. It’s 7:30 in the bedroom, 7:20 in the bathroom and 7 in the kitchen. I’m either a time traveler or the clocks are wrong. Since I don’t have a DeLorean or any sort of contraption fit for H.G. Wells, I decided it was the clocks.

During a brief power outage some time ago, the clocks became untethered from reality as we know it, unmoored from the very time stream. It’s all wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff. In other words, I set them incorrectly. There is good news. The microwave is not blinking midnight any more. Except at midnight.

It turns out the kitchen clock was the closest to right. It wasn’t completely right, but it was the closest. The most right timepiece was the cellphone, which gets its information from space (which makes very little sense when you think about it). Luckily, the cellphone was the only timepiece in the house that didn’t rely on my abilities.

Frankly, it’s a good thing the kitchen clock was close to right. It was the hardest to change. I had to take it off the wall and use a Phillips-head screwdriver to properly align it.

A bunch of clocks on different times can make a person crazy. Crazier, if you will. Now I had a dilemma. I’ve gotten used to knowing that the bedroom clock is 20 minutes fast. I’m afraid if I reset it to the correct time, I will forget it is right and sleep later than I planned. Twenty minutes is a hefty amount of time to sleep through. Except at midnight.

Now I have to wake up, check the alarm against the cellphone and decide if it’s time to get out of bed. In the early morning, it seems like an incredibly complex mathematical equation. It’s not. One is right and one is wrong. I should just go by the right time, but it’s usually an interesting text or Facebook message that prompts me to rise from my slumber.

Of course, the clocks are the only thing that’s running fast in my house.

That’s a blatant lie. I live in the same house with a marathon runner. My niece Brittany lives in the basement apartment since her parents moved to Ohio. It’s just not as funny to say nothing runs fast in my house except the clocks and my niece. See. Nothing kills a joke worse than the truth. Except at midnight. 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!