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!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

A fruit by any other name - by Mike Buzzelli

Last weekend, I was in D.C. I went to a wonderful little Lebanese restaurant where I didn’t know how to pronounce anything on the menu. I usually point at the menu and say, “I’ll have that.”

Luckily, it was all delicious.

When dining on foreign cuisine (foreign to me, at least), I usually go for the eggplant dish. In Middle Eastern restaurants, there’s always at least one eggplant dish, and a side dish with beans. Frankly, in any Middle Eastern restaurant you’re fine as long as you like garlic.

When I was a kid, I didn’t like eggplant, mostly because of the name. It’s a hideous name and a hideous-looking vegetable. So I did my research, and by “research” I mean I looked it up on Wikipedia

Side note: Dear College kids, please don’t follow my example and use Wikipedia as a research tool. You might believe British pop star Robbie Williams eats domestic pets in pubs for money, or that David Beckham was a Chinese goalkeeper in the 18th century, or Conan O’Brien assaulted sea turtles while canoeing (all misrepresented “truths” formerly on Wikipedia).

But I digress, like I do. The eggplant is not a vegetable. It’s a fruit. Who knew? It’s a nightshade, like the tomato. None of this mattered to me. I just wanted to know where they got their hideous appellation. I couldn’t understand why the elongated, purple, squash-shaped thing was called eggplant in the first place. Then, I did learn they come in an off-white shade, and some little white ones sort of looked like eggs, and it began to click.

I learned you can call an eggplant an aubergine. It sounds much more exotic that way. Though, it means “Benson” actor Rene Auberjonois is really Rene Eggplant, but nobody remembers the eggplant-named actor. He was the original Father Mulcahy in the movie version of “M*A*S*H.,” and he played some no-nosed alien on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” which always sounded like a porn parody of the famous Sci-Fi show.

Meanwhile, back in the Lebanese restaurant, I ordered m’saka, which sounds a lot like moussaka, but is very different. M’saka is a cold eggplant dish with chickpeas, tomatoes and garlic.

Before you say, “Cold eggplant! That’s disgusting!” I want you to know that I was thinking the exact same thing when it came to the table. However, I could have licked the plate clean. Unfortunately, I decided some time ago that I shouldn’t behave like a small, feral child in a restaurant. Well, at least, not any more.

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 2, 2016

An alarming call to arms - by Mike Buzzelli

The alarm goes off and I’m thinking, “Didn’t we just do this?!” It seems to me I would like mornings better if they didn’t come so early. The alarm goes off. I get up. I do it.

It’s just not my thing. This working for a living baloney is for the birds.

Side note: Do birds eat baloney? The pigeons of Pittsburgh probably only eat jumbo.

But I digress, like I do.

I’ve been having a little trouble getting out of bed when the klaxon sounds. It doesn’t help that most alarm noises are horrifying sounds, an eerie whine, a blaring bell, Creedence Clearwater Revival or Led Zeppelin.

When we were young, back in the early Paleolithic, my brother Rick and I shared a room. Rick liked classic rock. I didn’t. One year, he got a clock/radio for Christmas. Apparently Santa Claus was unaware that I had to share the room with him, because that was one evil gift. He could only go to sleep with the music on, and I had to have silence every night before I could fall asleep.

Every night, I had to wait for a snore before I could shut off the clock/radio and get some shut-eye. Then, the snoring kept me up.

Every morning, it would go off at seven, set to WDVE.

In high school, from my freshman to senior year, I woke up to “Stairway to Heaven.” EVERY. SINGLE. MORNING.

I can’t even hear that song today without having convulsions. I had murderous thoughts about the clock/radio. I had dark fantasies about being alone with it … and a ball-peen hammer. Back then, classic rock was just called rock. It was called that because we used to bang the rocks together to make music.

Needless to say, I can’t wake up to music. I have PTSD. One “There’s a lady who’s sure … All that glitters is gold” and I’ll crack.

If you needed music to fall asleep, how was it going to wake you up?

Rick was notoriously difficult to wake up. It was like he slipped into a coma every night. I’d be the only one who would be listening to the music I despised.

I remember one particular morning when I walked over to his bed and nudged him to see if he was still alive. He woke up, punched me in the face and went back to bed.

He was late a lot. There’s only so many right hooks to the jaw you can take before you say, “Maybe you should wake up on your own.” My limit was one.

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, April 24, 2016

The Seven Minute Stretch - by Michael Buzzelli

I tried to steal a friend’s car the other day.

Don’t judge. There are extenuating circumstances that I am going to delineate below.

On Sunday, I rushed to get to a board meeting. I showed up at 11:07 a.m. I pulled into the parking garage in downtown Pittsburgh.

I couldn’t believe how fast I had gotten to town considering there was a baseball game that day.

I ran in to the meeting and apologized for being late. The board secretary, Cathy, asked me if I had an excuse, and I thought she was joking. I shushed her because the board was in the midst of a discussion.

After they wrapped up the agenda item, the board president, Claire, said to me, “We voted on a few things before you got here.”

I was aghast. I said, “Wait. How much business did you get done in seven minutes?!”

Everyone turned to me and stared. They were all making the “What you talkin’ ’bout, Willis?” face. I looked down at my phone, and I was about to defend my seven-minute lapse.

Claire very quietly said, “Mike, the meeting started at 10.”

I must have been making my “Yikes!” face, because the room erupted in laughter. I am glad that I no longer get embarrassed, or I would have turned red.

The meeting has always started at 10.

I don’t know where my mind was, but I’m at a point in my life where my own stupidity no longer shocks me.

On the plus side, no moronic thing anyone does shocks me, either.

I’ve become immune to idiots. It’s probably why this whole election cycle isn’t bothering me anymore.

But I digress, like I do. We got through a list of items on our agenda, and the meeting was adjourned promptly at noon. I issued another apology as we waited for the elevator.

I walked back to the parking garage thinking, “This was the fastest meeting I’ve ever attended. Oh. That’s right. I skipped the whole first hour.” I nearly slapped myself on the forehead, like you do when you forgot you could have been drinking a V8. Only no one willingly drinks V8.

I had my keys out and walked to the car. Linda, who also attended the meeting, walked toward me. She started laughing again from my earlier faux pas.

I was trying to change the subject by saying, “Oh! We must have parked near each other.”

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, April 17, 2016

I love salad - by Mike Buzzelli

The other day I took one of those Facebook questionnaires. The computer asked me to name my four favorite foods.

I think I’d rather take the SATs. I’m not a very decisive person. At a restaurant I have to be told the specials … twice. Servers hate me, but I tip well.

It’s hard to pick four of anything. I run out of steam after two. Pizza was easy. I think most Americans love pizza.

Pizza can be plain or fancy. It’s so versatile. I love the regular sauce and cheese variety, but I’ve also liked ones with fingerling potatoes and pesto on them.

I’ve had roasted pears and arugula on pizza.

You can put anything on a slab of dough and call it a pizza.

I finally decided on my four things. I picked roasted root vegetables as number two, French fries as number three, and a big salad as number four.

No one picks salad. I secretly hoped this survey wasn’t for “Family Feud,” because I may have skewed the curve. “Oh, Johnson family you lose.

The top survey answers were pizza, lasagna, steak, French fries and one moron in Pennsylvania said salad. But we do have a year’s supply of Turtle Wax for you.”

Side note: I don’t really watch “Family Feud.” I’m not sure how it works.

I love a big salad. It didn’t used to be my favorite. When I was growing up, we only had one lettuce.

The other kinds hadn’t been invented yet. We only had iceberg. I’m sure you’re curious why they would name a lettuce after something that sunk the Titanic. Its flavor was wet crunch, like an actual iceberg.

In the mid-to-late '80s, lettuce got exciting. Now we have romaine, arugula, endive, radicchio, frisee, loose leaf, butterhead and more.

Plus, I expanded the things I put on a salad. I discovered feta cheese, Kalamata olives and pepperoncini.

No, I wasn’t the Christopher Columbus of salad, but I did go on a college trip to Greece.

Then, I learned that in Italy a salad could be just mozzarella cheese, basil and some tomatoes. The Caprese is the pizza of salad.

I found I liked apples, beets, grapes, nuts, strawberries or pomegranate seeds in a salad. I realized you can put anything in one as long as you start with a lettuce base. 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, April 10, 2016

Remote - No control by Mike Buzzelli

When I was younger, I would get so angry at my dad when he would grab the remote and switch stations in the middle of a show because of the commercials. Now, I’m doing it. I’ve met the enemy, and he is me. I’ve gone clicker crazy! It turns out that the shoe didn’t fall far from the tree.

P.S. Don’t write in letters and call it a mistake. I actually happen to have a shoe tree.

But I digress, like I do. I blame the Cookie Monster for my remote control madness. At first, I thought it was cute that the Sesame Street creature was hocking hands-free phones.

Then, I wondered, “Cookie, why don’t you use your waiting time more productively and clean up that ginormous mess you made? Or, at the very least, make another batch of cookies?”

Now, I’ve been switching shows in midstream to avoid commercials, such as the aforementioned Muppet-centric one. Then, I forget what I was watching in the first place and fall down an endless rabbit hole of cable channels. I have TV ADD.

I get very confused. The next day, someone will say, “What did you watch on TV last night?”

I’ll respond, “I’m not sure. ‘The Bachelor’ had to cook something with five unusual ingredients in a basket while he sipped coffee at Central Perk with Chandler and Monica, then drag queens had to save Steve Harvey from Chin Ho, and Alicia Florrick and Buffy Summers fought the Flash and Supergirl. Something like that.”

It’s been a while since I could concentrate long enough to stay in one place for 30 minutes, let alone a whole hour.

Police procedurals are completely out. I find myself at the high end of the cable channels. And, as we all know, cable is the worst. There are twice as many commercials, and they are twice as terrible. The higher the channel number, the greater the stupidity of the commercials. You’ve fallen, and you can’t get up! You want your money, and you need it now!

Did you ever notice that in every state in America, some car salesman gets the genius idea of using his trophy wife (I want my Ugg boots in the shot for no real reason) or grandchild (lispy kid) to sell his cars? The only thing worse is when they try to do it themselves.

Dear car dealerships, lawyers and plastic surgeons, if you have money to make a commercial, please hire a professional.

I don’t mean a football player, either. Sometimes I can see their eyes move across the cue cards.

Commercials are for actors. You wouldn’t want your wife or child to remove a tumor from your brain. I’m not saying acting is brain surgery, but the wannabes sure make it look like it is. Hashtag me at #Bitter-actor-party-of-one.

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!