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!

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!