Sunday, July 31, 2016

King of Stains - by Michael Buzzelli


I was wearing light tan pants. You can guess what happened next, but you should probably keep reading.

I was in a fast food joint getting iced tea. I moved a bottle of soy sauce out of my way. It slipped and fell to the ground. Soy sauce shot out of it, spraying me in the crotch. I grabbed some wet napkins, sat down and started rubbing my lap to avoid a stain.

Hey kids, don’t rub your privates in public, even to remove a stain.

I don’t think anyone at Noodles and Company in downtown Pittsburgh knew I was trying to protect my pants. With the help of stain remover the size of a pencil, I was able to rub it out. I still smelled like soy sauce. I was marinated the rest of the day. I kept craving Benihana.

I’ve stained a lot of clothes. Not always my own. When I was a teenager back in the Late Paleozoic, I worked at a grocery store. I remember this one time I was setting up a display of Seven Seas salad dressing and I dropped a bottle of Italian on the ground. The bottle was plastic and it bounced. The lid popped open and squirted a distance of 10 feet, hitting a customer in the eye. I couldn’t get over how far the blob of Italian dressing traveled to hit him square in the face.

I remember that guy was really angry, but he still looked like he was winking at me. He couldn’t keep his right eye open without burning pain. My manager had to take the guy into the employee washroom (not that gross one customers had to use). As punishment, I was placed on buggy control for the rest of the week. It was my job to corral all the shopping carts in the parking lot and bring them inside. It was humiliating. Usually the baggers had to rustle up the carts, but I was a stock boy, which was one step up. The grocery store caste system made sense at the time.

I recall going to McDonald’s with a group of friends back in those awkward teenage years. I had some difficulty trying to open one of those plastic packets of ketchup. I was squeezing really hard when it popped open, and once again, the ketchup flew two tables away and splattered all over a businessman, who was, up until then, minding his own business. When he looked down and saw his shirt and skinny tie (it was the mid to late ’80s), his face was as red as the Heinz 57 he was wearing. I apologized profusely, but my friends exacerbated the problem by laughing uncontrollably. I believe one of them slipped under the table, seized with a fiery fit of giggles. I’m convinced that’s when the expression ROTFL was invented. I blame those slippery yellow plastic booths.

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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 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.


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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