Monday, November 28, 2016

How to hatch a toy craze in a few easy lessons - by Mike Buzzelli

Move over, Cabbage Patch dolls. Sayonara, Pokemon. Dos vedanya, Tickle Me Elmo. There’s a new toy craze in town. The Hatchimals are here (another popular portmanteau). It’s like Beatlemania, only with vibrantly colored, stuffed animals that are housed inside plush eggs. People are flocking to Targets, Walmarts and Toy R Us’s. Toys R We?

Side note: I don’t think there’s an official plural to Toys R Us. Also, I can’t make a backward “R” on my keyboard. Sad face. But I digress, like I do. If you’re lucky, you’ve already picked up an Owlicorn, Beerakeet or Pengualas for your kid. If not, it’s probably already too late. Cue the ominous music: Dunt dun da!

A bunch of them flew off the shelves even before Black Friday.

Picture it: It’s the day after America’s biggest sales day, and somewhere on the war-torn floor of a Super K, parents are devising their excuses for Santa. They are meandering back to their cars in the vast, now-empty parking lots across the country. What are they going to tell their children when they don’t get the coveted toy of the year?

“Noah, Santa really wanted to get you a purple and teal Burtle, but the elves skipped their flu shots this year. There was a deadly breakout in the North Pole. Production slowed to a halt. Blame it on the elves.”

“I’m sorry Olivia, but the Hatichables all hatched and flew the coop! You want them to roam free, don’t you?”

Did I mention that Hatchimals start out as Hatchables? It begins in a plush, speckled egg, and you don’t know which creature you might hatch. That’s right. You don’t know what you’re going to get. It’s like a Whitman’s Sampler of toys. You want the caramel, but you get the coconut. That’s a disaster waiting to happen. Ask any kid who ever opened a baseball card and got a Billy Martin or A.J. Pierzynski card with their stale piece of bubble gum. You know there’s a kid pining for the penguin, but gets stuck with a parakeet. I picture a lot of crying under the Christmas tree this year.

Here’s the deal with the Hatchimals. They’re like Tamagotchis. Remember those hand-held digital pets that you had to “feed” and “pamper”? They’ve been gene-spliced with Rainbow Brite and the Care Bears. Mutated from Beyond! The result is this new plot to tear families apart, one Christmas at a time. The Hatchimals.

It all starts with the Hatchables, the aforementioned speckled eggs that are meant to teach responsibility and boost imaginative play. The egg coos and lights up. You can even hear a heartbeat inside. When you tap on the egg, it taps back.

Isn’t that creeping anyone else out?

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, November 21, 2016

"Hamilton" Cast Trashes Mike Pence After Pence Ruins Play By Revealing Spoiler That Hamilton Dies At The End

By James J. Hamilton
NEW YORK—When Vice President-elect Mike Pence attended the hit broadway musical "Hamilton" on Friday night, the cast took a timeout from the performance to publicly denounce him for ruining the play by revealing the spoiler that Alexander Hamilton dies at the end in a duel with Aaron Burr. 

Sources say Pence, while standing in the crowded lobby before the play, said out loud to his wife that he was looking forward the scene in which Hamilton is killed by Burr, adding that he hoped the performance would capture the intense drama of the actual historical event. 

Pence's comments were overheard by his fellow playgoers, many of whom were understandably outraged at having spent thousands of dollars on tickets to a play only to have Pence spoil it by blabbing about the ending.

President-elect Donald Trump demanded that the "Hamilton" cast apologize to Pence, but no one should listen to Trump, because he's probably the type of inconsiderate jerk who will be standing in line on opening night of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, loudly announcing to Melania that the rebels get away with the Death Star plans at the end.

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 on his website

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Thanksgiving Thanks List - by Michael Buzzelli

It is inevitable. Like engine number five chugging down the track, Thanksgiving is coming. I have never been a big fan. I don’t eat turkey. I don’t like pumpkin pie. I don’t eat moist breadcrumbs and celery that is housed inside a dead bird. Don’t even get me started on giblets. Ick!

I don’t even like football. I’m continually surprised to be allowed to live in Southwestern Pennsylvania after mentioning that (let’s just keep that between us).

However, I decided that instead of being a Negative Nancy, I’d be a Positive Peter. I am going to be grateful, and actually give thanks, instead of knocking down a beloved fall holiday.

Since I believe that someday I’m going to be able to give an Oscar speech at the Academy Awards, I’m going to forgo thanking the friends and relatives this time around. I will thank my friends, family and agent in that speech. Besides, they know who they are. If I listed all of them, I’d get the hook half way through this column. I have also decided to make this gratitude list Thanksgiving-appropriate.

I’d like to thank those hard-working people who hold down the oversized Pillsbury Doughboy balloon at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Actually, I’m grateful for all of the balloon holder-downers, whether it’s Pikachu, Thomas the Train Engine, Paddington, Charlie Brown or Garfield.

P.S. I read the Garfield comic every day, and I have never once laughed at that cat. Why is he so popular?! He hates Mondays. Big freaking deal! Everyone I know hates Mondays.

But I digress, like I do. I also want to thank all those tireless Broadway actors, singers and dancers who show up at the parade and deliver previews to plays most Americans won’t see. For one brief and shining moment, they bring “Camelot” to you. A veritable smorgasbord of plays shows up in your living room. Yes, I am curious about the “Curious Incident of the dog in the Nighttime.” If I go to New York City this year, I can thank the parade for getting me to the theater.

I’d like to thank probiotic bacteria, those little micro-organisms that support good health. I know I’m going to need those little guys to be in top form as I overeat at America’s most gluttonous holiday. I’ve been training by eating a lot of yogurt and raw vegetables to prepare me for the big day.

I’d like to thank Netflix. After a ginormous meal, I’m going to want to watch something other than football. I will probably watch one of those superhero shows. One of those where they never put on a costume. The ones where the character’s real name is also their superhero name like Jessica Jones or Luke Cage. The titles of these shows are “Jessica Jones” and “Luke Cage.” Go figure.

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.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Cheapskate Patient Gets $100k Surgery and Doesn’t Even Tip the Doctor

By James J. Hamilton
PITTSBURGH—Confidential sources say local tightwad Brent Douglas recently received successful angioplasty surgery at Allegheny General Hospital to the tune of $100k and didn't leave any tip for the surgeon who performed the procedure, Richard Stedman, MD.

Dr. Stedman declined to comment on Douglas's failure to tip, though when we asked him about it, he looked like he was about to cry and excused himself from the room. Douglas was apparently too busy to comment on his shameful frugality, with his "wife" claiming he was "unavailable" and "recovering from surgery."

A nurse who assisted in the procedure, speaking on the condition of anonymity, took the penny-pinching Douglas to task for skipping out of the tip. "I'm not saying he's ungrateful, but if patients didn't tip, Dr. Stedman wouldn't be able to spend more than one week a year in the Turks and Caicos."
We spoke to Debra Lerman, MD, vice president of the American Medical Association, who said "Traditionally it's fifteen or twenty percent. When a treatment or procedure goes well, you let your doctor know you appreciate him."

Angie Donovon of the hospital's billing department explained the process: "When we send out the bill, it shows the amount covered by insurance and the amount owed by the patient. It also says GRATUITY NOT INCLUDED in all caps and there's a line where the patients can write in their tips. Some people use that, some just leave cash tips next to their beds when they're discharged."

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 on his website

Sunday, November 13, 2016

On the lam again - by Michael Buzzelli

Several months ago, my friend Lonnie and I were standing next to my car, shooting the breeze on a Saturday night. We tried several times to end the evening. We have a lot of conversations where we try to wrap it up. We will both say, “One more thing” and several one-more-things later, it’s midnight.

Late in the night, just as she was about to turn and leave for the final time, she looked over at the car and said, “You know that your inspection sticker expired months ago, right?”

I said, “Whatty what now?”

She was right (I realize I just put that in writing and there’s no going back).

The second she correctly surmised my car was long overdue for inspection, I went into panic mode. Driving home that night, I was terrified a cop would find me and write up a ticket. For months, I drove around content and happy in a totally oblivious state. Now I was panic-stricken. Every car that pulled out behind me was a potential police car. I could not contain my fear. Now I drove around like a wanted criminal.

The next morning, I found a mechanic who was open on Sunday and drove straight there. Once again, I was traumatized that I would be pulled over. I remember driving into the mechanic’s parking lot and saying “Whew!” out loud, like a comic book character.

Here’s the thing I didn’t remember: The month your car is due for inspection never changes. If you drove around 11 months and finally got your inspection in September, it’s still due again in October.

On Nov. 6, I discovered that my car was, once again, overdue for inspection.

I threw it into panic mode again. This time, I also criticized myself for being a bad adult. I mean, you get to make a mistake like that once, not twice.

I’m overdue for a colonoscopy, dental exam and a flu shot. I’m also carrying around expired coupons in my wallet, and I am holding onto a rain check that is six months old. At one point, I really wanted that gallon jug of diet, green iced tea.

Tuesday evening, I drove with trepidation to my favorite mechanic. Once more, I was on the lam.

Side note: I really thought the expression “on the lam” was “on the lamb,” as if criminals were escaping the authorities on the backs of sheep. I learned that lam is a noun that means “making an escape or hiding.” It’s also an intransitive verb. You can be lamming from the law, but I doubt anyone’s said that in the last half-century.

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, November 7, 2016

New Poll Shows 50% of Americans Support Marijuana Legalization, 20% High Right Now

By James J. Hamilton
According to a new Gallup poll, a record 50% of Americans now say the use of marijuana should be made legal, up from 46% last year. In the same poll, 20% of respondents reported being high right now, also a new record. The percentage of Americans who say they are high right now has increased steadily over the past decade and has doubled since 2005, when only 10% admitted to being baked out of their minds. In this year's poll, 91% of those who reported being high right now also said they favored lowering taxes on Swiss Cake Rolls and Funyuns, a position supported by only 12% of Americans not currently high. 

The new poll was conducted with a rigorous scientific methodology and has a margin of error within plus or minus 3 percentage points. One controversial Gallup poll from 2007 suggested that 95% of Americans were high at the time, but the poll was later found to have been based solely on interviews of people standing in line at a hemp necklace vendor at Coachella. The Gallup employee responsible for the poll was fired and subsequently took a position at High Times magazine, where he conducted a poll showing that 78% of High Times subscribers agreed that you can totally hear Satanic messages in Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" if you play it backwards.

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 on his website

He's a Magic Man - By Michael Buzzelli

Magic is in the air. This month, two highly anticipated movies about magical men move into the multiplex (alliteration!). “Dr. Strange” and “Fantastical Beasts and Where to Find Them” will loom large over the silver screen this November. I’m pretty excited to see both of them.

Pop quiz: Which of these names isn’t made up? A. Newt Scamander. B. Kaecilius. C. Chiwetel Ejiofor. D. None of the above. Yes. I realize they all look like I slammed my hands into my keyboard, but one of them is a real person. The correct answer is: Benedict Cumberbatch.

But I digress, like I do. I love magic. Growing up, my favorite shows had witches and genies in them. I loved it every time one of these magic makers outsmarted Dr. Bellows, Gladys Kravitz or Larry Tate’s favorite new client.

Let me clarify something. I love magic, but not magicians. Actual magicians are infuriating. It turns out I don’t like being the one who gets outsmarted. I don’t want to be Dr. Bellows! I don’t want to be mumbling, “He’s done it to me again.” I don’t want to be the one running across the street with an empty measuring cup, yelling “Abner! Abner!”

Basically, a magician’s job is to deceive the audience. They make us say, “How’d he do that?”

I want to know the trick. I would not go to a movie where the mystery remains unsolved. If someone dies in the first act, I want to know who did it before I walk out of that theater. Was it Mrs. Peacock with the candlestick? Was it Professor Plum with a horseshoe? I have to know.

I realize it would be boring if magicians revealed their secrets to the audience, but they could tell me. I won’t tell anyone. I happen to be friends with a magician, and he won’t share any of his secrets with me. He won’t even let me wear his top hat (I think it’s where his bunny lives).

Recently, a group of very talented illusionists came to Pittsburgh. I spent most of the evening watching in disbelief and getting really irritated about it.

One magician just grossed me out. Dan Sperry is a goth/punk rocker magician. He’s got luminescent white makeup, copious tattoos and a bunch of piercings. That’s not even the scary part. His magic involves self-mutilation, or, rather, “alleged” self-mutilation. He pierces his skin with wire, spits razors blades and does all sorts of atrocious things to his body (maybe). I watched most of his act from between the fingers over my eyes.

If you were at that show and thought, “Is someone gagging in the balcony?” that would have been me.

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.