Sunday, December 25, 2016

Tuning up for Christmas - by Michael Buzzelli

It’s here! Time flies when you’re stuck in mall traffic, bargain hunting and going to office parties. Christmas is upon us. Heck, in a day or two there will be nothing left but crinkled wrapping paper and regret.

I love Christmas. The twinkling lights, the half-price merchandise and the chance to get together with friends and family. But I’m going to miss the music most of all. I love Christmas music. I don’t know when it happened, but I am a recent Christmas music convert. The sappy sentimentality of holiday music literally and figuratively rings my bell. I think because most of them are songs about love and joy.

I think it started when I moved back to Pittsburgh, seven years ago (gulp). Every year, I go to the Holiday Pops concert at Heinz Hall, and I have my car radio affixed to 3WS for non-stop holiday music, and I find myself humming the tunes in the shower. Don’t try to picture it.

I love almost all of it. Almost. I change the dial whenever I hear, “Hey Chingedy-chig. EEE AWWW! EEE AWWW!”

Sorry, Italy, you can keep “Dominic the Italian Christmas Donkey,” especially when Lou Monte sings, “La la la la” ad infinitum. I think he’s trying to get on my nerves. I can’t imagine the guys in the recording studio going, “Yes! Add a few more ‘La la’s’ in there, Lou! That’s it. Bray even louder in the next take.”

I am part Italian, but apparently my ears are from another country.

Also, I’d like to give that little girl a hippopotamus. Maybe it will shut her up. Gayle Peevy topped the charts with that song back in 1953. I like a good novelty song like the next guy, but the joke gets old really fast. Trust me. I’m an old joke expert! Ask anyone.

Then there’s “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” I’ve always loved this song, until I really examined the lyrics. It’s got a real date rape vibe.

When it was written back in 1949, it was a scandal for a woman to stay overnight with a man. Clutch the pearls, Mabel!

Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski recently rewrote the lyrics to emphasize consent. They made a happy little P.C. version. They spin it a whole new way. In their version, the male lead replies with lines like “Baby, I’m fine with that” and “Been hoping you get home safe.”

I contend that she doesn’t really want to leave. So, I have decided to rewrite the song myself.

Her: “I really can’t stay.”

Him: “Text me that you got home OK.”

Her: “My mother will start to worry.”

Him: “There’s the door. Better scurry.”

Her: “My father will be pacing the floor.”

Him: “No. Seriously. There’s the door!”

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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.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Going Dutch - Pennsylvania Dutch - by Michael Buzzelli

When people mention a television show I’d never seen or a song I had never heard, I used to joke, “I’m Amish.” I always thought it was funny, until someone believed me.

For the record, there are no olive-skinned Amish people. I’m Greek, Italian and Irish. The Greeks and the Italians invented civilization; they would never go backward. The Irish side might. They’re a hearty people who are used to being without amenities. Don’t believe me? Read “Angela’s Ashes.”

This week, I was plunged into darkness. A truck took out the cable on Monday. It couldn’t be fixed until Friday. I was told I was going to go a week without television or internet. Suddenly, I was Robinson Crusoe.

When I was outside shoveling the snow earlier this week, I saw it there, a big snake-like cable in a big, loopy pile. I would have used a sad-face emoji to express myself, but, alas, there was no internet.

It turns out a week without television and internet isn’t so bad. It was like a vacation from reality. I was in a news blackout. I didn’t know what was going on. At work, I did hear that the dad from “Growing Pains” died. All that information out there flowing at us a trillion bytes a second, and Alan Thicke was headline from the water cooler. I’m glad I don’t normally gather my intel from the break room.

I remember watching “Growing Pains,” but I don’t think I could tell you anything about it. I used to get it mixed up with “Family Ties.” The ’80s and early ’90s were kind of a blur. I remember telling someone I had only seen one episode of “A.L.F.” and they looked at me like I was the one from another planet. When I got my first apartment in the early ’90s, I didn’t buy a television set. I went through my whole life never seeing the Fresh Prince, Urkel or that family of dinosaurs. I don’t think I’m missing anything.

But I digress, like I do. I learned a lot by not having access to news, weather and other pertinent data.

It turns out that you feel less cold if you don’t know the actual temperature. I was outside dusting snow off my windshield, and I was feeling fine. Later, when I started the car up and saw the temperature on the dashboard, I got a sudden chill. I may never listen to local weathermen again.

Frankly, broadcast news puts me in a bad mood anyway. It’s easier to digest in the newspaper (hint: subscribe).

It was a good week to be without television. All the primetime shows are in reruns, and I’ve seen “Frosty,” “Charlie Brown” and “It’s A Wonderful Life.” I could probably act out scenes from each in my living room. Not that anyone wants to see me dancing around my living room with a broom and a corncob pipe.
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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, December 11, 2016

Christmas at supersonic speed - by Michael Buzzelli

It should come as no surprise to many of you, but I’m not ready for Christmas. I just put the Halloween decorations away yesterday.

I know that some of you finished your holiday shopping in September. Everything was wrapped and under the tree by Black Friday. I would have absolutely no holiday spirit if I said, “I hate you people.” Instead, I will just admit being envious of the organized and efficient among you, but, seriously, you guys are putting me at the bottom of the bell curve.

Now, I’m not quite as bad as the guy who buys everything at the gas station at 11:30 Christmas Eve. That’s hard to pull that off. You have to look really excited when you say things like, “Hey! I got you an assortment of air fresheners for your car!” And, “I thought you would like this tiny jar of mayonnaise and some beef jerky!” And/or, “Slushies for everyone!”

Side note: I just learned that there is really a guy named Sheetz. I thought it was a made-up store name. There is a real-life Joe Sheetz. However, there is no Bob AM/PM Market or a Linda 7-Eleven.

But I digress, like I do. I’m having trouble believing that Christmas is around the corner. Remember when we were kids? Thanksgiving to Christmas seemed like an eternity, a vast chasm between one holiday and the next. We needed an advent calendar to count the days away. I’ve been too busy to open the little windows on my advent calendar.

A few nights ago, I went to Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens to see their Winter Flower Show with a group of friends. It was the perfect trip to put me in the Christmas mood. Everything was merry and bright. It was worth going just to see the giant Fraser fir bedecked in lights and tasteful ornaments. They have a terrific toy train running around a track with festive toy buildings, including a mini replica of the Phipps Conservatory with a plant inside; the model only has room for the one plant, whereas the real thing has hundreds, if not thousands. My friends and I walked around enjoying the evening. It’s quite spectacular at night. I ooh-ed and ahh-ed all over the place.

At one point, my friend Chris asked about another mutual friend, and I said, “I just saw him. In August.”

August. My life is flying by. You can’t claim you just saw someone if it was four months ago. Labor Day was not around the corner, but it sure feels like it.

Time is a ski slope, and I’m hitting a downhill slalom, speeding downward in a perpetual panic. I hope I don’t break anything.

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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, December 4, 2016

Ain't that a kick in the head - by Michael Buzzelli

It’s not every day you see a giraffe kick a lioness in the face, unless you watch a ton of Discovery Channel.

The BBC is promoting a new wildlife documentary. In a clip of their new show, an African cat pursued a giraffe, but the tables turned when the giraffe fought back, smacking the lioness in the face with his two front legs. Ouch. For the record, I was on the giraffe’s side, but then I felt bad for the lioness. She was just doing her job, picking up dinner for the family. Then, dinner struck back.

The show will be coming to America soon. I hate the title. The producers are calling the show, “Planet Earth II.” Of course the name bothers me. It either happens on Planet Earth or somewhere else. You can’t call it Earth II. That conjures up images of alternate realities or desperate doomsday scenarios where we have to move to another planet because we wrecked this one.

If we do have to someday leave home and start again in another solar system, I hope we come up with a more original name, like Utopia, Eden or East Hawaii (come on, you’d go if it was called East Hawaii). Renaming a second Earth-like planet Earth II or New Earth is terribly unoriginal. It’s like that neighbor kid who loses his dog, Buddy, and names the new dog Buddy Two. I think it’s disrespectful to Buddy One and to the planet Earth.

The mistake was calling the first show “Planet Earth.” It’s a bit pretentious, but it is, after all, on the BBC.

I have a problem with this network. For an English television station, they sure show a lot of “Star Trek” reruns. I guess the ones with Jean-Luc Piccard make sense. He’s played by a British actor. However, for some unknown reason, you can find Kirk, Spock and the Klingons on there at three in the morning. There is nothing remotely English about the first “Star Trek,” except the episode with Joan Collins in it.

But I digress, like I do. Nature shows are hard to watch. I didn’t want the giraffe to end up as main course for a pride of lions, but I didn’t want the lioness to be hoofed in the head. It’s a no-win scenario, like the Kobayashi Maru (yet another “Trek” reference).

It’s all about perspective. Picture the slow-motion footage of a frog catching a fly with his tongue. That always looks cool. Now imagine you zoom in for a close-up of the fly’s face, and he’s surprised, panicked, horror-struck. Suddenly, you’re hoping the fly will get away.

I realize flies have very few facial expressions. They always look surprised, because they have big, bulgy eyeballs. I guess if you have thousand visual lenses, you’d always look surprised, too.

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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.