Mike Buzzelli

Column Mike Buzzelli

Mike Buzzelli is a stand up comedian and published author. He is a theater and arts critic for 'Burgh Vivant, Pittsburgh's online cultural talk magazine, and an active board member of the Pittsburgh New Works Festival, the Carnegie Arts Initiative and the Carnegie Screenwriters. His book, "Below Average Genius" is a collection of essays culled from his weekly humor column here in the Observer-Reporter.

A card-carrying member of the gift card carriers

November 30, 2012

The holiday shopping season is in full swing. Americans are spending billions. Billions … with a B. Let’s all go to Kohl’s and jumpstart the economy!

Gift giving is a tricky thing. I am deeply appreciative of all the gifts I’ve ever gotten. I know some of you have to practice your surprise-face. You know, the face you make when someone gives you an ugly present. It looks a lot like Eddie Murphy’s I-just-lost-the-Academy-Award-face. It’s the act of appearing gracious when you’re secretly thinking, “$#!+!!”

When my niece Brittany was 4, she would open every gift with astonishment. Her eyes would widen, her mouth would make that perfect O shape and she’d say, “It’s exactly what I wanted!” Every. Single. Time. You probably could have given her an ashtray at that age, and she would have gushed over it. I’d love to see more adults do that.

My cousin Nicole takes three hours to open a present. She likes to unwrap it the same way it was wrapped. She doesn’t tear it. The wrapping paper looks better after she’s opened a gift than it did when it was new and on the roll. It’s perfectly folded, un-crinkled and there isn’t one tear. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

I’ve done an informal study about gift cards. I love them. Some people don’t like gift cards.

To some, a gift card says, “I thought about you on the way out of the grocery store. So, here.” But, personally, I love wallet-sized gifts.

Gift cards and money are my favorites. I even love wallets, which, ironically, is a little bit bigger than your standard wallet-sized gift. I have about 18 unused wallets from Christmases past, but I plan on using them all someday. When I was living in Los Angeles, I loved anything that could travel. One year, my aunt bought me a sandwich maker. It was an amazing gift, and I loved it. It just wasn’t easy to get on the plane. Looking back, I’m glad she didn’t buy me skis or golf clubs. My gift philosophy is simple. It comes from “The Wiz.” “I don’t want to carry nothin’ that would be a load. I just want to ease on down, ease on down, ease on down the road.”

I got a bunch of Amazon gift cards on my birthday, used them to buy copies of my own book, “Below Average Genius,” signed the books and resold them. Everyone was a winner! By the way, if you’re looking for a good stocking stuffer, that book, a compilation of columns from this newspaper, is an under-$10 gift, perfect for office grab bags. I am giving them out at my office. I guess that will make me a Not-so-Secret-Secret Santa, since my name is on the cover.

On my birthday, I got two gift cards from Panera and one from Starbucks. These are great gifts for writers who spend their days on their laptop taking up premium space at the local coffee house. I think I have a buck fifty on each one. If I play my cards (literally and figuratively) right, I can stretch them out till Christmas, when I get a new supply!



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