Scott resident Michael Buzzelli says a joke is a very short story with a surprise ending.
It turns out his career as a stand-up comedian is a short story with a surprise beginning.
"It began as an economic decision," he said.
Mr. Buzzelli was living in Los Angeles at the time, and he had written a comedy script for a movie that he wanted to pitch to Hollywood producers and directors.
"The pitch class was a $1,000, but Greg Dean's Comedy Class, which promised students the best way to tell a story humorously, was only $300. I took the less expensive class," he said. "As part of the class final, we had to perform at the Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard. They asked me to come back and I became a semi-regular at the club."
Mr. Buzzelli went on to perform at other comedy clubs in California, and when he returned home to Scott in 2009, he continued to perform stand-up comedy in Pittsburgh, most recently at Off The Wall Theater in Carnegie in a show with several other comedians.
He will bring his brand -- what he calls "his individual approach to comedy using a technique called joke mining, as a way of creating humor from every day life" -- to a free appearance 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Bethel Park Public Library. He also will be at the Carnegie Free Library in Carnegie from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 26 for a free discussion about comedy.
His library appearances won't be a stand-up comedy show, but more of an opportunity for Mr. Buzzelli to talk about how we can bring more humor into our lives.
"Humor is a coping mechanism. Finding humor in a situation can lighten your load in life," he said.
He gave the example of a person's car breaking down. One person can deal with it through humor, while another person will view it as a tragedy. "Comedy is a way to rewrite our reality," he said.
He graduated from Chartiers Valley High School in 1981 and was always interested in writing, so he attended Point Park University to study journalism. After college, he went to work for Bell Atlantic, which later became Verizon, but he had his heart set on writing for the television and film industry.
"At that time, you had to be there in Los Angeles to have any chance of working in film," he said.
He moved to California and found a job with Disney in business planning and development, but he continued to write in his free time. He also became an actor and landed several small roles in cable TV series and in films.
When his corporate job in California was eliminated, Disney offered him a job in Florida, but he decided to return home to Scott.
Since then he has kept busy doing stand-up comedy, writing a newspaper humor column and completing a book of funny essays called "Below Average Genius."
Mr. Buzzelli believes humor can help people cope with life. He said he learned that lesson early in life.
"My aunt had died and at the funeral home people were laughing and joking," he said. "At first I was upset. Then I realized laughing and joking is a way to cope with unfortunate circumstances. It's a way of enjoying, sharing and remembering the good times of a person's life.
"A hearty belly laugh comes from deep inside. Money doesn't bring happiness; happiness brings happiness."
Bob Podurgiel, freelance writer: email@example.com.