Is It Good? Blaze Pizza

blaze-pizza-sign

Blaze Pizza solves the biggest problem in the pizza business: how long it takes to make a pizza. Making a pizza takes forever. By the time you drive to a pizza joint, wait for the waiter to take your order, put in your order and then pick at a salad while the restaurant’s wood-fire authentic Tuscan Italian brick oven takes one complete World Cup qualifying and tournament cycle to make your pizza, you are dead because you can’t live for four years on one small side salad.

Blaze Pizza, with its aggressive orange color scheme and flame logo, is all “Eff that. Hurry up and pick some toppings, and we’ll nuke your artisanal pizza in 180 seconds, you go-getter, you.”

That’s 175 seconds too long, but it’s progress.

I recently checked out the Blaze Pizza at The Grove Farmer’s Market.

Just like Chipotle, there’s an ingredient line, and you can customize your pie.

blaze-pizza-ingredients

We didn’t customize because my wife didn’t want to see how high I could get the workers to stack jalapenos on a pizza before a manager got involved, but customizing is an option. If you want mushrooms and applewood bacon–you got it. If you want chicken, sausage, pepperoni and meatballs–they’ll do it. If you have enemies, you can slide a piece of paper across the counter with a name and address and “things happen,” no questions asked. They really aim to please.

Our pizza topping sherpa was training a new employee, and the new employee was timid with the toppings, and the veteran employee kept throwing more on. This is exactly what I like in a food establishment–wanton disregard for efficiency in exchange for maximum customer satisfaction. We ordered the Red Vine  (ovalini mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, parmesan, basil, red sauce, olive oil drizzle) off the Signature Menu. This is what it looked like. You can tell from the lack of dead animals and spices that my wife selected it.

blaze-red-vine-pizza

The crust was thin, which was fine by me, because I prefer tasting ingredients over chewing a pound of white bread. The ingredients were fresh, and half a pizza was the perfect amount of food. We also had salads and drinks. The whole thing came to $20. Not bad for a date-night meal before a movie.

And so now the question…the big question…the only one that matters.

Blaze Pizza: Is it good?

It is.

Blaze Pizza is good.

When I want world-class pizza, I will go to Mozza. When I want volume, I will go to Shakey’s. When I want to eat a pizza at lunch on a workday without having to wolf down three slices in five minutes because it took 55 minutes for the pizza to reach the table, I will go to Blaze.

- @joedonatelli

The 19 Funniest Exercise Fads of All-Time

prancercize-horse

I have a new piece on Livestrong rounding up the 19 funniest exercise fads of all time. My favorite, by far, is Prancercise, pictured above. What is Prancercise?

From the list:

If you ever see someone prancing through the park like a horse, don’t call the cops. They’re not on LSD. They’re Prancercising. Joanne Rohrback’s Prancercise video has more than 10 million views on YouTube. And, yes, to answer your question, Prancercise is real. A book is currently available on Prancercise.com, where you can also view a photo of Rohrback prancing in a field with what appears to be a Photoshopped horse. The Prancercise inventor, for some reason, always looks like she’s dressed for lunch at the country club. She describes her prancing workout thusly: “It’s about self-expression. It’s about nonviolence. It’s about conservation.” Actually, it’s about strapping on ankle weights, turning up the volume and exercising like nobody’s watching!

Even more ridiculous exercise fad: Treadmill Bike.

You can read all about it here.

Reason Calls Me Fat

reason-fat-man

I made my debut on Reason.com today, and the libertarian publication called me fat. It’s OK. I wrote about being fat. Still, they could have said I was “ample” or “stout” or that my waistline was  “Keynesian.” They could have said: “Food Stimulus Victim Apologizes to His Fellow Taxpayers.” So much kinder and more accurate.

It all started a few weeks ago when the managing editor of Reason.com asked me to write a “non-deadly serious” take on Obamacare.

The resulting article, I’m happy to report, is probably the least serious opinion ever written about our national health care law.

It contains the following words:

  • lawn ornament
  • free-range meatballs
  • shorts
  • tater-tots
  • Queen of Wien

Feeling the heat yet, Tom Friedman?

In the article I wrote an apology to people who take good care of their bodies.

On behalf of everyone who’s ever put Doritos on their sandwich for extra crunch or drunken copious amounts of beer out of a lawn ornament while tailgating, I’d like to say, “I’m sorry.” With no chance of repeal or reform of Obamacare anytime soon, our personal health and finances are more closely intertwined than ever. Many of us are simply not up for this massive responsibility.

You can read the rest here.

The article is already starting to receive comments.

This was a good one.

The overweight guy is likely to die…He’s a net financial gain to society.

This next one I like better, mainly because it doesn’t involve my death.

I couldn’t survive in France. Ketchup is my favorite vegetable.

I am SO proud to finally be contributing to the important national discourse my fellow citizens are having about important federal legislation, ketchup and France.

- Twitter:@joedonatelli

 

Is it Good? iPic Theater

ipic

Well, that’s it. All other movie theaters are ruined for me forever. (SETS ARCLIGHT MEMBERSHIP CARD ON FIRE.) I’ll never go to another one without comparing it to the iPic. Thank you, iPic. Damn you, iPic.  You’re the best. And the worst. I love you. And I hate you.

The iPic in Westwood is a premium movie theater experience featuring reclining chairs with soft blankets and pillows. I could stop describing it right there, and it would stand as the most comfortable movie theater experience I’ve ever had. It’s like flying first class in a movie theater. Somewhere else in the world suckers are paying good money to sit upright in movie theaters while you lounge in the theater like you’re in your own living room. But that’s not all.

The iPic also offers drinks and food delivered to your seat by a courteous wait staff. The food is OK and pricey (if you’re not one of the high-paid lawyers or UCLA types who works nearby), but you get to eat it at a table at your seat, and it’s far tastier than your traditional movie theater hot dog that may or may not actually be made of recognizable animal parts.

iPic is movies for the, well, not 1 Percent. Wherever the 1 Percent watches the secret good movies that are never released to the public probably isn’t open to guys like me. Let’s say The 5 Percent. The iPic is movies for the 5 Percent.

jeanralphio

The iPic also has a restaurant and a bar. For some reason the music and vibe outside of the theaters themselves is ootz-da-da-ootz Jean Ralphio, like some kind of trendy-dance-club-meets-Beverly-Hills-Asian-fusion-restaurant. Can an establishment offer both Junior Mints and bottle service? The iPic may one day answer that question.

But these are just tiny quibbles that stand in the shadow of the main attraction. It’s the chairs that make the iPic. If you’ve read an “Is it Good?” before, you know seating is one of my top two main factors in whether I enjoy an experience that requires me to leave my home. Human beings are not meant to sit upright for two-and-half hours, which is what most movie theaters demand. It’s not the worst discomfort in the world. There are people in refugee camps who stand in line all day for food, so I’m not about to complain that movie theater seats make me slightly achy, but if a movie isn’t good, you do notice your discomfort, and you just can’t wait for the thing to end. That isn’t a great use of $16.

Not a problem at the iPic.

I saw a mediocre movie–Jersey Boys–and enjoyed every minute of it because the chair was just so damn comfortable. It was soft. It was orange, which I liked for some reason. It reclined. You could spread out. You could kick your feet up. You could build a little fort, which I thought about doing during Jersey Boys, a movie that suffered from the classic biopic problem of trying to show you everything and actually showing you nothing.

The thing the iPic lacked was that we’re-all-packed-like-sardines-and-we’re-going-to-experience-this-movie-together feeling you get during a movie at a non-deluxe theater. For a film like Jersey Boys, it didn’t matter. But for a movie where you’re like, “Can you believe this movie? It’s amazing!” you’d lose some of that community–the salty, buttery touch of the common man.

It’s a premium experience, and you pay for the premium. Tickets are $19 if you’re a member, $29 if you’re not. Tickets do come with complimentary small popcorn, which is no small purchase in Los Angeles. Call it a savings of $5, at least.

And now the question…the big question…the only one that matters.

iPic: Is it good?

It is.

iPic is good.

It’s The Titanic of places you could possibly see The Titanic.

ipic-chairs

- Twitter:@joedonatelli

Advice to the Young Humor Writer

I sometimes get asked by young humor writers for advice. I pretty much tell them all the same thing: I don’t know anything. Stop bothering me. But they pester me until I relent and give them something resembling advice. In the interest of saving myself time, I’m putting it all down here for future reference.

Dear Youngster,

The thing that’s helped me the most as a writer is asking the question–and please pardon my language– “Would anyone give a shit about this?” If I can honestly say that people would, I write it. If I can’t think of a reason anyone in the world would care, I don’t write it.

Now, “Would anyone give a shit about this?” sounds like common sense advice.

But let’s break it down.

“Would anyone…”
This means you should consider the audience. Does your idea have an audience? Who is the audience? Will they agree? Disagree? Both are good. Book authors, screenwriters, columnists – they all know their audiences. If you don’t know who yours is, think about who you would want to be your audience and what would be interesting to them.

I know that writers often say they “write purely for myself,” but those authors generally have gigantic followings already and live in large writer mansions by the time people ask them for advice. Of course they write for themselves. Now. They didn’t always. The liars.

“…give a shit…”
What is your intended audience not getting enough of? What would they enjoy? What would they share with each other? Be brutally honest when you answer these questions.

Because YOU wrote it doesn’t mean the heavens will rain page views down on your 8,000-word take about how lame the Oscars were this year. Don’t hope or expect an audience to react BECAUSE IT’S YOU writing it, and don’t become disappointed if no one reacts or likes it. Negative feedback is the best feedback of all.

“…about this?”
“This” is your work, and it has to be good. It should be funny. It should include the unexpected. It should be well-written with perfect grammar and spelling. “This” should make you laugh when you read it or think about it. If it’s not funny to you, why would it be funny to anyone else?

Have you ever seen a stand-up comedian bomb? It’s horrible to watch. It makes me want to hide under the table until it’s over. Nine times out of ten it’s because they’re telling jokes even they don’t think are funny. Enthusiasm about your own work is infectious, provided it’s good work. If it’s not good, enthusiasm wanders into the realm of derangement, which is also funny but the target of your humor becomes your own dignity. There are better, juicier targets out there because as a wannabe humor writer you are most likely bereft of dignity.

I say this all because, having browsed through your website, I see you writing a lot for yourself but not with a reader in mind.

You obviously have things to say about the world, and the fact that you reached out means this is more than a passing interest to you.

So if you’re serious, here’s what I would advise:

1. Read all of the humor writing you can, online and in books. Look at what these authors are doing structurally–not just the funny lines, but how the humor is built and constructed. Deconstruct until you understand all of the invisible writer tricks that allow writers to be so clever. Then look at what they choose to write about. Are they talking about things they think, or are they going out and experiencing life and telling interesting stories that happened to them? They’re probably not doing much of the first and more of the rest. The more active choices you make in life and the more you leave your desk and do things and then return to write, the higher the ceiling for your comedy.

do-me

2. Write all the time. Even if you don’t publish it, write. When something strikes you as truly funny, build off that idea. I have notebooks and Word docs filled with terrible, terrible ideas that no one — thank God — will ever see. But I needed to get all of those crummy ideas down on paper before the good ones came out. I still do a lot of crummy writing. But the more writing you do, the faster you can spot when it’s crummy. Here’s a screen-grab from my Word doc of rejected ideas:

live-in-car

This idea is mildly humorous, but it would need to make fun of celebrities, not people living in their car, who are a group of people who don’t deserve ridicule. Does the world need another article bashing celebs? Not really. So into the reject pile it went.

3. Cultivate an audience. Make 10 hardcore fans. Then 50. Then 100. Go where the people are – Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. I even publish on LinkedIn, that thing everyone with a job knows they’re supposed to be on but just can’t bring themselves to join. I crank out a quick column, and I pick up new followers and grow my audience.

4. Be as real as possible in your writing. I enjoy McSweeney’s and The Onion, but for the individual blogger there is more humor in reality than in exaggeration. Anyone can comment on pop culture or write a fake news story, but you are the only one who can tell your stories and who cares about the specific things you care about in the way that you do. The things that make you unlike anyone else on earth are your advantages as a writer.

Think of a Venn diagram – where your interests and an audience’s interests overlap, that’s your sweet spot.

For my American readers who failed math and are the reason we’re losing ground economically to Asia, here is a Venn diagram:

Venn Diagram

There are a lot of folks who want to write humor, and you’re in the game because you’re doing it. But the trick to get better is to really immerse yourself in it and be brutally, brutally honest when you write and ask yourself, “Is this funny?” and “Would anyone give a shit?” If you’re right more than you’re wrong when you answer those questions, you’ll improve and there will be sweet writer boats and huge writer mansions waiting for you in the future. Good luck.

- @joedonatelli

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