As a fan of the show Mystery Science Theater 3000, I have a great appreciation for Michael J. Nelson. Sure, some people prefer Joel, the first host, but I started with Mike and have always had a soft spot for his dorky delivery and hapless enthusiasm. And as the head writer, his wit was a major force behind the overall flavor of the show’s ten seasons. So I'm happy to say that his skill in crafting funny material transfers well to his books, which include the comedic essay collections Mike Nelson's Movie Megacheese and Mike Nelson's Mind over Matters. While Movie Megacheese focuses exclusively on movies and actors and is in a similar vein to the show, Mind over Matters covers such various topics as food, work, music, art, animals, and Mike’s shorts. I first read Mind over Matters some years ago, and several memorable parts have stuck with me and remained favorite jokes. Reading it again recently, though, I did get the feeling that it's pretty firmly planted in a 90's outlook, and sometimes parts of it feel a little dated. Some of the essays are hit or miss, but the ones I recommend most are “Portal to Hell: The RadioShack Experience,” wherein Mike wonders at the bafflingly large amount of smelly and unfriendly RadioShack locations; “A Very Unhealthy Club,” in which he discusses the propensity of elderly men to lounge around naked in health club locker rooms; “Tips on Getting Stung by Wasps,” full of well-justified hatred for the stinging creatures; and “Did He Say ‘Meep’?” which recounts an eccentric professor from Mike’s college years. Most of the humor is from Mike’s wonderful turns of phrase, which can elevate any topic into something memorable. In “Grumpy Floppy and the Flo-Flo” which talks about childish behavior carried on into adulthood, Mike expresses his horror at sitting next to a woman holding a pillow decorated with happy bears and fluffy clouds: “‘This is my boo-boo. I take it everywhere,’ she said, hugging it. She was right in thinking my look implied a question. However, she was mistaken about the question itself. It wasn’t ‘What do you call that adorable pillow and do you travel with that lovely, fluffy, stuffy little thing everywhere?’ It was ‘Good gracious, woman, will you please get some help?’” Also great is when Mike ponders his wife’s collection of lotions and moisturizers in “Moist as I Wanna Be.” After seeing the sheer amount of new and half-empty bottles, he asks if it is possible to “soften yourself to death,” and concludes: “Perhaps under all those heavy lubricants, women are scaly, repellent harridans. It is thanks only to copious applications of petroleum jelly, glycerin, shea butter, waxes, and oleo derivatives that we can touch them without rasping off entire patches of our skin and flesh.” One of the oddest but most memorable essays is “My Shorts Are Silent No More,” which conducts a mock tell-all interview with Mike’s discarded pair of One-Hundred-Dollar Linen Shorts. “Shorts” speaks to his interviewer of his traumatic life, explaining how Mike bought him with the tearful confession, “He tried me on in the dressing room. Apparently I fit.” If these examples make you laugh, Mind over Matters will be a treasure trove of humorous fun, particularly when read aloud with others. Sampo forever!
Sep 25, 2010