WORCESTER, Mass. Three close friends of Mike Andruzzioni, a part-time cab dispatcher who also tends bar, were among the recipients of the 2015 Michael C. Andruzzioni “Freakin’ Genius” grants, awarded annually since 2010 to innovators in the arts, sciences and video games.
Mike, considering the finalists.
“This year’s winners represent the best and the brightest of America’s slacker dudes and dudettes, and promise to make substantial contributions to American culture and intellectual life if they can only remember to set their alarm clocks,” the Andruzzioni Foundation said in a press release signed by Mike as founder, president and chief executive officer.
“I am thrilled and also excited to join the distinguished field of Andruzzioni laureates from last year,” said Mike’s friend Ty Bruno, who is a groundskeeper at nearby Clark University. “I want to assure the applicants who were not chosen that this has nothing to do with the case of Narragansett Beer in long-neck bottles that I gave Mike over Labor Day weekend.”
MacArthur: “Who the hell is this guy Mike?”
The Freakin’ Genius Grants were created out of Andruzzioni’s frustration at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s so-called “genius grants,” which are awarded annually to individuals whom Mike doesn’t know and whom he does not consider to be geniuses. “They give ‘em out to women who play the hammer dulcimer, poets, people I wouldn’t want to have a beer with,” Andruzzioni said from his apartment on Grand Street, which is not the headquarters of the defunct literary publication “Grand Street.” “All of the guys who got grants this year, I promise you, they’re freakin’ geniuses, and a lot of fun to hang with.”
Iron Butterfly: “Dude–you rock!”
Among this year’s winners are Ray Tolson, a custodian who can play chess while smoking pot “and beats me every time,” according to Mike; Todd D’Etienne, a former music major who can play The Doors’ “Light My Fire” with his left hand while simultaneously playing “In a Gadda da Vida” by Iron Butterfly with his right; and Bruno, who has reached the 15th level of the video game “Warlock’s Cavern.”
The grants are a cash award of $100, which Mike says “is probably worth like fifteen six packs of beer if you buy imported, sixteen if you stick to domestic.” They are intended to give budding geniuses the wherewithal to hone their talents free from the necessity to earn surplus funds in excess of rent and utilities and buy beer.
“We take food stamps, but not sweaters.”
The prizes were to be awarded in August year, but Andruzionni says he fell behind schedule. “I returned a lot of deposit bottles, but I was counting on getting cash for a sweater my mom gave me for Christmas,” he says. “I could only get store credit, which you can’t use in liquor stores.”