The Lazy Genius Collective

Be a genius about the things that matter and lazy about the things that don't.

Be a genius about the things that matter and lazy about the things that don't.

Bracket of Guys, Round 1.4

It's the last week of Round One! All first round voting will close WEDNESDAY. I'll post the first round winners on Thursday, and we'll start the second round on Friday. PRAISE.

Let's get to it.

#1 Hugh Jackman vs. #16 Zach Galifinakis

These are two of the most polar opposite choices on the ballot. I need them act together immediately please.

Favorite Thing About Hugh: Genuinely one of the kindest men in Hollywood, and this interview with Patrick Stewart proves it.
Favorite Thing About Zach: Between Two Ferns. Genius.

#8 Michael Caine vs. #9 Jason Segel

Not the most glamorous matchup but still solid. And as always, here's your reminder that if you say "my cocaine," you sound like Michael Caine saying "Michael Caine."

Favorite Thing About Michael: He's been in so many personally beloved movies forEVER. So talented what is happening. Hashtag Scrooge.
Favorite Thing About Jason: I know nothing. For real. I did like him in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but that might be the only thing I've ever seen him in. Please don't hurt me.

#4 Robert Downey Jr. vs. #13 Steve Martin

And now it's getting tough. Because ohmygosh. My pick is obvious, but it hurts. Both of these guys deserve to advance.

Favorite Thing About RDJ: His charm.
Favorite Thing About Steve: His charm. And also George Banks.

#5 Zachary Levi vs. #12 Kevin Costner

This matchup is bizarre, right?! It feels like two different worlds, one of which I hope is not water. (Terrible movie.)

Favorite Thing About Zachary: Chuck.
Favorite Thing About Kevin: That terrible performance in Robin Hood that I unapologetically love.

#6 Will Ferrell vs. #11 Mark Wahlberg

They've been in two movies together - The Other Guys and Daddy's Home - which probably aren't anyone's list of favorites, but who cares. I'd have dinner with the two of them anyway.

Favorite Thing About Will: Everything he ever did on SNL. The cheerleaders, the Culps, when he wore that American flag thong... gold.
Favorite Thing About Mark: I don't know if I've mentioned this before (I'VE DEFINITELY MENTIONED THIS BEFORE), but I have a thing for Mark Wahlberg. He's not very good, he's even a little annoying, but I can't help myself. Marky Mark 4EVAH.

#3 Chris Pratt vs. #14 Benjamin Bratt

PRATT BRATT. I can't believe my good fortune in getting to chant that for the next half an hour. Also hottie duo comin' atcha.

Favorite Thing About Chris: In my personal Bracket of Guys, he makes it to the Final Four. Even if you removed Andy Dwyer (which would be stupid because he's amazing), he'd probably still be a top choice. Kind, hilarious, super hot, he loves his wife and kid... sorry, there are too many favorite things to choose just one. (Or I guess we could choose the hair-braiding thing. That's adorable.)
Favorite Thing About Benjamin: I thought he was serious for the longest time because of Law and Order and his quick deadly role in The River Wild, but when he played Gloria's ex-husband on Modern Family, my crush meter exploded. So surprisingly funny.

#7 Matthew McConaughey vs. #10 Daniel Craig

They fill the same brain space for me; one is the Texas version of the other - suave, hot, and blond.

Favorite Thing About Matthew: He leans into the "alright alright alright" thing and we don't totally hate him for it. I love a guy who doesn't take himself too seriously.
Favorite Thing About Daniel: Him in a tuxedo playing poker for two hours in Casino Royale. ALL DAY, SON.

#2 Bill Murray vs. #15 Tom Hardy

Hello, Polar Opposites, nice to meet you!

Favorite Thing About Bill: One of my husband's favorite movies is Groundhog Day, so when it's on TV, we watch it. I had never seen it until I got married, and even after seeing half a dozen times, I'm still struck by how Bill Murray makes such an unlikeable character your absolute favorite. He was also magnificent in Lost in Translation.
Favorite Thing About Tom: Is it cool if we hang out here awhile? I'd like to Google "Tom Hardy + dogs" and fall into an Internet utopia. (Y'all, he's so stupid hot ohmygosh.)

Time to vote!

How to Start a Conversation Without Throwing Up

Small talk. 

It can happen anywhere...

at the park with the other park moms...

at a networking event full of accountants and stale bagels...

at a bridal shower where you only know the bride...

The fear is real. The fear is deep. Those awkward pauses that you only know how to fill with a nod and a "yep"? Painful.

Here's the thing: you won't become friends with every person with whom you talk small, but you can't become friends without it. Small talk has to come first. It might last five seconds because you both realize how much you hate it and bond over that, but sometimes you have to have a conversation that makes you want to die.

I know. It makes me sad, too. But here are a few ways to start a conversation without throwing up.

1. Don't be impressive.

Our fantasy.

Our reality.

Nobody wants to feel awkward and uncool in front of anyone, let alone Lululemon Park Mom, but if we try to be capital C cool, we will capital F fail. And we're not being authentically ourselves which won't lead to authentic relationships anyway. 

Don't worry. I'm not saying you're not cool. You totally are! But you're at your coolest when you're not trying to be. Being impressive doesn't work around your table, when you're hosting a shower, or in your relationships. 

If you want a friendship to be real, don't start it out by being fake.

2. Ask questions without being creepy.

Here are some examples of questions to ask strangers (according to Google):

  • "If you could have one superpower, what would it be?"
  • "What would you change about how you were raised?"
  • "How's your relationship with your father?"

I'm not sure the staff meeting bagel table is the best place to drudge up familial issues with The New Guy. But asking questions is the spaghetti of conversation; no matter the situation, it always works. And if you ask a question that's naturally connected to the context, that's like adding meatballs. Start with where you are and what you're doing, and frame questions from there. 

Here's what I mean:

At the Park

  • [Random Park Kid is wearing a Bubble Guppies shirt] "Your son likes Bubble Guppies? Mine, too. I don't remember there being so many options when I was a kid though. [quick affirmative reply from Park Mom] Did you have a favorite show growing up?"
  • "Do you live around here? I've heard great things about this neighborhood."
  • "I've been thinking about getting my daughter into soccer soon. Do your kids play?"
  • "I'm so glad it's finally getting warmer! I'd love to go to the beach as a family, but it feels stressful every time. Is your family a beach family? Any travel tips you can pass along?"

At the Networking Breakfast

  • "This is my first time at this kind of networking event. Any tips for the newbie?"
  • "What's your favorite thing about your line of work?"
  • "Have you ever gotten a piece of business advice that changed things for you?"

At the Bridal Shower

  • [first confirm they're married by a cursory finger glance] "Do you have a favorite memory from your own bridal shower?"
  • "Do you remember the first time you met [the bride]?"
  • "Wouldn't it be fun to create a bridal registry whenever we wanted? [giddy affirmative between bites of potato salad] Any splurges you'd put on yours?"

Don't ask it like you're doing youth group ice breakers. Frame your question in where you are and what you're doing to feel more natural. It is possible to genuinely get to know someone without the questions feeling invasive or out of the blue.

3. Really listen.

If your brain is focused on sounding cool, appearing successful, or how much you just want to get out of there, the conversation will stop mid-sentence without realizing why. You need to be able to listen. 

We know when someone isn't listening, when they're already formulating what they'll say next, when they just asked a question to answer it themselves.

You can be the one to change that game. Really listen. No matter how trivial the subject, if someone says it, it must be important. Or it means that person is just as uncomfortable with small talk as you are. In that case, take the lead and make them feel comfortable by paying attention and caring about what they care about.

You don't have to care about the topic in order to care about the person.

4. Always end with "it was nice talking to you!"

Even if you felt like a turd the whole time, say it. One, it makes them feel good, and two, it gives you an automatic I'm Nicely Leaving Now move. And three, it might even be true.

5. Don't be afraid to mention Next Time.

If you really liked talking to that mom or that accountant or that friend of the bride, don't be afraid to double down on another conversation. 

"It was nice talking to you! Do you play here often? Maybe we'll see each other next time!"

"It was nice talking to you! Do you have a card? Maybe we can reconnect at the next meeting!"

"It was nice talking to you! Maybe I'll see you at the wedding and you can tell me if I should read that book you mentioned!"

Don't be afraid. Worst case, they give you a weird smile and you never speak again. Not everybody has to be friends... even though for a hot minute you feel like Hagrid trying to fit into a tutu.

6. And if Next Time feels like a possibility, say their name.

If you and Park Mom have an easy conversation and you just might see each other that next Tuesday morning, close out with, "And what was your name again?" And then repeat it back to them. I'm the absolute worst at remembering names, so I make it a point to ask several times until I get it no matter how long it takes. I've never met a person who was more offended that I didn't remember than if I didn't ask at all.

Say their name. Maybe you'll remember, but they'll definitely feel seen. 

No go forth and Small Talk. You've got this.

This week on the podcast, The Lazy Genius Makes a Friend. Because nobody told us when we were kids that grownups had to make friends, too. Dang it.

Bracket of Guys, Round 1.2

First order of business....

I forgot the Patricks. I FORGOT THE PATRICKS. 

The winner was Patrick Stewart, and based on percentage, Dempsey would've been included in the bracket, too. Y'all, I am incredibly sorry. If you carry a Patrick torch, I've let you down. 

Be that as it may, we have to move forward. Sigh. 

I'll reveal all first round winners at once, including last week's region, when round two voting begins. All votes will stay open, so tell your friends to come vote for their favorites! Or for yours if you want to threaten; I'm not above that. 

Here's your next batch of choices. Cast carefully.

#1 John Krasinski vs. #16 David Boreanaz

I feel like this is an unfair matchup, but it is a #1 and #16. Good luck, Angel fans. I honor your efforts.

Favorite Thing About John: Well. I mean come ON. But if I had to choose, I love that he's regular.
Favorite Thing About David: I don't know the guy so I don't have one, but I'd say hotness is a safe bet.

#8 Mark Harmon vs. #9 Kevin Spacey

A standoff between two long-lasting careers and extreme likability. 

Favorite Thing About Mark: He's the king of silver foxes and maybe more handsome now than he was twenty years ago.
Favorite Thing About Kevin: He doesn't take himself too seriously. He takes his work incredibly seriously, but himself? Nah, let's have fun.

#4 Mark Ruffalo vs. #13 Chris Hemsworth

The Hulk and Thor. Y'all, this one feels impossible.

Favorite Thing About Mark: You guys, I have such a thing for Ruffalo. He's quiet, kind, shy, old-fashioned, and always a little sad. He's like an old wounded golden retriever. He's Shadow! From Homeward Bound! Ohmygosh and now my life makes sense.
Favorite Thing About Chris: You GUYS. There's no one thing.

#5 Kevin Bacon vs. #12 Joshua Jackson

Six degrees to Pacey. This one feels like such a tossup.

Favorite Thing About Kevin: He's a game. 
Favorite Thing About Joshua: His melty smile.

#6 James McAvoy vs. #11 Josh Lucas

Guys, I know you love Sweet Home Alabama, but I'm going to straight up beg with no shame. PLEASE VOTE FOR JAMES. I might be abusing my power, but in this one case, I just DO NOT CARE. #votejames #pleaseforthelovevotejames

Favorite Thing About James: I mean I guess he's okay whatever I don't have any strong feelings about him his eyes don't pierce my soul or anything STOP JUDGING ME.
Favorite Thing About Josh: He's invisible. In this matchup, to me he is totally invisible. 

(Okay, I promise this is the only time I'll be this crazy.)

#3 Jason Bateman vs. #14 Jon Stewart

Both so funny. Both so handsome. Both so chill. Jason has the edge, but Jon is a worthy opponent.

Favorite Thing About Jason: Michael Bluth will always be one of my favorite characters of all time. 
Favorite Thing About Jon: Smartest guy in the room who never stops learning. I luuuuurv him.

#7 Matthew Goode vs. #10 Benedict Cumberbatch

MY HEART IS DEAD. I mean I'll totally vote for BC, but Matthew Goode going out in my first round?!?! It's unconscionable.

Favorite Thing About Matthew: He's so hot it's stupid.
Favorite Thing About Benedict: Everything. And yeah the penguin thing, too.

#2 Bradley Cooper vs. #15 Ben McKenzie

No dog in this fight, but I had no idea Ben was such a great guy until you guys told me! My vote might swing his way.

Favorite Thing About Bradley: I've never been a huge fan (even though he was fantastic in The Hangover), but then I watched Alias. Okay, I give.
Favorite Thing About Ben: That he's basically a secret perfect human.

Time to vote!

The Necklace That Made Me Cry

A couple of weeks ago, I was making dinner in a zoo I mean the kitchen when my husband walked in from getting the mail. He was carrying a tiny package.

"Your friend just dropped this off."

This was inside.


It's my word of 2017. And it was on a necklace. From a friend who I barely see.

And then I sobbed like I was watching the Parenthood series finale.

Anna had read my post and despite having three children of her own (and writing hilarious and some of my favorite words about motherhood) remembered. Then she saw this necklace in a store, thought of me, bought it, drove to my house, and dropped it off without even needing to see me open it. It was the most unselfish thing, and I didn't need to salt my pasta water because of all the tears. 

(That's not true, I totally salted my pasta water, and you should, too. Way more than you think. Like, a handful of salt. Never mind, we can talk about it later.)

There's no such thing as the perfect gift, but as the recipient, sometimes it feels that way. Not because the gift is extravagant, expensive, or "exactly what you wanted." Whoever knows exactly what they want? But it feels perfect when you feel seen. When somebody remembers. 

Receiving a gift when someone "remembered" is a gift in itself. And you don't even have to be in love with the person for it to work!

Today's podcast episode is The Lazy Genius Buys a Gift, so if you want some ideas on how to see your people through giving, go listen!

Bracket of Guys, Round 1.1

And so it begins.

Hopefully you've filled out your own bracket and torn your heart asunder because this mess is emotional taxing, y'all. I'm not ashamed to admit that. 

Okay, maybe a little bit ashamed. NEVERTHELESS WE PERSIST.

This bracket of our favorite guys has been organized based on percentage of votes received, so even though some of the matchups might feel abnormally hard, it's not arbitrary. Some guys simply didn't snag as many votes as other competitors. 

You will now be asked to cast your vote in the first round of the East Hot Region. It's eight votes... eight chances for you to dig deep, be brave, and make the hard call.

Let's do this.

#1 Colin Firth vs. #16 Harrison Ford

I KNOW. I'm already prepared to burn my entire bracket. 

Colin Firth is classy, tall, British, and destroyed the other Colins with the fury of a thousand Mr. Darcys. His dominating performance in Pride and Prejudice led to his dominating performance on this blog, making him the overall #1 seed with the highest winning percentage of the entire field. 

AND HE'S GOING AGAINST HARRISON FORD. Harrison came in third to Benedict Cumberbatch and Milo Ventimiglia in the Favorite Guy with a Singular Name category, and that has put him in the lowest seed. Insanity. 

Good luck, dear ones.

Favorite Thing About Colin: how he's not really hot but also super hot
Favorite Thing About Harrison: the smirk

(Yes, those are both physical attributes just let me have this objectification, please.)

#8 Andy Garcia vs. #9 Adam Levine

They've got a weird father-son thing, right? Do you see it? Look for them this fall in the film Tattoos Over Manhattan. 

Favorite Thing About Andy: That part in Oceans when he looks in the mirror and says "I was born ready" and then George Clooney rolls his beautiful eyes. (Also, yes, I realize there's no George. The world is not perfect.)
Favorite Thing About Adam: That I listen to Maroon 5 way more than I'm comfortable admitting.

#4 David Tennant vs. #13 Ben Stiller

In middle school, did you ever list out your classmates in alphabetical order and pair them up to see who would get married when you were old and 24? Just me? Cool. Well, that's kind of how I feel with this pairings, minus the marriage. Because don't these guys look like brothers a little? The nose? The expression?

I might have already gotten carried away with this whole thing.

Favorite Thing About David: Broadchurch. Jessica Jones. Amen.
Favorite Thing About Ben: That he's been married to his wife for a million years.

#5 Ryan Gosling vs. #12 Matt Bomer

Now we're in trouble. Two beautiful Ken dolls throwing down... but actually probably not throwing anything because they're both way too polite and kind.

I'm still shocked that Ryan lost his week to Reynolds, but it's cool. It was pre-La La Land, so I don't fault you guys for getting it wrong. 

Favorite Thing About Ryan: Everything. Absolutely everything. And maybe the fact that he took the time to shake the hand of every single one of those tourists during the Academy Awards even when the camera had already passed him by.
Favorite Thing About Matt: The intense hotness.

#6 Rob Lowe vs. #11 Bradley Whitford

Sam Seaborn vs. Josh Lyman. I couldn't have planned this any better. 

(I've never seen The West Wing. I know. I'm appalled at myself. I WILL I PROMISE.)

From The Outsiders to The Grinder, Rob is fantastic (don't explore his personal life too much though), and Bradley Whitford was magical in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. This one is lit-rally super hard.

Favorite Thing About Rob: Chris Trager and Dean Sanderson.
Favorite Thing About Bradley: His voice sounds like the big brother I always wanted.

#3 Jimmy Fallon vs. #14 Zachary Quinto

I feel badly for Zachary because I don't think he stands a chance. Jimmy ran away with his category, and Zachary came in second to Zachary Levi. If this one is an upset, I'll only watch the second season of Heroes to the exclusion of all other shows. 

Favorite Thing About Jimmy: Hands down when he realized he was set up with Nicole Kidman and didn't know it.
Favorite Thing About Zachary: His turn as Sylar. Amazing.

#7 Adam Scott vs. #10 Michael Fassbender

Somebody hold me. 

These two couldn't be more different. One is dorky; the other is made of sexy fire. One is hilarious and self-depricating; the other is made of sexy fire. One is regular and could be friends with your friends; the other is made of sexy fire. 

Y'all, I love Adam Scott. BUT MICHAEL FASSBENDER IS RIDICULOUS. I'm blinded by the sexy fire. Don't listen to me.

Favorite Thing About Adam: The Cones of Dunshire.
Favorite Thing About Fassy: The sexy fire. 

#2 Will Smith vs. #15 Colin O'Donoghue

I'm predicting an upset. 

Will Smith is fantastic. FANTASTIC. But his field of competition was a bit weak, so he won by a huge margin. And to go up against Captain Hook? Especially seasons one and two Captain Hook??? Tough matchup, Will. The hook is powerful. 

Favorite Thing About Will: When he tries to be cool and isn't. Lots of sniffing.
Favorite Thing About Colin: His single raised eyebrow.

Time to vote.

#1 vs. #16
#8 vs. #9
#4 vs. #13
#5 vs. #12
#6 vs. #11
#3 vs. #14
#7 vs. #10
#2 vs. #15