A Stand-Up in Budapest: The Making of a Comedy Legend

"I am a writer, which, sure, is a euphemism for ‘I don’t have a job’, but I also write, too-though my novels are yet to be published, and my published short stories have yet to boost my career the way I expected. So, unemployed, with little more than my stunning good looks, tremendous talent and a modest yet highly-accurate assessment of my abilities, I set out for Budapest." - a tongue-on-cheek article by our guest writer, author-stand-up comedian Michaël Wertenberg

Stand-up comedy in Budapest, Michael Wertenberg

Estimated reading time: 5 minute(s)

I didn’t come to Budapest with the intent of becoming a comedy legend. It just sort of happened.
I am a writer, which, sure, is a euphemism for ‘I don’t have a job’, but I also write, too–though my novels are yet to be published, and my published short stories have yet to boost my career the way I expected. So, unemployed, with little more than my stunning good looks, tremendous talent and a modest yet highly-accurate assessment of my abilities, I set out for Budapest.

an article by our guest writer, author-stand-up comedian Michaël Wertenberg

In contrast to other European cities I had lived in, I found Budapest to be bustling with creative energy with many creative outlets for me to explore: reading my work at Massolit Bookstore, telling stories at Brody Studios Story Slam, doing stand-up for Vad Art events. I also started doing bi-weekly open-mics with BP Comedy House (which draw a good crowd). After a few months, the hosts, Standout and Kitti, put a show together with me and three other comics. The show was a huge success. (Too many people wanted to attend so we ended up doing two shows that night.)

Sharing the bill with other comics definitely has its advantages. But on the down side, it does mean less stage time. As an author, I feel my novels are better than my short stories, and I feel the same is true for my stand-up: I feel like I’m on top of my game with longer sets rather than the short, 20-minute format.

Unfortunately, I am not patient enough to sit around and wait for someone to hire me to do a 1-hour comedy set. Fortunately, I live in Budapest, where there is a thriving ex-pat community and there are many creative opportunities—provided you’re willing to organize, produce and promote on your own.

Stand-up comedy in Budapest, Michael WertenbergI know there is an audience for English-language stand-up. I know I am a good comic. I also know that I am a needy, applause-seeking, approval addict, and I am determined to get my fix. The challenge now is to find the appropriate venues, book the shows and trust that people will turn out.

With this in mind, I am celebrating my 1-year anniversary in Budapest with a 1-man show at Uri Muri, Thursday May 31, 8pm. Their showcase room downstairs can seat approximately 50 people, with standing room for another 15 or 20. I am hoping—like the show I was a part of with BP Comedy House—it will be a huge success, and with a bit more networking and persistence, I will be able to turn it into a regular event, featuring not only me, but other talented comics I have met and worked with here in Budapest. But I’m getting ahead of myself; for now, we’ll begin with the Comedy Legend Anniversary Show, and take it from there.

So, come out to the show. Bring friends, make friends, and together we will help the English-language comedy scene in Budapest grow and flourish, meeting interesting people and sharing some laughs along the way.

Stand-up comedy in Budapest, Michael WertenbergMichael Wertenberg is a French-American author with work published in print and online in various anthologies, journals and literary reviews—the latest being ‘Making Soup in Hungary’, the Cantabrigian.
He likes his comedy like he likes his coffee: dark and weird.
He obtained the status of ‘Comedy Legend’ during the great earthquake of 2017, where, as the story goes, he cleared the rubble and rescued all the trapped orphans with merely one joke.
As a performer, he’s been described as ‘strange’ ‘hilarious’ ‘troubled’, and has been compared to ‘that guy you see walking toward you, that you cross the street to avoid, and you pick up the pace, hoping to get away before he notices you’.
If he were a salad, he’d be the kind you’d take to a picnic, that you’d offer to everyone but no one would try it, saying, ‘I’m allergic to peanuts’ or ‘I don’t think grapefruit rinds are supposed to be that hairy.’
He is a militant cat-enthusiast and claims to be a sane citizen, though his website, My Disease-Ridden Mind, offers evidence to the contrary.