Michaël Wertenberg French-American Author, Stand-Up Comedian

  • 6 Sep 2018 8:53 AM
Michaël Wertenberg  French-American Author, Stand-Up Comedian
Michaël Wertenberg is a French-American author and stand-up comedian. His short stories have been published in anthologies and literary reviews in print and on line: Flame Tree Publishing, Blyant Publishing, Pulp Modern, Likely Red, The Scarlet Leaf Review, and many others. His fictional autobiography ‘Love, Drugs, and Violence: The Making of a Comedy Legend’ is set for a late-October release.

Founder of Stand-Up Budapest, he (along with Daniel Ligeti) hosts a weekly open-mic show Mondays at Aurora. A staple of Budapest’s many literary and stand-up events (a regular contributor at Story Slam, Brody Studios, under the name Satan’s Sex Slave), he puts on one-man shows under the name The Comedy Legend (the next scheduled for late October).

1. When did you arrive in Hungary and what brought you here?
I arrived from Ljubljana in May 2017. I didn’t have any specific reason for coming here other than I found Ljubljana charming but too small. I wanted to live in a big city, and my then four-year-old tabby cat, Zvyezda, made it clear in her own way that she had had it with airplanes. If we were to move again, it would have to be by train - and not a long trip either!

As for big cities easily accessible by train from Ljubljana, I had two options: Zagreb or Budapest.
Ultimately I chose Budapest. I don’t remember why, exactly. It might have had something to do with the train schedules.

2. Have you ever been an expatriate elsewhere?
That’s a long list. Some highlights: Brazil, Portugal, Albania, Slovenia.

3. What surprised you most about Hungary?

Many things surprised me from day one. And I continue, thankfully, to be surprised. I am surprised at how many T-shirts with text on the front I see people wearing. I was surprised at how familiar the city was to me, even though I had never been here before. In many aspects it reminds me of Lisbon or Ljubljana or my native Paris.

4. Friends are in Budapest for a weekend - what must they absolutely see and do?I suppose it depends on the friends. I suppose the ruin pubs are a must.

5 .What is your favourite Hungarian food?
Is that a serious question?

6. What is never missing from your refrigerator?
I have a large, modern beautiful refrigerator in my kitchen. It has remained empty and unplugged since the day I moved in. I simply cannot stand the hum it makes. I am exaggeratedly sensitive to noise. I would rather go hungry than listen to my refrigerator hum! I suppose, then, what is never missing would be: darkness, and mold.

7. What is your favourite Hungarian word?
Csicseriborsó. In one of my more recent publications for The Cantabrigian, the story titled Making Soup in Hungary revolves around this word. I have often said that Hungarian sounds like someone trying to comfort a sad child. I think ‘csicseriborso’ illustrates that best.

8. What do you miss the most from home?
This question is not applicable to me. I have moved around my whole life. I don’t have a home, not in any clearly definable way.

9. What career other than yours would you love to pursue?
Again, not a question that is particularly applicable to me. I don’t have anything we could reasonably consider a ‘career’. I suppose I would like to be a cat-hoarder. I’m not sure if there’s much money to be made in that, but a gross lack of money hasn’t stopped me from pursing writing or stand-up comedy. So, why not cat-hoarding?

10. What's a job you would definitely never want?

The job I was first offered when arriving in Budapest. It was for a car rental company. The job consisted of wearing a contraption on my head which had a speaker attached to it that would cover my ear. Through this speaker, angry French people could shout their complaints at me. I try to avoid any job that involves angry French people shouting into my ear. Consequently, I’ve had to turn down many job offers.

11. Where did you spend your last vacation?
That would have been ages ago. Usually I don’t take vacations. Rather, I simply pack my things, grab my cat, and move to a new place. My last vacation proper was in Porto Venere on the Ligurian coast of Italy. A beautiful spot. There I discovered that I am terrified by and fascinated with jellyfish.

12. Where do you hope to spend your next one?

13. What was your favourite band, film, or hobby as a teen?
As a teen, I went through many phases, sometimes coinciding with new places I’d move to. I was a goth kid, a metal head, a skateboarded, a Christian fundamentalist, a tennis enthusiast, and so on. I don’t think there was one band or film or hobby that remained constant. I’ll say Metallica and tennis since I still appreciate both to this day.

14. Apart of temptation what can't you resist?
Easy: cats!

15. Red wine or white?
Whatever helps numb the pain. The colour or the taste is secondary.

16. Book or movie?
Easy: book!

17. Morning person or night person?
I’m definitely more of a morning person.

18. Which social issue do you feel most strongly about?
Hmm, I’ll admit ‘social issue’ seems far too ‘reality-based’ for my liking. I have a certain aversion to reality. Can we consider literacy and science literacy social issues?

19. Buda side or Pest side?
I currently reside and do most of my socializing in Pest, though I aspire to move to Buda.

20. What would you say is your personal motto? 
Many people aspire to write or do stand-up comedy, but they never do. Usually, they are prevented by a lack of confidence or a sense of perfectionism. I have advice for those people, advice I follow: Finish! You’ll worry about making it good later.

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