Szomszédnéni Produkciós iroda, comedians from Cluj-Napoca

Jokes are nothing without a partner to tell to and laugh with. Let’s duplicate this: two guys from Cluj-Napoca are telling you some funny stories. The laughter is guaranteed, prepare your abdomen muscles! They might not give you six packs but will pump up your mood for sure.

How did your friendship start? What is the story behind the Szomszédnéni Produkciós Iroda (Aunt Next Door Production Agency)?

Ferenc Bálint: We both were students in Cluj Napoca, and at a certain point, we felt that there is space for the stage beside college. Talking about stand-up comedy, it’s not surprising that our stage was often in a bar, so we practiced two of our hobbies at one place.

Szabolcs Tóth: I still don’t know that we are friends because of the beer or because of the Cretin magazine: the first one was in front of us while talking about the second one, which was our favorite humor magazine. Maybe this is the reason why Bálint Ferenc, aka Béfé, when searching for a new member for his humorist group called me at an afternoon. I was sleeping so he awoke me. When I was awake, I couldn’t decide what is part of the dream and what is part of reality. It seems like reality unless I’m still dreaming.

Where did the name come from?

Szabolcs Tóth: It’s strange imagining names coming and going. If we look at the calendar names are standing rather than moving. Unfortunately, choosing a name is not that easy like stepping out on the street and stopping one passing by. Anyway, I don’t get that you ask me about Aunt Next Door or Szabolcs. I think Szabolcs is weirder than Aunt Next Door because about the name Aunt Next Door you know exactly that you are talking about the aunt from the neighborhood.

What was the proudest moment in your career so far?

Ferenc Bálint: It was earning the Hungarian Radio Humor Oscar’s Bon-bon award, in 2011 and after that the Karinthy-ring, in 2014. Karinthy Frigyes is the Hungarian Mark Twain, so winning this award, it’s the biggest honor for a humorist. We are often making fun of it so that from this point there is only way down.

Szabolcs Tóth: In our career so far there was only one moment when I felt so close to bursting into tears and not from laughing. You may think that in a comedian’s career this is a nadir, but for me, it was the highlight.  It happened on Karinthy-ring awards, where my mother had tears in her eyes and my brother logged in on phone.

Is this a lifestyle – you guys are funny in general, or it is a job and the jokes are formed specifically for the shows?

Ferenc Bálint: It’s more like an attitude to life. We try to see the positive side of everything, but of course, the concentrated version is made for the stage.  If I kept on joking around my wife would already divorce.

Szabolcs Tóth: Most of our stories happened to us, we only make up the scenes, but even those are framed by a real situation. I think that in general, we are joking as much as anybody. I know a lot of people funnier than me, but they have different occupations, or they had been studying harder compering to me.

What inspires you?

Ferenc Bálint: My and our experiences make up the origo of our jokes. There are a lot of stupid people around us, but they don’t know about them, which is really funny and good inspiration.

Szabolcs Tóth: In the beginning, a lot of things had an effect on us like Monty Python, the duo of Nagy-Gáspárik, we watched the comedians of Hungary. But now I can give air to that we have our unique style. First, you have to find a topic that’s interesting for you, but for your audience too so they can identify themselves with the situation.  Then you take that situation and tell it wrapped up in a story like no one ever did. Of course, this doesn’t mean that it will be funny, you will realize this only on stage.

How would you describe Transylvania for the travelers?

Ferenc Bálint: What I admire in Transylvania is that anything and its opposite is possible too. Furthermore, Transylvanian people are happier than they should, and I like this optimism.

Szabolcs Tóth: The way from the borders of Transylvania is proportional to the clothing required. So if on the way to Cluj Napoca you felt good in a pullover, until Miercurea Ciuc you will get your jacket on. Anyway, it’s colorful, diverse, it wasn’t by chance, that we narrowed our international tour to Transylvania.

In the past years, where were you performing? Transylvania, Hungary, maybe farther?

Ferenc Bálint: Comedians are always performing where they are invited. So most of the time we are in Hungary but every year we have a one or two week-long tour in Transylvania where we show our best stories.

Szabolcs Tóth: Most of the time we are performing in Hungary, but just because most of the Hungarian events are organized there. If there were Hungarian events organized in Italy, we would spend more time there. However, nowadays we are invited to Sweden, England, and Germany for Hungarians living abroad.

Where is your favorite place to perform?

Ferenc Bálint: I don’t mind whether it’s a coffee shop’s stage or a sports-court until we find the common voice with the audience.

Szabolcs Tóth: Last year we performed at Debrecen in Phoenix hall with Kiss Ádám, Hadházi, and Aranyosi Péter. It was awesome, I can assume that until now the sports hall is the best.

How did you get used to being famous? You guys like to meet your audience on the street, or you avoid these situations?

Ferenc Bálint: It’s like nothing ever changed, I live like before. It’s not bothering me at all if someone stops me on the street. I take it as a sign of doing something in the right way.

Szabolcs Tóth: I’m definitely not avoiding these situations. For example, after every Transylvanian tour, we go out to pubs where people can meet us and have a chitchat. Of course, it’s a little bit weird when strange people come to us and they know almost everything about us, we are honest on stage. But we know nothing about them.

Top 5 go to tips on how to tell effectively a story

Ferenc Bálint: I only mention one: find out why do you want to tell the story, and after you found out it’s easy peasy.

Szabolcs Tóth:

  1. Find out the purpose and the point of your story, then leave that at the end.
  2. Don’t lose yourself in the details.
  3. Play with your voice, hand, mimicry.
  4. Don’t make fun of your joke.
  5. Use a language that’s understood by the audience.