Some people say that when you begin dreaming in a foreign language you have mastered it. That may be, but I say, it’s when you begin telling jokes that you’ve truly arrived. That’s humor fluency! I’m not sure what my first Viennese joke was, or even if it was funny. Most likely it was an emphatic “Heast, Depperter” or a well-timed “Oida.”

As a New Yorker, I’ve always appreciated that Viennese curse words and insults are terms of endearment. Our east-coast sarcasm can be dark, even lethal, but when it comes to irony and wordplay, the Viennese win hands down. Wiener Schmäh is playful but not pompous, superior without being smug. It’s refined in its simplicity, elegant in what it leaves out.

So my hope for every Vienna Metropolitan that they will someday have the pleasure of mastering mastering their own bit of Wiener Schmäh.

In our cover story we look into the essence of Wiener Schmäh why the Viennese see it as their most notable accomplishment, lending its ironic charm to society and pop culture for centuries (24). To start off, in our Melange interview we spoke to the irresistible Otto Jaus, a comic and singer and half of the Austro-pop duo Pizzeria & Jaus (11). In our Profiles, we talked to four experts on Schmäh, actors, cabaret performers and comedians (36). And in our our How To we give you a crash course in understanding the inner workings of Viennese Schmäh (40). For our City Life feature we get to know thethe English-speaking funny people who have chosen toto bring their type of humor to the city of Schmäh (70).

November always hits the Viennese hard. We’re surprised every year that it dares to get cold again. November takes away the last of our Schanigärten and the relentless greyness takes over the sky. Then the Christmas markets open, we start drinking punch and going ice-skating and realize it’s not so bad after all.

As always, we guide you through the month with the best and the boldest of stage, art, music, food, wine and nightlife. So grab your closest Haberer, and beat the November dreariness with a big dose of Schmäh, to take the edge off. Charm your way through it and by the end you’ll be feeling more Viennese than ever. And don’t take the pronunciation problem too seriously! After all, laughter has no foreign accent. Even what seems like insults are usually jokes (and when they’re not, it’s better to take them that way!). So listen close for the subtlety, chuckle along, and whatever you do,

don’t be a stranger,

margaret childs