Ligi’s Second Life: Stand-Up Comedy (4)
While it may be popular for top Estonian politicians to blow off steam by engaging in real estate deals or taking part in sports, Estonia's Minister of Finance Jürgen Ligi has taken to stand-up comedy.
"Without question he's our top act," said Louis Zezeran, founder of Comedy Estonia, which organizes stand-up in Estonia. "Jürgy, as he's known on stage, is very dry and not everyone gets him the first time. But our regulars have come to really understand him."
"Understand" may be an understatement. Ligi's Facebook followers number in the tens of thousands and stretch well beyond the borders of Estonia. "He has a huge following in the Spanish-speaking world," said Zezeran. "Who'd have thunk it?"
Ligi may also be the only Estonian funny man to have professional representation. Mark Steinberg of Excel Sports Management, best known as Tiger Woods’s agent, manages Ligi’s bookings and merchandising activity surrounding what is known as Brand Ligi.
“T-shirts with Jürgen’s face on them are outselling Che Guevara shirts three to one in many markets,” said Steinberg by telephone from his L.A. office. “If he holds the momentum, he’ll be bigger than Bart Simpson.”
Steinberg attributed some of Ligi’s success to the fact that “he tans better than most Eastern Europeans and he is one of the few politicians who looks good shirtless,” but admitted that his comedy success is largely a mystery. “Why some Estonian dude is so loved in the Dominican Republic I can’t say,” Steinberg added, “but they love him in Davos and at the TED conferences. He just has the right stuff.”
Rumors have circulated for close to a year that Ligi will soon step down from his ministry post in order to commit himself full time to professional comedy.
“Comedy isn’t an easy life,” said Comedy Estonia’s Zezeran. “One can get tired of hotel rooms in Kilingi-Nõmme, but if you have the gift and the calling, as Jürgy clearly does, then you’ll eventually submit to it.”