I remember being astounded when I read it takes 40 quarts of maple sap to make one quart of syrup. Writing a stand-up comedy set is like that. It takes many pages of writing to create enough material to use for a few minutes on stage.

I’ve learned that a good opening blows the assumptions the audience may have about you out of the water.

I thought I had a good one when I came up with this:

  • Okay, so you’ve seen the white hair. You likely figure I’m a senior. You’re right. I’m 72. If you’re younger than I am, you may be thinking this is an excellent time to
    Head for the washroom
    Catch up on your emails on your cell phone
    Oh, you’re surprised I know it’s possible to get emails on a cell phone.

It’s not your fault. We’ve all been brainwashed about seniors.

I get on a bus. People jump up to give me a seat near the front. They’ve read the pious little sign “Please take a moment to consider who these seats are for.” (Seniors are listed second-last in the fine print, well after people using wheelchairs and scooters.) They’ve spent that last half hour on a guilt trip because it was the only seat left when they got on.

I used to accept, but all this coddling was making me feel old before my time. Now I just smile and say “no thanks.”

Then my piece cited three silly reasons I enjoy to dangle from a bus strap.

After the critique in class, the 208 words I had written boiled down to their essence in this:

“I was delighted the other day when a young guy offered me his seat on the bus. I’m not even pregnant.”

The new opening pokes fun at the idea that old people are out-of-it and doddery. The time I spent thinking about the stereotypes and writing out the whole story was a necessary prerequisite to getting the point across succinctly.

If it had been precisely like making maple syrup, I would have had to keep boiling down the original text until I got it to five words.

I’ll know when I deliver the lines whether the 21 I’ve got will hit the sweet spot.


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