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.