Meet Julie Kertesz, 82. Award winning storyteller & stand-up comedienne
Words by Julie Kertesz.
I have always been multigenerational. At 12 I was best friends with my 92 year old Great grandmother. At 36 my best friend was 60 years old and that friendship lasted more then 25 years. My blog, "il y a de las vie après 70", was read by a lot of younger people and middle aged. My standup audience is usually young and love it. I have never believed that the gap between generations is important.
I have many pals, who are a lot younger and my granddaughter teaches me about different coloured nail polish to, "keep me cool". So in that sense, I do believe there isn't such a big gap. When you meet people, when we open up, when we tell personal deep stories, thats where we find out we aren't that different.
Here is a story I like to tell about developing "comedian eyes" and feeling alone as a kid at 77.
"Age, race, culture doesn't really define us in my opinion. My blog, “There is life after 70”, is read by all ages, my comedy performance appreciated by many younger people. Sometimes, age gives me an advantage too."
When I arrived to London, I had to get new glasses. The optician told me I had cataracts, and told me I had to wait for it to get worse, before I could get an operation. I said, "What, no way! Really??"
And after two years, it became so bad that I couldn't even read the number on a bus I was waiting for. I was then finally able to get my operation. I was told, "we can operate in a week, but you have to sign this paper that if you become blind after surgery you will not sue us". I signed. Early in the morning I went with my son to the hospital, and by 9am we were home again. I fell asleep and when I woke up alone and with a huge headache I was very upset about being alone. I was afraid too. No friends in London. No family near me. I felt like a lost child. I remembered I had to add eyedrops in my eyes, three drops every two hour. I tried to add drops, alone, as no one was there to help. The drops didn't come out. By that point I felt really sorry for myself. I tried a third time, and then I finally realised: the cap was on. That whole time. The bottle was not open. Oh! Suddenly, everything changed for me. "What a funny story! I will be able to tell people that, I will be able to make others laugh with me!" And at that moment, I realised I had developed "comedian eyes". Literally. And everything felt better inside me. The burden of being alone lifted, and I was looking forward meeting my audience. Ever since, when something happens, I ask, "how can I make myself and others laugh from this".
Do you think how old you are today, is relevant to how you think about yourself and why?
How I think or feel? I am sure my upbringing and my life did influence how I think about myself and about the world. I have lived through the Nazi occupation, communist tyranny and then democracy and great many problems with husband(s). All have influenced how I think as well. But after the age of 77 I learned through Standup comedy, to look at what is happening to me with my “comedian eyes”. That makes, what ever comes my way, a bit easier to deal with.
Do you think how old you are today, changes how people think about you and why?
People think very differently about me. When I begin to speak to people or make them laugh they change their views about me, and a bit I hope, about my age.
Is there a difference between people who know you and people who you have just met? Could you give us an example?
"People think very differently about me. When I begin to speak to people or make them laugh they change their views about me, and a bit I hope, about my age."
I love the audience. I love making them laugh and to see how how they begin to think differently about me. In Dublin, a few weeks ago, I told stories to 60 women and men who were 60. They wanted to know more and more, so I went way over the time I was supposed to. I loved that.
What is the biggest stress in your life at the moment? Does this have anything to with how old you are?
At the moment, I have problems walking, and other problems with my health. Some because of age, some because I spend too much time in the sun in my younger years.
Is there one thing which makes you happiest right now? Do you think this has to do with your age?
I am in love with my audience, and I am the happiest whenever I meet them and interact with them. I think that has nothing to do with my age. But perhaps, being single I have a bigger need to connect.
What do you think are the biggest challenges we share across all ages?
Well, our need not to feel alone, to connect through age and cultures. All human basic needs that are in all of us, openly or hidden.
What can you learn from people who are older?
I learned a lot from my great grandmother, when she was 92 and I was12, through the stories of her life and our family life. I became optimistic like her. She taught me to see the good from the bad things that happened to me. Perhaps now, others learn from me that it's never too late and that we never stop learning at any age.
What can you learn from people who are younger?
I learn from all ages. My grand-children teach me to use Whats App etc. and to use different colours of nail varnish on my finger nails. I also learn a lot from younger people in terms of collaborating work wise.
What do you think is the benefit of a society where our age does not define us?
Age, race, culture doesn't really define us in my opinion. My blog, “There is life after 70” (in French) was read by all ages, my comedy performance appreciated by many younger people. Sometimes, age gives me an advantage too.
You can read Julie's blog here.
"I learned a lot from my great grandmother, when she was 92 and me 12, through the stories of her life and our family life. I became optimistic like her. She taught me to see the good from bad things that happened to me. Perhaps now, others learn from me that it's never too late for example, and also that we never stop learning at any age."
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