Greg Schwem is a corporate stand-up comedian and author.

by Greg Schwem

I’ll admit it: I’m a great eavesdropper. A professional eavesdropper even.
I’ve elevated myself to the pro ranks. Not only is my hearing excellent when I’m within the vicinity of your cellphone conversation or public banter, but I will go to great lengths to be near you if I feel I’m going to overhear something of interest.
I’m not stalking you; at least I don’t believe I am. Full disclosure: I’m a full-time stand-up comedian and most of my material germinates from something I hear in passing from total strangers. A perfect example? The airline pilot, waiting for an incoming flight to arrive at O’Hare, telling the recipient of his cellphone conversation that he’d crave a “tall skinny blonde about now” Turns out he was placing a Starbucks order.
I thought it was funny. So did the audience that evening.
Years ago, I was exiting Bally’s Las Vegas Hotel and Casino when a red Ferrari pulled up to the valet entrance. I paused, expecting to see a movie star or famous athlete emerge, engulfed in a sea of paparazzi flashbulbs. Instead, two males, who looked as if they had yet to experience the ordeal of driver’s license renewal, exited.
I immediately made a beeline and went back inside, hoping to overhear something of interest. Certainly, two kids in their early 20s, and in possession of an automobile costing north of a quarter million dollars, would have SOMETHING interesting to say.
My plan disintegrated when the pair sat down at a bank of penny slots machines. I’m sorry but nobody playing penny slots has anything interesting to say. Most likely they are angry or depressed, perhaps because they blew all their money on a Ferrari.
Sadly, my penchant for eavesdropping is no longer fun. The reason? I already know what you’re talking about.
The vaccine.
What else do we have to talk about? After a year without live entertainment, exotic travel destinations and succulent restaurant meals, what’s left to share with our friends? Only our vaccine status.
Sometimes I don’t even have to get within earshot to know this is the topic of conversation. If I see you pointing to your left shoulder, I know you just got the vaccine. If you are waving your arm in a circular motion, I know you experienced pain after receiving a dose of the vaccine.
Prior to the pandemic, if I heard a stranger saying, “just got my first one,” my mind raced with endless possibilities. Your first what? Promotion? Social Security check? Online dating response? But I no longer need to guess. You just got your first shot, didn’t you?
If I detect the phrase, “which one?” you can only be referring to Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson. If I hear “any issues?” I keep walking, because there’s nothing funny about sticking around listening to anyone mention their flu-like symptoms, persistent soreness or 24-hour fatigue.
What’s best for the country is the worst for me, when it comes to eavesdropping. As the vaccine becomes available to wider demographics, it’s no longer just senior citizens who are discussing it. Millennials, Gen Z and, in some states, teens are comparing their vaccine experiences, much to my dismay. It’s only a matter of time before I hear two toddlers adding words like “appointment” and phrases such as “lasting side effects” to their new vocabularies.
Don’t get me wrong, America; I’m passionate about vaccination. So passionate that, if I overhear somebody say, “I’m still on the fence…” I’m likely to stop and say, “Why are you hesitant? We have a chance to end this pandemic. GO GET VACCINATED.” Oh, sure, there’s a chance the recipient of my wrath could be talking about which highway commission candidate he or she is going to vote for in an upcoming municipal election, but I doubt it.
By the way, I have been vaccinated. But I’m not going to endlessly droll on about a single topic with everybody I’ve ever met or plan to meet.
That’s why Facebook was invented.
(Greg Schwem is a corporate stand-up comedian and author of two books: “Text Me If You’re Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad” and the recently released “The Road To Success Goes Through the Salad Bar: A Pile of BS From a Corporate Comedian,” available at Visit Greg on the web at
You’ve enjoyed reading, and laughing at, Greg Schwem’s monthly humor columns in Senior Living News. But did you know Greg is also a nationally touring stand-up comedian? And he loves to make audiences laugh about the joys, and frustrations, of growing older. Watch the clip and, if you’d like Greg to perform at your senior center or senior event, contact him through his website at