Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week
February 2, 2009
Issue #322 

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

The Peoria Magic Conference has their web site up and running.  You will find their link on my lecture schedule.  There will be more information added to their site in the next few days.  I hope to see many Thought For The Week Subscribers there. 
The first issue of my Creativity For Entertainers newsletter has been sent.  This is a new free service intended for owners of my Creativity For Entertainers books to help make those books more useful.  My ideas for this newsletter are still evolving.  Its format and content will change based on feed back from readers.  If you own my books, but have not signed up for this newsletter, use the Join Our Mailing List link on the lower right and click on Creativity For Entertainers as one of your preferences. 
I have set up an archive for my Thought For The Week newsletter and my Creativity For Entertainers newsletter.  You can access both by using this link.
In This Issue
Thought For The Week
Lecture Schedule
Get Creative @ Your Library
Trick Cartoons
Circus Lingo

Thought For The Week 


February 2, 2009
"My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure."
-- Abraham Lincoln
I chose this week's quote in honor of the bicentennial celebration of Abraham Lincoln's birth.
I performed at a Cub Scout Pinewood Derby Race this past weekend.  While doing some strolling entertainment before the first race began, I performed some trick cartoons.  In one form of trick cartoon I print a word and then add lines to turn it into a drawing of that word.  For example, I print the word spot and then turn it into a drawing of a dog named spot.

I have gradually built up a repertoire of many cartoons over the years.  Sometimes I ask a child to name their favorite animal because that often turns into a successful interaction with them.  If I get lucky they name an animal I know how to do.  If they name an animal I have not done before I attempt to draw it for them.  The challenge keeps my performances interesting for me.  That has been the inspiration for many of my most popular new creations.  This weekend a boy said his favorite animal was a rhinoceros.  I couldn't remember how to spell the entire word, so I abbreviated it to rhino.  I tried to turn that into a drawing but it did not look too much like a rhinoceros.  So, the boy requested that I draw a monkey.  I have gotten that request before but could not remember how I had done the drawing.  I failed a second time to draw what he wanted.  Finally, he suggested a car.  I had not done one before.  I was able to turn the C into the front wheel, the A into the passenger door, and the R into the trunk, fender, and back bumper.  He was very happy with that drawing.  I was relieved that I hadn't struck out.  (I was prepared to offer him a drawing I knew I could do it the car idea had failed.)  We tend to look too much at our failures.  I failed on two out of three drawings, but I did give the boy a drawing that he liked so I succeeded overall.
I failed to do a monkey this time.  Since I have received that request before, I assume I will receive it again.  So, I have started trying to figure out how to accomplish it.  That way I won't fail the next time.  An individual failure is not permanent.  As long as you don't accept failure it is just a step in the progress towards success.
I am hoping to do more Pinewood Derby performances in the future.  I know that a CAR cartoon will be useful at those events.  So, now I am practicing that cartoon.  First, I don't want to forget what I did.  Second, the car that I drew this time satisfied the boy that requested it, but I think I can improve upon my design.  I would not have this new design to polish had I not been willing to risk failure.
Sometimes failure is relative.  Another boy asked me for a lizard.  I drew one that he thought was great.  I met his expectations so in his eyes I succeeded.  That is the important thing.  However, I think I can do a better lizard so in my eyes I failed.  Now I will work to develop an improved lizard cartoon.
To succeed you have to be willing to risk failure.  How do you evaluate success and failure?  What do you do when you fail?  Is there another approach you can take that will lead to greater success?  What can you do to prevent future failure?  If one part of an interaction fails how can you make the overall interaction a success?
Lecture Schedule 
 April 25, 2009
Mid Illinois Magic Conference
Scottish Rite Cathedral
400 E. Perry Ave, Peoria, IL
Lecture on comedy writing (unique to this conference)
Performance in public variety show
Registration opens at 8 AM.  The show begins at 7 PM.  
June 7-13, 2009
Clown Camp
La Crosse, WI
The 29th and final reqular year for this excellent educational program.
Topics to be announced.
I believe in promoting any event I will be lecturing at.  If you schedule me for an educational event that you are hosting, I will list it here.  My goal is to to what I can to best meet the needs of you and your group.
For information on additional services that I can provide for an educational event click here


Get Creative @ Your Library

Each year the American Library Association chooses a summer reading program theme.  Using the theme is voluntary, but most library systems in the United States participate so they can use the available promotional materials.  The theme for 2009 is Get Creative @ Your Library.  My Creativity For Entertainers trilogy, particularly the first two volumes, contains lots of information you can use to create your own creativity themed library program.

Trick Cartoons

I love performing and teaching trick cartoons.  My trick cartoon class is one of my most popular.  I have developed many cartoons based on something a participant in one of my classes has said.  My Charlie's Trick Cartoons lecture note booklet is one of my best selling publications.  If you can print the letters of the alphpabet and numbers you can learn to perform trick cartoons.
I continue to learn more about them and discover new advantages.  I have heard from many Caring Clowns who use trick cartoons because they are inexpensive, latex free, and hygenic.  (Because you are the only one to touch the drawing before you leave it with the patient, infection control is not a concern.)

I recently discovered that Trick Cartoons are particularly effective with preteen audiences.  At this age they are trying to establish that they are intelligent and know the difference between fantasy and reality.  Knowing that magic is accomplished by a secret method instead of being real is part of this stage of development.  To demonstrate that knowledge, preteens may try to explain how they think a magic effect is performed.  It can become an intellectual contest between the performer and individuals that diminishes the enjoyment and sense of wonder for the rest of the audience.  It is not a contest that you can easily win.  If they are correct it ruins the effect for everyone.  If they are wrong, and you demonstrate that, you risk alienating them.  However, if I switch to performing trick cartoons it defuses the potential adversarial relationship.  They can see how the cartoons are done so there is no intellectual challenge.  However, it appears to be skillful so it earns their respect.  I have had many an older child exclaim, "Hey, that's cool."  I have discovered that after I have earned that respect I can often switch back to doing magic without them blurting out possible methods.
I created a page on my web site explaining to potential clients some of the advantages to hiring an entertainer who performs trick cartoons.  You can read that by clicking this link.
The new material in the second edition of my Charlie's Trick Cartoons lecture note booklet includes information on how I develop new cartoons.  Remember if you purchase Charlie's Trick Cartoons, I'll include a fee copy of Charlie's Contemplation's,  a booklet reprinting the first 52 Thought for the Week articles.  The price for Charlie's Trick Cartoons is $10 plus $5 postage and handling.
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Bruce Johnson
Charlie's Creative Comedy
Copyright 2009 by Bruce "Charlie" Johnson.
All rights reserved. 
Circus Lingo

  Blow Off

This is a term used almost exclusively in America because it is a rude expression in many other countries.  Its definition depends upon the setting in which it is used.
Outside of the circus, Blow Off means the conclusion of a clown act.  I have heard it used many times by people discussing clown skits.  (The word skit is not used in a circus.  The term used there is clown act.)
However, I seldom heard Blow Off used in connection with a clown cat conclusion on the circuses that I toured with.  A more common term was the Finish.  That term is used for the finale of all circus acts.  In 1977, the Finish for the Scotty's Garden Act was a bucket chase.  (Scotty threw a bucket of water on me.  I grabbed another bucket and chased Scotty into the crowd.  When I threw its contents, which were popcorn, Scotty ducked and the popcorn fell on the crowd.  Then Scotty chased me out of the tent.)  When I created my circus juggling act my Finish was holding a spinning plate on a mouth stick while juggling three clubs.
In a multiple ring circus, knowing the Finish trick of the center ring act is vital.  When the center ring act starts their Finish trick the other acts also begin their Finish tricks.  That means the Performance Director only has to cue the center ring act about changes in timing.  If the next act is not ready the Performance Director may cue the center ring act to stretch to provide the necessary time.  In an outdoor tented circus the show was sometimes shortened due to threatening weather conditions, and the Performance Director cued the center ring act to tighten up their act.
It is also good showmanship to have all the acts end in unison so they are ready to receive their final applause at the same time.  Sometimes the acts all end together and then the center ring act has a solo encore.  You can't always count on the center ring act being consistent in length.  When I began my juggling act with the Carson & Barnes Circus in 1980, the center ring act was performed by an outstanding teenage juggler.  The other jugglers knew that if there was a pretty young woman in the front row of the center ring his act would run longer because he would strut around in front of her.  We were always prepared to stall before beginning our Final trick.
Now when I perform in a variety show, I always ask the act before me what they are using for their Finish.  That helps me know when to begin my final mental preparations for my act and to do a last check to make sure my props are ready.  For example, if I have to carry a vanishing cane on stage with me I don't want to vanish it prematurely by nervously fidgeting with it back stage.  I normally have it setting safely aside until the previous act begins their Finish trick and than I pick it up.
Blow Off had a unique meaning with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.  Before the show switched to the interactive Three Ring Adventure, there would be a series of clown acts performed before the show.  The last of these acts was the Blow Off.  Performing just before the official start of the show was an important role because it helped focus the audience's attention and set the tone for what followed.  It was an honor to be selected to perform the Blow Off.  Kenny Ahern performed the Blow Off during his last two seasons with the RBB&B Circus.
In other American circuses the Blow Off is the period of time after the main performance when the audience is leaving.  For example, Circus Kirk had a sideshow that performed before the main show in the Big Top and also during the Blow Off.  Clowns may have a Blow Off duty.  During my two years with Circus Kirk I worked in a photo studio posing for souvenir Polaroid photos with audience members during the Blow Off.  In 1981, I sold the Carson & Barnes Circus Coloring Books during the performance.  During the Blow Off, I stood in the menagerie autographing books and selling additional copies. 

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