Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week
March 9, 2009
Issue #324

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

I would like to thank everyone who responded to last week's newsletter.  Your words of encouragement are deeply appreciated.
I would also like to thank everyone who has helped spread the word about my newsletters.  I have had a surge in subscriptions.  Please continue to let others know that you enjoy my newsletters.  You may use the forwarding link at the bottom of this email to send a copy.
New subscribers can read recent newsletters by using the Newsletter Archive link near the bottom of the right column.  It has been updated so it is current.
In This Issue
Thought For The Week
Lecture Schedule
Creativity For Entertainers Newsletter
Career Highlight

Thought For The Week 


March 9 2009
 "If you spend too much time warming up, you'll miss the race.  If you don't warm up at all, you may not finish the race." -- Grand Heidrich
Will DeLand, one of my grandsons, loved riding his bicycle in dirt track races.  He didn't win though because he didn't learn to pace himself.  He was so enthusiastic that he went all out in the practice period, wore himself out, and didn't have any energy left when it came to the actual race.
In contrast, in my own experience I have discovered that my worst stage shows are those where I have failed to do some stretching before hand to loosen up my muscles and haven't juggled backstage before the start of the show.  There were a few times at Raging Waters when I pulled a muscle because I did not properly warm up before a stage performance.  It is hard to continue performing while nursing an injury.
It really is not practical to warm up before going in to perform a birthday party or other intimate event.  So my show is designed to incorporate a warm up.  My first juggling tricks are easy to do.  My routine also incorporates increasingly wide movements so that my muscles gradually have to do more as they get warm.  (This approach works in intimate settings because I tone down my energy and movements to avoid overwhelming audience members who are just a few feet away from me.  I use more energy and wider movements in a stage performance to reach those seated further away so a warm up prior to going on stage is vital.)
The concept of doing enough, but not too much, preparation also applies to creating a routine.  Sometimes I delay adding a routine to my repertoire because I think I haven't practiced enough.  However, that can be an excuse for not taking a risk.  As long as I am still preparing something it is safe.  If I don't actually perform it there is no chance that it will fail to get the audience response I am hoping for. 
To keep it really safe, I delay even practicing.  If I haven't practiced I have a valid excuse for not performing it.  That is what has happened to my Miser's Dream (coin production) routine.  I performed it in shows a few times and wasn't sure that the response was strong enough.  I haven't performed it since then because I stopped practicing it.  I need to gather the courage to practice it again to get it up to performance level and put it back into some of my shows.
Sometimes, I am so excited about a new routine that I'll rush it into performance without enough practice.  I quickly discover that it is not ready to be presented smoothly.  Then I have to make myself slow down and practice to get it up to performance level.  Also, I will sometimes return an old routine to my repertoire expecting to remember how to perform it.  I always discover that if I have not practiced or performed it in a while I have forgotten some of the fine points.  I find that I fumble with the props just because I am not used to handling them.  I then have to go home and practice it for a while to be able to return it to performance level.
Do you warm up for performances?  How much warm up is enough?  How much warm up is too much?  How do you have to adjust your warm up for various performance situations?  Can you incorporate a warm up into your actual show? 
Do you use lack of preparation as an excuse to avoid risking that a new routine will fail?  How can you determine that you have prepared enough to try it before audiences?  When do you fail to prepare enough?  What are the signs that you need to do more preparation?

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.
Staff on Stage, Trick Cartoons for Clowns, An Introduction to Comedy Techniques, Card Magic for Clowns, The Creative Process, Audience Interaction 
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


Creativity For Entertainers Newsletter 



My goal when I wrote my Creativity For Entertainers trilogy was to make as userful as possible for the reader.  As part of that goal I have started a second email newsletter for owners of that set of books.  There is no charge to sign up for this newsletter.  Anybody can subscribe, but you would have to refer to your own copies of the books to fully understand the articles.  If you would like to read the first issue, use the Newsletter Archive link at the right of this newsletter and then click on Creativity 1. 
The second issue of my Creativity For Entertainers Newsletter is just about ready to be distributed.  If you would like to subscribe to it, use the Join Our Mailing List link at the bottom of the right column.  Then click on creativity under your preferences.
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Bruce Johnson
Charlie's Creative Comedy
Copyright 2009 by Bruce "Charlie" Johnson.
All rights reserved. 

Career Highlight

Toontown Grand Opening
In 1992, I became an alternate for the Royal Court Jester program at Disneyland.  Most of the time I performed at private events held in the Disneyland Hotel adjacent to the amusement park.  At those events I performed solo doing juggling and close up magic. 
My directions from my supervisor the first night I worked was "have fun, interact with the guests, and don't hit anybody."  Disneyland invented audioanimatronic characters that can perform the same show endlessly with very few mistakes.  However, those characters can't interact with the audience.  Disneyland discovered that they needed live entertainers who could personalize the experience for the guests.  Randy Pryor, my juggling coach and another Royal Court Jester, told me, "Our job is to create an atmosphere of play and invite the guests to play along."
Ability passing clubs was a requirement to be a Royal Court Jester.  Once you understand the pattern and rhythm of club passing you can do it with any other juggler.  That meant the Disneyland entertainment department could team the jugglers in any combination.  The jugglers could take turns doing their solo featured routines and then conclude with club passing to give the appearance of partners working together.  Also, Disneyland discovered that guests to the park enjoyed club passing.  You can't create a more personal experience than selecting a guest to stand between the jugglers while clubs whiz past all around them.  Sometimes a duo just finishing their set would stay for a few minutes to join the duo coming on stage to do a four-man passing routine known as feeding which was extremely popular with the guests.
I worked twice within Disneyland.  The first was the Press Preview for the Grand Opening of Toontown in 1993.  I worked in Toontown one other time shortly after that as part of the opening celebration.  Both times I was partnered with Tuba Heatherton.  Tuba is a RBB&B Clown College Graduate.  He was the juggling instructor for the RBB&BJapanClownCollege.  His students included Rone and Gigi, known as Open Sesame.
The Toontown Press Preview started at 10 PM after the park closed for the day and continued until 6 AM.  The reason we worked through the night was because the morning news magazines needed shots for their east coast editions.  It also allowed newspapers to get photographs in time for their morning editions.
For the Press Preview, Tuba and I were costumed as convicts and stationed near the Toontown Jail.  My costume had a seven digit number on it.  I would introduce myself to the guests using that number as my name, and then tell them they could just call me the last three digits as a nick name.  In addition to our juggling routines, we pointed out features near us.  For example, if you stepped on the man hole cover you heard somebody under the street saying things like "Would you please move.  You're blocking our light."  Our schedule that night was thirty minutes of performance followed by a thirty minute break.
The second time we worked together we were dressed in coveralls and stationed at Goofy's Gas Station.  I referred to my spinning plate as a hub cap and would ask people if it might have come off their car.  Then I would start the plate spinning and transfer it to their finger.  People were delighted to discover the plate would remain spinning on their index finger.  It made a great photo opportunity.  The cartoon style cars parked at Goofy's Gas Station did not have any glass in the windshields.  Tuba would carefully polish the windshield and then reach all the way through the frame to pick something up.  That was a variation of an old clown bit, polishing a pair of glasses that don't have any lenses in the frame.
Not knowing the character we would be playing until we arrived made it a fun challenge.  We tried a few things out and audience feedback quickly directed us to something that worked. 
We also learned to take advantage of our surroundings and incorporate that into our performances.  That lesson is one that still proves valuable today.

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