Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week
March 16, 2009
Issue #325

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

I am constantly amazed by the reach of the internet.  Clowns, magicians, and other entertainers from six continents subscribe to this newsletter.  As you will read in the article about multicultural clowns, a clown in India recently found my web site and sent me some more information about the history of clowning in her country.
I would like to thank everyone who is helping others become aware of my newsletter.  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.
At different times of my career the majority of my performances have been open to the public.  In recent years most of my performances have been for private events.  I do have one public performance coming up in Peoria, Il.  It has been listed under my lecture schedule, but you may not have noticed it.  You can always find information on my performances that are open to the public by going to the performance page on my web site.
In This Issue
Thought For The Week
Lecture Schedule
Female History Month
Multicultural Clowns
Creativity For Entertainers Newsletter
Career Highlight

Thought For The Week 


March 16, 2009
 "We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action."  -- Frank Tibolt, author
It was time to write this article, but I had no idea what to write about.  I turned to my idea file, and nothing stood out.  Nothing inspired me.  So, I decided to write about being uninspired.  I had seen the above quote about not waiting for inspiration, and decided to use that as my spring board.  My plan was to start writing and see what happened.
While I typed the last paragraph I did get an idea.  One of the rules of improvisation is don't wait for inspiration before you begin.  If you stop for inspiration, you pressure your conscious mind to immediately generate a good idea.  You probably won't be able to think of one which causes panic.  That blocks the flow of ideas, increasing your panic and stress.  Stress blocks access to your memory.  That is why afterwards you often think of things you could have done.
However, if you start doing something you allow your subconscious time to recombine remembered ideas at random.  Then those ideas begin transferring to your conscious awareness so you select one to use.  For example, if I have to improvise something to fill an unexpected break in a variety show, I don't stop to plan what I am going to do.  I just do something to give my subconscious time to work.  When I was an instructor for a Clown Camp on the Road program in Orlando, FL, we went to Give Kids the World to perform.  Richard Snowberg asked me to entertain the audience for about ten minutes while they were waiting for the show to begin.  I took out my feather duster and began cleaning the stage curtain.  I began looking around for something I could play with.  I spotted a young girl with a bag of pop corn.  I looked at her bag very hungrily.  When she offered me some, I took three kernels and juggled them.  Then I tried throwing them up in the air and catching them in my mouth.  I caught the first one, but missed the next two.  The little girl threw a piece of pop corn to me that I tried to catch.  Soon a very playful relationship developed between us and her charming reactions delighted the rest of the audience. 
Here is another example, I was in a magic variety show and the next act was not ready.  The producer asked me to go on stage and stall.  I began by waving to different people in the audience.  I noticed that center stage was a microphone in a stand with a heavy round base.  I walked towards the microphone while looking at the audience and accidentally ran into the stand on purpose.  The stand began to tip, but I knew it wouldn't fall completely over.  I remembered seeing Victor Borge do a similar bit in one of his shows.  I grabbed the stand and "accidentally" pulled the microphone out of its clip.  I remembered watching George Carl performing his comedy act with a microphone stand.  So, as I tried to return the microphone, I got my finger caught in the clip.  I was able to come up with enough complications to keep the audience laughing until the next act was ready.
I use a similar approach in developing a new routine.    When I have a new prop, my first step is always to start playing with it without being sure what I am going to do with it.  Sometimes I learn a routine created by somebody else or learn some basic moves.  I begin practicing that.  While I am doing that the inspiration comes to try something different.  I try it to see what will happen, and that takes me another step down a path of discovery.  Where I end up is often very different from where I began.
When you have to improvise, what action can you begin as a stalling tactic while you are waiting for inspiration?  When you are working on a new routine, what starting action can you use to pave the way for inspiration?  In other situations, when you have reached a mental block what action can you take to get you moving?
You can read more about action providing inspiration in both volumes one and two of Creativity for Entertainers.

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


Female History Month

In the United States the month of March is Female History Month.  Here is a little information about the history of women in American entertainment.
The first known female circus clown in America was Amelia Butler who toured New England and Canada in 1858 with a show titled Nixon's Great American Circus and Kemp's Mammoth English Circus.  Early circus records are not complete so there may have been an earlier female clown appearing with a circus in America.  There may have also been an American female clown who worked in theaters or other venues at an earlier date.
The first known woman to perform a professional magic show in America is Mrs. John Brenon.  She performed in New York in 1787 and in Massachusetts in 1790.  She performed sleight of hand magic in performances with her husband who was a ropewalker and magician from Dublin, Ireland.
Debbie O'Carrol is a clown, magician, and dancer.  She is also a variety arts historian.  Her husband, Tom, is an Ireland historian.  Inspired by what little is known about Mrs. John Brenon, Debbie wrote Bridget Boylan, Girl Magician, a children's novel.  While Bridget is a fictional character, Debbie accurately portrays what it would have been like for a young girl growing up in Ireland and then immigrating to the United States following the American Revolution.  Debbie consulted with other variety arts historians to be sure that the acts and magic effects she described in her book were accurate for that period.
My website has a page on the history of early female clown type characters around the world.

Multicultural Clowns

Nazu Tonse, the first therapeutic clown in India, and possibly the first female clown in that country, visited my web site and discovered some errors on the Multicultural Clown page.  I have made the corrections that she suggested.  I would like to thank her for sending me the correct information on clowning in India. 
I have had the privilege of working with clowns from many different cultures.  There are interesting and important differences based upon culture.  However, I have found that we have had more in common than we had differences.  We all can learn from each other.  To read more about clowns in other cultures click on the link below. 

Creativity For Entertainers Newsletter 



The second issue of my Creativity For Entertainers Newsletter has been sent.  If you would like to read it, you can use the archive link on the right side of this issue of my newsletter.  One the archive home page, click on Creativity 2.
Thank you for being a subscriber.
I would appreciate anything you can do to spread the word about my newsletters.  You are welcome to forward this newsletter to a friend using the forward link below.

Bruce Johnson
Charlie's Creative Comedy
Copyright 2009 by Bruce "Charlie" Johnson.
All rights reserved. 

Career Highlight

I had the pleasure and privilege of being a model for Chuck Oberstein, an artist specializing in clowns.  His paintings were fantasy scenes, but he liked to work with actual clowns to develop the pose.  He was especially interested in capturing lighting effects on his models.  Other clowns who worked as his models include Dena Pirano, Linda Hulet, Rick De Lung, Kelley De Lung, and Valerie Vegh. 
Because I am a clown historian people sometimes contact me asking for an appraisal of art work.  That is something that I cannot do because I don't have the relevant knowledge.  The value of a piece of art depends upon two things, supply and demand.  The supply of an artist's work can vary greatly because of the way art is reproduced.  Working as one of Chuck's models I was exposed to different methods of art publishing.
Open Run -- An open run means the publisher can produce as many copies as they desire.  A good analogy is a poster.  The picture is usually mass produced on cheaper paper.  The philosophy is to keep the price low so it is easily affordable.  The publisher and artist make a small profit on each print, but their total profit is greater because of the number of prints sold.  An open run can total hundreds of thousands of prints.  Twenty years ago I saw some of Chuck's open run prints in cheap frames sold at flea markets for around ten dollars.
Signed Copies -- An open run print has the artist's signature printed on it.  Artists sometimes sign some copies of open run prints by hand.  These are easy to spot because there are two signatures on the print.  The supply of signed prints is much smaller than the normal open run prints so their value goes up.  The value of the print also increases if the subject of the painting signs it.  I signed some of Chuck's open run prints.  Some people like to have the date and location noted of where the piece was signed.  Something that I learned recently is that if the signature is personalized (To ___ ) that may actually decrease the resale value.
Signed and Numbered Limited Edition  -- A signed and numbered limited edition is much more valuable than an open run because there is a much smaller supply.  Most limited editions have fewer than a thousand copies.  The quality of the printing and paper is often better in a limited edition.  For example, a limited edition may be on acid free paper so it will last longer.  A limited edition will have a number somewhere in this format # / ###.  The number following the slash is the limit on how many copies will be printed.  That does not mean that many were actually printed.  The publisher may print a smaller number to test sales and then decide not to print the remaining pictures.  The number preceding the slash is the sequence in which the prints were sold.  For example, 5/50 means that particular print was the fifth one out of a possible fifty that were sold.  The value of a limited edition is based upon the unique number on each print.  Lower first numbers are considered more desirable so they are worth more than higher first numbers.
Books, statues, and other things can be done in a numbered limited edition which increases their value.  I own a few magic props which were produced in a signed and numbered limited edition.
I have some of Chuck's limited edition prints that originally sold in hundreds of dollars.
Lithograph  -- The lithographic printing process is more expensive than other methods.  It also produces a better quality reproduction.  Lithographs are often done as a limited edition.  Some lithographs have a certificate of authenticity which increases their value.  I have some of Chuck's lithographs that originally sold for thousands of dollars.
Artist Proof --Frequently a publisher of a limited edition produces a few copies to present to the artist for their approval.  These copies are not counted as part of the limited edition.  They are marked as AP.  (There are also prepublication copies of books marked AP which means Author's Proof that may be valuable.)  The artist can present the artist proofs as gifts or sell them.  Sometimes the artist decides to make changes after seeing the proofs which makes them even more unique.  For example, Ron Lee is known for clown statues mounted on a marble base. My parents have an artist proof of a Ron Lee statue on a walnut base.  That is the only Ron Lee statue that I have ever seen on anything other than a marble base.
Original  -- The original is more valuable than the reproductions.  I know that the original of one of Chuck's open run prints sold for tens of thousands of dollars.  An original that was not reproduced is even more valuable.  Chuck produced some originals, either on commission or for gallery sale, that are very valuable.
Determining Value
The artist and publisher determined the initial supply.  Over time as some copies were damaged or destroyed the supply decreases.  That is only part of what determines the value.
The second half is demand.  If demand for a popular artist remains high their work increases in value.  If demand drops off the value can actually decrease.  Demand is measured by the price recently paid for similar works by the same artist.  Professional art appraisers subscribe to publications reporting auction results and other sales. They use that information to determine an appraised value.  To get a piece of art appraised you need to hire somebody qualified to make that determination.  You might be able to find art appraisers listed in the yellow pages.  Also, an art restorer or framer may be able to recommend an appraiser to you.
Ultimately the true value is how much a purchaser is willing to pay for a particular piece

Quick Links
Join Our Mailing List