Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week
March 23, 2009
Issue #326

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

As my schedule allows I have been gradually updating my web site.  I have added a new page on the topic of fear of clowns.  You will find information on that and a link below in the article titled Coulrophobia.
I would like to thank everyone who has been ordering books, magic effects, and note cards.  Your orders help support this newsletter.  I fell a little behind in getting orders filled last month while I was away from home, but think I am now up to date.  As far as I know all orders have been shipped.  However, that does not necessarily mean they were delivered.  If anyone has ordered one of my products and not received it, please let me know.  My goal is to give you the best customer service possible.
I continue to get new subscribers.  Thank you to everyone who has been spreading the word about my newsletters.  In addition to this one, I have a second email newsletter for owners of my Creativity For Entertainers trilogy.  New subscribers can read recent issues by using the archive link at the bottom of the right column.
In This Issue
Thought For The Week
Lecture Schedule
Easy Protective Covers
Career Highlight

Thought For The Week 


March 23, 2009
"Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers."  -- Voltaire, French Philosopher and Writer
I have heard it said that a question mark (?) is an upside down fishing hook.  A question starts you fishing and helps you catch ideas.  One day somebody told me that it is impossible to use face painting in an entertaining act on stage.  So to exercise my creativity I started with a question.  Can face painting be incorporated into an entertaining stage act?  I came up with three ideas involving story telling.  My next idea was to use one of the super fast animal faces to turn an audience volunteer into a living ventriloquist figure.  I am not a ventriloquist so I could not use that answer.  Since I am a magician I changed my question to how can magic and face painting be combined?  That focused my attention and I came up with nine possibilities.  One of those was using the faces in a version of Larry Becker's Will The Cards Match.  I liked that idea but I am not a face painter.  I asked, "What could be used instead of face paint?"  I came up with several answers including masks.  I made masks for the routine and it was very successful.  I have had some entertainers ask if the routine and props are available for sale.  I am hoping to have at least one version of Will The Faces Match available on my dealer table this spring and summer.  What started off as an intellectual exercise turned into a routine that I have added to my repertoire.
Questions from participants in my classes sometimes remind me of things that I have taken for granted and suggest that other answers are possible.  I developed a torn restored mismade message routine using three words printed on a slip of paper.  Two other routines were the inspiration for my routine.  The first was Arnold Furst's Fresh Fish routine which used a five-word phrase.  The second was John Cooper's Birthday Happy which used two words.  My routine is easy to customize and I have described variations of it in several different publications, including Creativity For Entertainers Volume Three.  During a recent lecture I commented that I use a three-word phrase appropriate to the show or audience.  If I can't think of a three-word phrase I sometimes substitute a two-word phrase if one of the words has two syllables by treating the syllables as if they are different words.  Ralph Huntzinger asked me if there was a specific reason for using three words.  My first response was that is just what I always do.  As I considered it further I realized that there were reasons that I had not thought about in a while.  The first reason is that I include two types of errors; one word is upside down while the order of the other two words is transposed.  Another reason is that after I tear the strip I hold the words in their proper order.  It is easy to hold three pieces of paper; one in each hand with the third stretched between the hands.  When you have more pieces it is harder to hold and display them.  Being aware of the reason for using three means I can consider alternatives.  It would be possible to hold four pieces of paper, two in each hand, so maybe someday I will perform it with a four-word phrase when that is appropriate.  Other numbers of words may also work.
When we find an answer we frequently stop without considering any other possibilities.  (Our school system stresses finding the one correct answer.)  The most helpful questions prompt more than one idea.  These include:  Why?  What else?  What can be added?  What can be substituted?  What other combinations are possible?
In each Thought For The Week I present my answer to something.  At the end I try to leave you with some questions.  Those questions are the most valuable part of those articles.  They are designed to move you from my answers to discovering your own answers that will work better for you.
Do you answer the questions at the end of the Thought For The Week?  Where else can you find questions that will inspire your creativity?  What questions of your own can you use as starting points in a search for ideas?  What questions will lead you to additional ideas?
(You can read more about using questions as a tool for creativity in Creativity For Entertainers Volume Two.)

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



Coulrophobia is a fear of clowns.  It has been a popular topic in a variety of media during recent years.  Many different people have talked to me about their fear of clowns throughout my career.  I have been able to help some of them overcome their fear.  
I have gotten a lot of publicity because of my views on coulrophobia.
In May of 2004 I was interviewed about the subject over the phone by Lisa Gutierrez, a reporter in Kansas City, MO.  Her article was published in the Kansas City newspaper on June 22, and was reprinted in newspapers all across the country, including one here in the state of Washington.
On September 17, 2006 I was the guest on a radio show hosted by Jearlyn Steele on station WCCO in the Minneapolis.  (Again it was an interview over the phone.)  Her topic for that day was coulrophobia.
The October 2007 issue of Real Simple magazine had an article about various phobias.  I was quoted speaking about coulrophobia in that article.
I decided that it was an appropriate topic to add to the section of information about clowns on my web site.  If you would like to read what I have written, click on the link below.

Easy Protective Covers


I realize that I have subscribers from around the world and this idea is timely only for those who live in the cooler regions of the Northern Hemisphere.  Perhaps this will still inspire an idea for other subscribers.
In doing your spring cleaning look at the sweat shirts and flannel shirts that you have been wearing this winter.  Are any of them ready to be discarded?  The sleeves make great covers to protect magic tubes and similar props during storage and transportation.  Sleeves of long sleeve shirts are also very easy to turn into draw string bags for things like juggling balls.  You can also cut pockets off to create little bags for holding small props.  Look at those shirts that you are ready to discard.  Look at the props that you want to organize or protect.  How can you recycle the shirts into covers or bags for those props? 
What else can you use to make easy covers to prtect, organize, and transport props?

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
Circus Kirk 

Doctor Charles Boas, a college professor at York College in Pennsylvania, was the owner and founder of Circus Kirk.  Everyone working on the show, except for Doc and his assistant Frank Felt, were either high school or college students.  The Lutheran Church originally co-sponsored the show as a summer youth project to give students a positive educational experience.  Doc's other goal was providing a way for young people to break into show business.  Over ten percent of the Circus Kirk alumni did become professional entertainers.  Circus Kirk alumni include Tom Ogden, originator of the solo version of Banana Bandana, and Jim Judkins, founder and manager of Circus Chimera.
The Circus Kirk tour opened Memorial Day weekend and closed on Labor Day.  I toured with the show in 1976 and 1977 while I was a student at California State University - Long Beach.  CSU-LB ended their spring semester on Memorial Day so I had to take my finals early because I was required to be at winter quarters outside of East Berlin, PA a week before the opening to help prepare the circus equipment for the road and to work on the clown acts.  The fall semester at CSU-LB started before Labor Day, so my father, who was a high school teacher, would attend my first day of classes to turn in my registration cards and get my assignments.  (My parents were very supportive of my career.)
Doc Boas encouraged us to take risks and try new things out.  He wanted us to get as much experience as possible.  Everyone had more than one job on the show.  During the 1976 season I was the come in clown, featured clown, and worked in a clown photo studio on the midway.  For the first half of the season I worked on the Gilly Gang setting up the Pad (dressing room) Tent, Cookhouse Tent, and Petting Zoo Tent each morning and taking them down in the evening.  The Gilly Gang also loaded the prop truck at night.  During the second half of the season I switched from the Gilly Gang to the Sideshow Crew, setting up and taking down that tent, its stages, and unloading the sideshow props.
In 1976, Doc Boas arranged with York College to offer a circus internship.  I was one of a small handful to enroll in the college program.  We had to fulfill our circus responsibilities, be evaluated by Doc, keep a journal, and meet periodically with an instructor from the college who oversaw the program.  Doc reimbursed everyone the price of their tuition for one session if they enrolled for both summer sessions and earned an A both times.  So, through the generosity of Doc Boas my college transcripts include six units of circus internship.  Unfortunately I no longer have the journal that I kept that summer.
In addition to the formal educational pportunities, the students with more experience taught and mentored the newest members of the group.  In 1976 the Sikorsky Brothers performed a juggling act and a unicycle act in the show.  Tom Sikorsky encouraged my juggling practice and showed me how to use clubs.  Tom performed the fire eating and sword swallowing acts in the side show.  One afternoon he held a class for a small group of us that wanted to learn.  He taught us what to do with unlit torches with particular emphasis on safety measures.  He explained the disadvantages to eating fire, including possibly damaging your taste buds so food looses its flavor.  Then he told us to take a half-hour to think about it before attempting it with lit torches for the first time.   I thought about it, and concluded that it wasn't worth it to me.  Tom's approach of stressing safety and considering the consequences was used by everyone on the show as they mentored others.
In 1977 my duties were greatly expanded.  I was half of the Arrow and Layout Crew.  I was the Producing Clown, Come-in Clown, Clown Photo Studio Manager, Personnel Adviser, Day of Show Publicist, and an assistant in the animal department.
Circus Kirk was not the first youth circus, but it was the first one to tour an entire summer performing in a tent.  It was the inspiration for several of today's youth circuses.  The experience and knowledge that I gained there are the true foundation for my career.  That is one reason why I support the Junior Joey programs of the major clown organizations, a local magic club for young people, and the youth circus programs around the world.

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