May 2009 Vol 1, Issue 4

Creativity For Entertainers Trilogy

Creativity For Entertainers

Welcome to the fourth issue of my Creativity For Entertainers newsletter.  
This newsletter is part of my effort to make this set of books as valuable a resource for you as possible.
Thank you to the many readers who talked to me about these books while I was at the Mid-Illinois Magic Get Together in Peoria, IL and the Magic Show Conference in Branson, MO. I appreciated your comments on how useful you have found the books.
I always learn from readers.  Sometimes you see things that I have overlooked.  Sometimes your questions or expressed needs inspire a new train of thought for me.  An example of that is the article on cards for caring clowns.
I will be at Clown Camp in June.  Please stop by my dealer booth, introduce yourself, and ask me any questions that you might have.
If I won't have the pleasure of seeing you in person, please send me an email with your comments and questions.

In This Issue
Marked Fish
Cards for Caring Clowns
Napkin Rose
Creative Music
Craft Foam
Quick Links
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Marked Fish
The last issue contained information on how you can use a deck of children's fish cards to construct a version of Charlie's Marked Cards.
I want to be a valuable resource to you.  I don't care if you want to save mony by investing your time and construct the effects yourself or if you would like to save time by investing your money and purchasing the effects already constructed. 
Sometimes I make that choice myself.  I had Duane Laflin's excellent DVD on constructing and performing the Snap Silk effect for over a year and meant to make a set for myself.  Purchasing the DVD included the right to make a Snap Silk Set using Duane's method.  I kept putting it off, and finally purchased one from Mary Laflin when I saw them at a conference.  I am glad that I did because seeing how the audience responds to it has made it one of my favorite effects.  If I had not purchased one already made I may still be intending to make one someday.  Since then I have made one additional set because I needed one in a specific color scheme.
(It is unethical to make your own copy of props for routines that you do not have the right to perform.  You should not study props in a dealer room and then return home to make what you had seen.  When you purchase the props, you are receiving the rights to perform the routine.  When you buy a set of lecture notes, you are receiving the rights to perform the routines contained within them and to make props whose construction is described.  That does not include the right to make the props for use by others.)
Charlie's Marked Fish proved to be very popular at the last two magic conferences that I attended.  In this effect you show a packet of Go Fish Cards.  The packet contains the cards one through six.  You demonstrate that the number of fish on the face of each card is marked on the back.  You turn the back of the last card around so the number changes from a 6 to a 9.  When you show the face of the card it now has nine fish.
Some of the advantages to this set are that the larger cards are actually easier to manipulate and to see, people of all ages can relate to the cards, you can incorporate fish jokes into your performance (see Volume One page 238-241 for an exercise on writing fish jokes), it automatically resets making it ideal for strolling entertainers, and you are the only one to touch the cards making it ideal for caring clowns because infection control is not an issue.
You can see a sample of some of the cards on the prop page of my web site.
I now have sets ready for shipping.  The price is $15 plus my standard $5 shipping and handling fee.
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Cards for Caring Clowns

Some of my packet card effects, for example Charlie's Marked Cards (Volume Three page 106 ) are suitable for caring clowns because you are the only one to touch the cards.

The Hindu Force (Volume Three page 24) is also suitable for caring clowns because as you shuffle the cards your volunteer tells you when to stop.  You show them the card that they stopped you on and then reveal that you either predicted its identidty in advance or learned its identify by reading their mind.  There are other card forces where the audience member does not touch the cards while making their selection.
At the Magic Get Together in Peoria one of the participants told me they were looking for cards that can be wiped off to sanitize them if they accidentally get contaminated.  They were thinking about having cards laminated, but theire are disadvantages to that.
After that conference I located a deck of plastic cards.  They are Vegas Brand 100% Plastic Premium Quality Cards. (Item No. VPLA536)  They have a smooth surface which makes some sleights easier to perform.  They are made from a single layer of plastic so you can't split them like normal laminated paper cards for making special cards.  However, if you cut numbers out of self-adhesive vinyl you can construct a waterproof set of Charlie's Marked Cards that can be sanitized by wiping them with alcohol.  The cards are manufactured by Harbro, LLC.  Their web site address is 
These cards might be appropriate in other situations as well.  For eleven years I performed at Raging Waters, a water slide amusement park.  I often entertained guests with wet hands, and these cards would have been perfect in that setting.
I once had an effect that I had purchsed where the selected card appeared inside am inverted glass of water.  The card had to be replaced frequently.  This plastic deck would have been ideal for that effect.
Some card tricks require having an audience member sign a card.  That card then has to be replaced.  Using this deck, you could have a card signed using a permanent marker.  Once dry the ink would be permanent during the performance of the trick.  Afterwards scribbling over the signature with a dry erase marker would soften the ink and allow you to wipe it off so you can reuse that particular card.
How could you use waterproof plastic poker cards?
Napkin Rose

The napkin rose has been a valuable tool for me because it can be done as impromptu bit when it seems appropriate.  It has helped me out in a variety of situations in my personal life.  Anita Thies suggested that I share with you some of the ways that I have used a napkin rose this year.
My mother had a massive stroke in February and was in hospice care for a week.  My siblings and I joined my father in Southern California during that challenging time.  My sister, Susan, invited everyone over to her house the first night and she cooked dinner for all of us.  After dinner, I made a napkin rose for her.  We gathered at my father's house the next night, and I fixed dinner.  My sister asked if she could have a napkin rose even though she wasn't the cook.  So I made her a second napkin rose which she took home.  The next night we all ate separately.  When I saw my sister the next day at the nursing home, she complained about not getting a napkin rose the night before.  So, I made her a third one.  It turned into a running joke, and I made her a napkin rose each day that I was in Southern California.  That little bit of humor helped eased the strain of waiting for my mother to pass from this life into heaven.
The night before my mother's internment there was a viewing.  Many people commented that my mother's middle name was Rose and that was her favorite flower.  Finally everyone except my immediate family had paid their respects and left.  There was a box of facial tissues in the room.  I took one of the tissues and twisted it into a paper rose.  Just before the family left I placed it in my mother's hands and she was buried with it.  I had not planned to do it, but it seemed to be appropriate.  Later my family told me that they were glad that I had done that.
I was flying on an airplane when the pilot warned us to expect turbulence.  I knew he was serious when he ordered the flight attendants to be seated and fasten their seat belts.  The woman seated next to me was visibly very tense.  To take her mind off what might happen I took my cocktail napkin and twisted it into a rose.  She was fascinated by that and it was a good distraction for both of us.  It was also a good ice breaker.  The man seated on her other side said he needed something to take home to his two grandkids.  So I folded two origami elephants from dollar bills for him.  (Directions for making an elephant are included in the Klutz Dollar Book.)  We discovered that we each had grandchildren, so we started talking about that.  I told them that I was a clown, and asked about their professions.  By the time we had exhausted that subject the turbulence was over and we could relax.  When we landed the woman next to me said, Thank you!  This was the most pleasant plane flight I have ever been on."  In the luggage area I overheard her telling somebody, "I was seated next to a celebrity on the plane.  He was a real professional clown."
The flight attendant on another small plane was doing an excellent job.  So, I turned my cocktail napkin into a rose.  I managed to do it so the airlines name was visible on the outside petal.  I gave that to her as a thank you for her service.  She pinned it to the collar of her uniform and wore it for the rest of the flight.  Just before we landed she brought me an extra package of cookies.
I was showcasing at a Boy Scout Education Expo.  I started teaching some of the older boys how to make a napkin rose.  That attracted the largest crowds that visited my booth during the day.
Several years ago I taught a young man how to make a napkin rose.  I told him that it was important to practice and that while I was learning to do it I drove my wife crazy because every time we went out and paper napkins were available I would make a rose.  The boy began making a napkin rose when his family went to a restaurant and they tucked their tip into the blossom.  He later told me they noticed they were getting better service when they returned to restaraunts because people remembered the roses.
When would a napkin rose be appropriate in your life?  How can you use it to connect with people?  How can you use it to ease tense situations?  What other things do you know that can be used on an impromptu basis?
Directions for making a napkin rose and an origami vase are on pages 393-401 of Volume Three.  Those who have not purchased that volume yet can find them on my web site.
Creative Music
In Volume Two (pages 247-269) I discuss using music as a tool to increase your creativity and using music creatively in your performances.
In that same volume (pages 385 - 391) I also discuss questioning your assumptions.  One of the things that we often do is make assumptions about music based upon the title.  The composer or producer selects the title because it means something to them, but remember that you are not locked into that meaning.
I have been using some of the royalty free music available from Randy Christensen.  In particular I have used his Time for Silent Screen Music, Time for Relaxation, and some of his Creative Performance series.  I know that many other variety artists have been using tracks from Time for Silent Screen Music.  I was in one variety show where three of us used the same track from that CD.  Randy has produced three other royalty free CDs called Time for Games.  I had not paid much attention to those CDs because I don't lead groups in playing games.  (I know that Randy uses games a lot in his ministry.)  I recently decided that I needed to add some songs to my show that had a higher level of energy.  I happened to put on the Time for Games CDs and realized that I had forgotten the variety of music styles and different energy levels included.  There is everything from rock guitar to country guitar to techno to big band music.  At the present time I can't picture myself using some of the tracks, but others would fit very well into my performances.  I will be using some of this music for my new routines and performances.
I also use royalty free music produced by Arthur and Leslie Stead.  Again, I have learned to not make assumptions based on the label.  There is one track on their Make It Holiday (Christmas) CD that I use all year.  They have produced another CD called Make It Spooky.  While most of the tracks are definitely spooky (some include werewolves howling) there are also tracks that can be used in a different context.
In being creative with music, question your assumptions.  Listen to music that you don't expect to use.  Be open about it and you may make some interesting discoveries.

Craft Foam


Mark Renfro and Lee Mullally construct beautiful props out of foam core.  I have done some work with that material but did not always get the desired results.  If I continued using it and gained more experience I would become better at using it.  I also found that I had to be careful with foam core props because they were not always as durable as I hoped.
There is another material that can work well for props.  That is the bright, flexible craft foam aka Smart Foam or Foamies.  It is available in sheets and precut shapes.  I recently saw a bag of craft foam letters, and this past week saw a stack of face shapes cut from the foam at a craft store.  There are some sticky back sheets available as well as versions with a glitter surface.  Craft foam is popular now so more products are becoming available.  I recently saw a "Lincoln Log" set that was actually wood grained craft foam.  It was much lighter and less expense than a real wooden building set.  Craft foam is available in a wide range of bright colors.
I have discovered that Beacon brand Craft Foam Glue makes working with this material very easy.  The glue comes in a squeeze bottle.  You apply it to one surface and allow it to dry.  The glue starts off milky and turns clear when dry.  Then you push the surfaces together that you want to bond.  The glue is very strong and will not only bond layers of craft foam together but will bond craft foam to other surfaces, for example wood.  That means you can create a wooden framework for a prop and then cover and decorate it with craft foam.  The glue takes about twenty minutes to dry, but if you are in a hurry you can speed dry it with a hair dryer because it has a nonflammable solvent.  When two layers of craft foam are glued together they remain flexible.
One thing that I am doing with the craft foam is create large numbers.  Then when I do a birthday party I take the number matching the child's age.  At the end of the party I pose for a photo with all the young guests and hold up the number.  That provides a lasting souvenir of the party and the family will always know how old the child was at that time. 
Another thing I am planning to do is to create a "Next Show Is..." sign.  I'll use Velcro dots to be able to change the numbers on the sign.
How can you use craft foam?  What props would be easier to construct using craft foam?  Go to a hobby or craft store and look at the shapes available.  What ideas do you get from those shapes?
That's it for this fourth issue.  I am always interested in your questions, comments, and how you have been able to apply the information from my books.  Often readers come up with ideas that I would not have.  Their ideas then inspire me to create additional related ideas.  This newsletter is an attempt to keep two-way communication with readers of my books flowing.
Bruce Johnson
Charlie's Creative Comedy