Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week
May 11, 2009
Issue #331

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

My first Thought For The Week email newsletter was sent May 2, 2001.  Most of my original group of subscribers still receive and read this newsletter.  I appreciate their long time loyalty and support.
I also have many new subscribers this week.  Some of them are people that I talked to at the Mid-Illinois Magic Get Together in Peoria and at the Magic Show Conference in Branson.  Some of them heard about this newsletter because last week Angel Ocasio sent an message recommending my newsletter and my creativity book trilogy to people on his email list.  I know that other readers have been spreading the word as well.  Thank you to everyone who has been speading the word.
I wish a special welcome to those new subscribers.  In the left hand column you will find an archive link.  I am trying to keep the archive up to date and you can read issues going back to December.  In the archive you will also find issues of my Creativity For Entertainers newsletter.  This second newsletter that I began this year is another resource for people who own my Creativity books.
As always I am interested in your questions and comments.
In This Issue
Thought For The Week
Theater Term -- Working In One
Creativity for Entertainers Newsletter
Lecture Schedule

Thought For The Week 


May 11, 2009
 "Somebody once said we never know what is enough until we know what's more than enough." -- Billie Holiday
When developing a running gag, I never know how many times to repeat it until I start performing it.  If I do it three times during a show I don't know what kind of reaction I would have gotten if I had done it four times.  The way I can learn is to keep increasing the number of times that I use it until decreased audience reaction tells me that I have used it too much.  That allows me to figure out the limits of its effectiveness.  I also begin to figure out audience clues that I am approaching the limit for a particular performance.  Then I can use the running gag to its potential. 
For example, I ask the audience if they want to see me juggle four balls.  I act like I am getting ready to juggle them, change my mind, and start to put them away.  The audience demands that I juggle the balls.  I get ready, look up at the lights, decide that I can't juggle four balls under those conditions, and start to put them away again.  The audience demands that I do the trick.  This audience interaction increases their desire to see me perform the trick.  When I give them what they want by juggling with four, their satisfaction increases their response and the amount of applause that I receive.  However, I have learned by doing this bit too many times that I can start to alienate audience members who tire of it and they loose their desire to actually see me juggle.  Then the response to me completing the trick is decreased.  It has taken a long time to learn, but now I can sense how far I can build up anticipation with a particular audience.
The same is true with performing magic effects.  My multiplying ball routine includes a move called Perpetual Balls.  I have one ball in my hand.  When I remove it to put it in a box on my magic table, another ball appears in my hand.  I remove that ball, and a third ball appears.  Every time that I take a ball away, another appears.  I can continue it for as long as I want and have done it for ten minutes in practice.  However, an audience would get bored with it long before that.  The sense of wonder increases as more balls appear.  If I just do it three times I don't get much response.  By varying the pacing and my reaction to the appearance of the ball I can make it entertaining for a while, but eventually I have to do something different.  That is when I start to multiply the balls so I go from one to two to three to four.  The only way I have learned how many times to make a ball appear is by gradually increasing the number of times that I do it in performances until audience feedback revealed that I had done it too many times.
In the Half Dyed Scarf effect a scarf changes color as you poke it into the top of your fist and pull it out of the bottom.  Most audience members assume that you are somehow secretly substituting one scarf for a second scarf that is a different color.  Then you start to make it change color again, but you stop with half of one color sticking out the bottom of your fist and half of the other color sticking out the top of your fist.  When you open your hand, you reveal that you have one scarf that is half one color and half the other color.  I discovered a way to turn the half-colored scarf a solid color.  When I tried it in performances I discovered that the first two transformations were enough.  Transforming the scarf a third time was too much.  By that point audience interest had tapered off considerably.
The same thing is true with physical comedy.  When working in a circus ring you need to exaggerate your actions so they can be easily read by those seated the farthest away.  I had to keep increasing the range of my actions until I reached the point of doing it too much.  Then I knew by backing off a little I was doing it enough. 
You never know what the boundaries are without testing their limits and going past them.  Some people never discover their potential because they stay safe and never go too far.  They are afraid of making a mistake, but a mistake just tells you the limits of your potential.  Do you realize your potential in performance?  How far can you go?  How do you know you are getting the maximum response?  How can you test the limits?  Have you ever gone too far?  How do you know when it is too much?  What audience cues let you know when it is enough?

Theater Term -- Working In One

The apron is the portion of the stage in front of the curtain.  It stretches from the edge of the stage to the curtain line.
"Working In One" means performing your act on the apron with the curtain closed behind you.  An act able to Work In One is valuable to variety show producers because it allows time for props to be set while the act is performing.  Often magicians doing full evening shows will do routines In One while their stage crew sets the props for the next large illusion.
To be able to Work In One you have to have props that can be quickly and easily set, either ones that you carry with you or ones that are on a single table or chair.  Lighting in front of the curtain is often limited in flexibility so you may not be able to use special lighting effects.  You will also have to be able to perform in a limited space.
Clowns often are required to Work In One if there is a problem in a show.  Here is an example from when I appeared in a Christmas Variety Show.  A magician used a lot of confetti and glitter in his act.  He used a mixture of confetti and glitter as woofle dust that he sprinkled on props to make the magic occur.  When he produced a silk scarf there was a shower of confetti when the scarf opened out.  If he opened a box to show something had vanished, confetti cascaded out.  By the time that he finished his act the floor was covered with tiny pieces of paper and glitter.  The next act in the show was a baton twirler who was going to finish with torches.  There was no way that she could safely perform her act because the confetti made footing too uncertain. 
The director of the show told me to stall for time by performing In One while they tried to get the stage cleaned up.  One of the challenges was that the apron of the stage was only 24-inches wide and my clown shoes are 18-inches long.  To make things more difficult there were decorative cutouts of Santa and his reindeer leaning against the front of the stage.  I had to be careful not to kick the decorations over because they would have fallen into the laps of people in the front row.  I successfully improvised some routines that met their needs.  
Now I have developed some pantomime routines that I can perform instantly in a small space without props just for such an occasion.
Can you work In One?  What is the smallest space that you can work in?  What props would you need and how would you move them into place?

Creativity For Entertainers Newsletter

I am planning to send out the next issue of my Creativity For Entertainers newsletter later this week.  This newsletter includes tips, additional resources, corrections, and other items of interest for owners of one of my books or the entire set.  My goal is to make these books as valuable a resource for you as possible.  Feedback from readers and questions from customers help determine the exact content of this newsletter.
One of the articles in this new issue was suggested by Anita Thies.  She asked me to let people know some of the ways I have used the napkin rose in my personal life this year.
Another article was prompted by a question by a customer at my dealer table during my recent trip. I didn't have an answer for them at the time, but I have done some research and discovered a solution.
If you would like to subscribe to the Creativity For Entertainers newsletter, update your profile with the link below and check creativity.  If you would like to read previous issues, go to my newsletter archive.
Thank you for being a subscriber.  I am always interested in your questions and comments.
Remember if you have missed an issue, you can read it by using the archive link in the right column.  If you want to change the address where you are receiving this newsletter, use the update profile link below.  If this newsletter no longer meets your needs, you can use the SafeUnsubscribe link to be permanently removed from my mailing list.  If you want to spread the word about this newsletter, you can use the forward email link below to send copies to others that you think might be interested.
I hope to see you down the road.

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

Lecture Schedule
June 7-13, 2009
Clown Camp
La Crosse, WI
This is the 29th and final reqular year for this excellent educational program.
I will be performing one of the Staff on Stage shows and will be in the Staff Bits show the first evening.  My classes will be Trick Cartoons for Clowns, An Introduction to Comedy Techniques, Card Magic for Clowns, The Creative Process, and Audience Interaction. 
 November 4-8, 2009
Next Step Workshop
This is an advanced workshop for those serious about Gospel Clown Ministry.  More details will be available soon.
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 

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