Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week
June 8, 2009
Issue #333

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

I realized that a milestone in my clowning career almost slipped by without me noticing.  My first official appearance as Charlie was a parade in May of 1974.  That means I have been performing that character for 35 years.  The character is still developing and evolving.  My first teachers were Bill "Pinky" Greene, Larry "Boozer" Luebben, and Darlene "Raggedy Ann" Luebben.  I got a letter from Darlene last week that said, "I remember you as a new clown making your own costume and trying all sorts of new and creative ideas."
I have been involved in variety arts much longer than that.  I got my first magic set in 1962 and began checking books out of the library on magic.  Using those books I began building some of my own magic effects.  I also began exploring new ways to use the props that I owned.  I still use the lessons I learned from that early creative experience.  In fact I still use some of the magic effects that I learned then.  The first half of the act that I performed this weekend during the Staff Bits show at Clown Camp is based on a routine I created and performed at a church talent show while I was still in elementary school.  That is one reason why I so firmly believe in teaching variety arts to youngsters.  They may be the stars of the future.
In the spring of 1963 I performed my first clown act as part of our Cub Scouts booth at a Scouting fair.  I was one of three young boys performing a classic barber circus clown act.  (I wore an Emmett Kelly halloween mask for that performance.)  Although I didn't wear clown make up, I learned classic clown skits like Busy Bee and performed then at Scout campfires and Courts of Honor.  I also started writing original comedy acts during that time.  That is part of the foundation of what I do.
I recently discovered that I initially joined the Fellowship of Christian Magicians in 1969.  I haven't maintained my membership continuously, but I am celebrating the fortieth anniversary of becoming a member of that organization.
So the ideas that I try to share through this newsletter are based on over four decades of study and experience.
In This Issue
Thought For The Week
Circus Lingo
Lecture Schedule

Thought For The Week 


June 8, 2009
"All you learn and all you read will be of little use if you do not think and reason upon it yourself." - Lord Chesterfield
I once heard somebody comment that a lecture is the process of transferring information from the instructor's notebook to the student's notebook without going through the mind of either.  Until you think about that information and reason out how it applies to you it is useless.  Sometimes the information that you don't think you will use is the most valuable of all.
During part of his excellent lecture at the Magic Show Conference, Marty Hahne talked about Back of the Room Sales.  Those are things you sell after a performance in a table that you set up as a souvenir / gift shop.  Marty sells little magic sets and inexpensive magic books.  In the lecture Marty discussed sources of books that you can sell, including some "instant author" programs where you purchase the rights to put your name as author on a ghost written magic book.  (When I was with circuses I saw the coloring books printed and sold by Bill Biggerstaff's Graphics 2000 company.  The contents were the same for all the shows that purchased the books, but the covers were different.  Each show had their own name on the cover of the books that they sold.)  Marty explained that personalized items sell better because they are a souvenir of your show instead of a "generic" purchase.  Marty then said if you write your own book you will sell even more because it is something that you will believe in.
I didn't think too much about that part of his lecture at the time.  I didn't think Back of the Room sales fit what I do.  When I began to think about Marty's lecture in retrospect I realized that I do have some events where Back of the Room sales would be appropriate.  I am becoming more involved in the Scouting movement.  I realized that I can easily write a beginner's magic book with simple effects customized to the Scouting program that will help boys meet some of their advancement requirements.  When I began outlining the magic pamphlet I became excited about how well it could turn out.  So at first I dismissed back of room sales, but when I began to think about it I realized that it can be another service I supply meeting the needs of others.  My interest in magic began when I got a small children's magic kit when I was eight-years-old.  Maybe my publication for youngsters would be the stepping stone for a future entertainer. 
I have written lecture notes targeted for entertainers, but never ones intended for the general public.  I have a pamphlet called Jest Juggle which is about how to make juggling entertaining.  (It has been one of my best selling publications with several thousand copies sold.)  Sometimes when I am at an event, or when I am teaching, somebody will ask me about a book on how to juggle.  I usually recommend either Juggling For The Complete Klutz or Dave Finnegan's The Complete Juggler.  Those books both have excellent instructions, and other how-to-books are available so I assumed I didn't needed to write one more.  However, I know how to teach juggling.  I have had people tell me that they had tried many times to learn to juggle and finally succeeded when they took my class.  I could write a simple inexpensive pamphlet on how to juggle.  It would include some of the things I have learned that help my students which would make it unique.  Then when somebody asked me about juggling instruction I would have my pamphlet available for them to purchase and use immediately instead of recommending books that they might have trouble locating. 
When you attend a lecture, don't just copy information into your notebook or purchase the published notes that you never look at again.  When you read a variety arts magazine or book, don't just skim over it quickly.  Take time to think about the information.  What assumptions have you made previously that need to be reevaluated?  How can you use the information yourself?  What changes would you make?  What is the first thing you need to do to implement the information?

Circus Lino -- Pie Car

Some traveling circuses have a snack stand/restaurant called a pie car.  The pie car is available to those who have missed a meal served by the cookhouse.  (Some shows don't have a cookhouse, but provide a pie car.)  Often the income is split by the circus owner and the person running the pie car.  When I toured with Circus Kirk, the pie car served coffee, soft drinks, and light refreshments like candy bars.  When I toured with the Carson & Barnes Circus, the pie car served beer, hot chocolate, soft drinks, soup, hamburgers and other sandwiches, and complete breakfasts. (The breakfast served every morning by the Carson & Barnes Cookhouse was always the same.  It was two pecan wheels and a cup of coffee.  It was served before the trucks left the lot.  Everybody was on their own for breakfast after arriving in the next town.) The pie car prices are usually higher than you would find elsewhere, but when the show lot is in the middle of the country without other alternatives available it can be very useful.  Also, the pie car frequently is a social center for the show.
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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