Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week
June 15, 2009
Issue #334

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

Clown Camp was a wonderful experience last week. 
I would like to thank Richard & Jan Snowberg, and Lee Mullally for all their hard work over the years in putting together an outstanding educational program.
Thank you to all of the Thought For The Week and Creativity For Entertainers newsletter subscribers who stopped by my dealer table or table in the dinning hall to say hello.  The camaraderie was one of the things that made the week so enjoyable.  Many references were made during the week to the Clown Camp family.  There are many people who participated more than once and they are part of the family as much as the staff is.  This was not the dissolution of the family.  Read the article below about Clown Camp Singapore to see what the future holds.
I learned something interesting from your comments at Clown Camp.  Many subscribers forward this newsletter to family members who aren't entertainers because they feel the contents sometimes apply to life as well.  The contents of my newsletters are copyrighted and cannot be reprinted without my permission, but you are welcome to forward each issue to anyone you feel will enjoy or benefit from it.
In This Issue
Thought For The Week
Phrase Production
Power of Thank You
Clown Camp Singapore
Circus Lingo
Lecture Schedule

Thought For The Week 


June 15, 2009

"Your individual variety arts skills are like letters in the alphabet.  By themselves they are meaningless.  When you put them together into routines, they from words.  How you arrange your routines into a show is like writing a sentence which gives the words meaning.  Showmanship is the grammar that makes them understandable and effective."  -- Bruce Johnson
Putting Individual magic effects, juggling tricks, or comedy bits into a logical order gives them a context making them more entertaining and enjoyable.  During the opening of my act for the Clown Camp Staff Bits Show, I pantomimed seeing a butterfly fluttering about the stage.  Then I reached up and plucked a butterfly scarf out of mid-air.  After the scarf vanished, I spotted the invisible butterfly darting around and made it turn visible again by catching it in an overhand knot tied in a rope.  I got many comments about how much people enjoyed that routine.
Sometimes you have to wait until you have the correct letters to complete a routine.  I learned to do a rose to scarf effect which I really liked, but it didn't work in my act because it was just an isolated letter.  Eventually I learned how to do a scarf to rose effect.  When I combined that with the first effect and a napkin rose I came up with a pleasurable routine.  I picked up the rose to smell it, and was surprised when it transformed into a scarf.  I tried to replace it with a rose made from a napkin, but that didn't work.  In the end I managed to transform the scarf back into a rose.  (Instructions for performing that routine are included in Creativity For Entertainers Volume Three.)
Everything that I perform does not have an identifiable plot, but there is an order to everything.  I have learned that if I change the order of the tricks in my three-ball juggling routine the audience response is not as good.  By experimenting I have discovered the optimal order to get the best reaction.  I don't perform every trick that I know in my juggling act because they don't all fit.
Harry Shaw, in Errors In English, says, "An English sentence does not consist of a string of words in free relation to each other but of groups of words arranged in patterns.  Words in an English sentence have meaning because of their position.  That is, they have one meaning in one position, another meaning in another position, and no meaning in still another position."  For example, "Only Mark heard the bell," means that there are other people present but they did not hear the bell.  If you change the order of the first two words, "Mark only heard the bell," it means Mark did not see the bell. 
The order of routines in a show also varies their meaning.  Arthur Pedlar intentionally takes a fall in his unicycle act for comic effect.  Early in his career, he discovered if he started with the fall it was tragic because people had not gotten to know his character yet and thought he had actually fallen and might have hurt himself.  So, he started with a comic routine using a violin to demonstrate that things keep going wrong for his doddering old fool of a character.  Then the fall was funny because it was just another mishap in a string of difficulties.  (Arthur's detailed description of his act is included in Creativity For Entertainers Volume Three.)
If you want to present a message during your show, it has less meaning if you perform it first.  It gains more meaning if you first gain credibility by performing routines demonstrating your credibility.  If you want to touch people's hearts, it is most effective if you have first connected with them emotionally through the use of humor.  Also if you want something to seem more dramatic, it is best to juxtapose it with a comedy piece to heighten the effect by contrast.  Last week I did two dramatic pieces in my Staff on Stage show.  I started with establishing my credibility by demonstrating my juggling skill, performed some comedy, did the first dramatic piece, added some more comedy, and then concluded with the second dramatic piece. 
Do you use your skills in isolation? How can you combine individual pieces to form a routine?  What order works best?  What position within your show makes each routine most effective?  How can you learn more about showmanship to discover how to make your show more meaningful and effective?

Phrase Production 

At the end of my Staff On Stage show at Clown Camp, I put some individual letters and a piece of ribbon in the bottom of a dove pan.  I covered the pan briefly.  When I uncovered it, I produced a phrase that I wanted the audience to remember.  The letters were now attached to the ribbon.  When stretched across the stage the ribbon was over twenty feet long.
The letters were cut from craft foam, also known as foamie.  the foam is easy to cut with scissors.  I made each word a different color so they were easy to distinguish.  I attached the foam letters to the ribbon using Beacon brand Craft Foam Glue.  There were Velcroe dots on each end of the ribbon so I could attach it to Velcroe straps temporarily fastened around the cross piece on chairs.  (If you work with assistants you wouldn't need to do that.)  I was worried about finding the end of the ribbon to pull it out of the dove pan, so I fastened a Velcroe dot inside the load pan.  By sticking the end of the ribbon to this it was held exactly where I wanted it.
Some entertainers use a slogan like "Learn Not To Burn" for educational shows.  This production would be a great way to introduce or reenforce your slogan.  What phrase or slogan would you want your audience to remember?
I used a Dove Pan to produce the phrase, but other props like a drawer box would work.  What prop would you use? 

Power of Thank You

Something that I have heard many Clown Camp staff members comment on over the years is how much they appreciate the thank you cards that Lee Mullally writes.  When he became the Assistant Director many years ago, Lee began distributing pay checks on the last day of Clown Camp.  Each check was inserted in a personalized hand written thank you note.  Because Lee commented on something specific each staff member had done instead of repeating the same phrases in each note we knew that a lot of time and effort had gone into them.  Realizing that Lee had done that despite the many other demands on his time and attention made the notes all the more appeciated. 
Lee's notes made each staff member feel their efforts were recognized.  That encouraged similar efforts the following year.  For example, one year Lee commented on the customized routines I had performed during my Staff on Stage show, so I was sure to include customized routines in my show the following year.  He commented another year on my willingness to serve as prop crew during another staff member's show, and I have done something similar each year since then.
I would like to thank Lee for his faithfulness in writing his appreciative notes.
To read more about the "Power of Thank You" read the following article on my web site.

Clown Camp Singapore 

Last week was the final traditional Clown Camp La Crosse program.  For 29 years Clown Camp held week long programs in that city.  There were multiple one-week sessions some years.
Clown Camp was not limited to the city of La Crosse.  Fifty weekend Clown Camp On The Road programs have been held in cities around the United States.  Clown Camp programs have also been held in Scotland, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, and Japan.  I have had the pleasure of teaching and performing in Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, and Japan as part of the International Clown Camp staff.  I have immensely enjoyed each trip, and the visit to Singapore was one of the highlights of my life.  You can learn more about the first Clown Camp visit to Singapore by going to the Clown Around the World Festival web page.
Clown Camp has not ended.  Richard Snowberg has indicated his interest in holding more short Clown Camp On The Road programs although nothing specific has been announced.
Richard Snowberg will also be overseeing some more International Clown Camp programs.  The first one has been announced.  Clown Camp Singapore will be held July 9-15, 2010.  The staff will include Kenny Ahern, Brenda Ahern, Norm Barnhart, Rone & Gigi, Bruce Johnson, Dave Mitchell, Lee Mullally, and Dr. Richard Snowberg.  If you are a member of the World Clown Association you will be able to apply for a Bo Dino Scholarship to help pay for the registration.  The host for the program is Knik Pang and his Circus Outreach organization.  You can read more about this organization on their web site.

Circus Lino -- Dukie

A dukie is credit used for purchases at the pie car.  On some shows it is a prepaid punch card so the pie car operator does not have to handle cash and make change.  Often a dukie is an advance on your salary.  Some people would "dukie out" meaning they spent all of their pay in advance at the pie car.  Since they don't receive any money on pay day, they use their dukie the next week and get stuck in a cycle leaving them without any cash for other purchases or to get less expensive items when the lot is near a store or restaurant.
A Dukie Run is an all day jump to the next location.  If the show provides a cookhouse, everyone is supplied with a box lunch to take with them on a Dukie Run.
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
 November 4-8, 2009
Next Step Workshop
Wilmar, Minnesota
This is an advanced workshop for those serious about Gospel Clown Ministry.  It is limited to fifteen participants.
July 9-15, 2010
Clown Camp Singapore
Sixteen hours of classes over three days plus four days of performing in Singapore schools. 
More details to follow.
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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