June 2009 Vol 1, Issue 5

Creativity For Entertainers Trilogy

Creativity For Entertainers

Welcome to the fifth 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 Clown Camp in La Crosse, WI.  I was surprised by the number of people who mentioned that they keep a copy of one of the books in their bathroom. 
I heard from several people who said they have read one of the books quickly and now are going back over it again more slowly to study the material more in depth. 
I have also heard from some who haven't read them in their entirety, but use them as a reference work by consulting the index to help them find relevant information when they need it  
I am glad that the books have turned out to be a resource that continue to be useful in many ways.
I hope to see more of you in person.  I have a second newsletter titled the Thought For The Week.  In that newsletter I try to keep an up to date list of educational events I will be attending. If you don't subscribe to that newsletter, you can use the archive link to check it occasionally to see if I will be in your area.
If I won't have the pleasure of seeing you in person soon, please send me an email with your comments and questions.

In This Issue
Transforming Books
Jimmy "Happy" Williams
Spot's Safety Message
Quick Links
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Transforming Books


In Creativity of Entertainers Volume Three, I say, "Accoring to the Tarbell Course in Magic, the first version of a transforing book was created in England in the nineteenth century.  It was a magic stamp album." (page 81)
Recently I have seen a recreation of the magic stamp album available for sale.  I purchased one just to add to my collection.
However, I have learned that the transforming book concept goes back much further.  It was described in Discovery of Witchcraft by Reginald Scot in 1584.  The version described by Scot was a magic school text book that would change subjects.  For example, from a math book to a art sketch book.  A notching method was used making many transformations possible. Duane Laflin has used the notch method in manufactuing my Ledger of Life.
Currently the most widely used variation of a transforming book is the Magic Coloring Book.  The history of the effect, handed down from entertainer to entertainer for over four centuries, demonstrates that there is much more potential use for the concept.
What type of tranforming book would fit into your performances?  How would you construct it?
Jimmy "Happy" Williams
On page 153 of Creativity For Entertainers Volume Three I describe meeting Jimmy "Happy" Williams at the Circus World Museum for the first time in 1986.  At that time he taught me a card trick with the four aces.  I discuss that trick in Volume Three.
Jimmy was the resident clown at the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, WI for 32 years.  He appeared there in 1962 and 1963.  He returned in 1967 after serving in the military and stayed for 30 consecutive years.  In 1972 he became the CWM director of diplays, a position he held for 24 years.  He was inducted into the Clown Hall of Fame in 1995.
This month I visited the Circus World Museum and saw Jimmy Williams there again.  He is no longer performing, but he visits the museum on many days to enjoy the performances and chat with his friends.  It was great to have the opportunity to thank Jimmy for teaching me the trick that has been an important part of my repertoire for the past 23 years.  The article below is an example of one way I have adapted the trick.
Who taught you a valuable lesson?  How can you show your appreciation to them?
Spot's Safety Message

At Clown Camp there would be a Staff on Stage show each morning and evening.  This year the last Staff on Stage morning show was Sparky and Friends.  It was a show directed by Pam "Sparky" Moody demonstrating how different variety arts skills can be used as a teaching tool.
I performed some trick cartoons during the Sparky and Friends Show.  I started by performing the Four Ace trick (Creativiety For Entertainers Volume Three page 150-159) using an alphabet deck instead of a poker deck.  The four cards that were produced spelled out the word SPOT.  I put those cards into a holder (Creativity For Entertainers Newsletter Issue Two) so they could be easily seen by the audience.
Then I revealed that I had printed the word SPOT on a large pad of paper as my prediction.  I added some lines to turn the word into a drawing of a dog.  (This is shown in Creativity For Entertainers Volume Two page 271 or you can see an animation of the drawing on my web site. Drawing Spot )
Then I said, "By rearranging some of the letters in Spot's name he has an important lesson for you."  I switched the P and the T so the letters spelled STOP.  "Spot wants you to remember that red means stop."  As I continued speaking I lettered that phrase on the drawing as if Spot were saying them.  "When you see a red traffic light at an intersection that means stop.  When you see a red sign that means stop.  When you see a vehicle with red flashing lights that means stop."
Then I did two more trick cartoons from my lecture note pamphlet.  I turned the letters a, b, c into a drawing of Smokey the Bear who wants you to Always Be Careful with fire.  Next I turned the letters do job into a picture of a fire fighter as I commented that the people who do the job of protecting you in an emergency may look strange because they might wear a face mask, shiny yellow clothes, and a hard hat.  However, don't be afraid of them because they are heroes doing an important job.
I concluded by moving the first letter in STOP to the end as I said, "Thank you for your attention this morning because you are the TOPS."
Dave Mitchell (ventriloquism), Lee Mullally (magic), Aurora Krause (clown skit), and Pam Moody (magic and clown skit) were also in the show.  At the end of the show, Pam had each of us return to the stage to recap the lesson we taught during our routine.  Using trick cartoons made that simple.  I flipped through my news print pad showing each picture again as I read the caption containing the lesson.
For more information on my trick cartoon lecture notes plus my other publications visit the publication page on my web site. Books by Bruce Johnson
How can you use your variety art skills as a teaching tool?  How can you recap the lessons at the end of a performance?
Fifteen participants from Japan attended the 2009 Clown Camp program in La Crosse, WI. 
I normally perform card tricks like Charlie's Marked Cards and Charlie's Marked Fish silently.  (For a description of these effects see the Props page of my web site. Props )  On the first day of Clown Camp I realized that I could count in Japanese while displaying the cards.  That increased the appeal of the trick for the Japanese participants.  First, because I stumbled a little with my pronunciation and they were helping me learn to count in Japanese the participants were not concentrating on watching the mechanics of the trick so they were even more surprised when the final transformation occurred.  Second, because I was attempting to communicate a little in their language it showed that I cared about them which established a rapport between us.  Almost any book on learning another language includes counting making it an easy way to do something in that language.
In my juggling act I display a sign that asks, "Want me to juggle with 4?"  Then I pick up two balls and a large cut out number four and juggle them.  I conclude by actually juggling four balls.  I entertained at the World Expo in Nagoya, Aichi, Japan during the Clown Camp Japan program.  I asked somebody to translate my sign into Japanese.  I attached the translation to the back of my regular sign.  I displayed the English side of the sign, looked at the audience, realized they couldn't read it, and then turned it around to display the Japanese side.  That got a great response when I was in Japan.  I have kept the translated sign and used it during the 2009 Clown Camp program in La Crosse.  It got a lot of laughter from the audience who realized that I was paying tribute to the presence of the Japanese participants.
When I was in Japan I developed one trick cartoon in Japanese.  I can write the word dog in Japanese and then add lines to quickly turn it into a picture of a dog's face.  I taught my class in trick cartooning in La Crosse and was surprised to see many of the Japanese participants in attendance.  They were taking my classes because of the rapport that I had been able to establish.  I was concerned about how much they would get out of my trick cartoon class because most of it is based on English words and the shapes of English letters.  The Japanese participants surprised me afterwards by sharing with me some of their creations.  They were able to take what I was sharing and find a Japanese equivalent.  For example, I showed how to turn the word "boy" into a caricature of somebody in the audience.  They were able to turn the Japanese word for Grandfather into a picture of an old man.  I was impressed by their creativity.  They also proved to me that the concept of trick cartoons can be used in different languages.
During my trick cartoon class I mentioned that I had done two days of strolling entertainment at the World Expo.  The children in Nagoya swarmed the clowns asking for autographs.  The first day I signed my clown name in English, and the children politely thanked me.  That evening I had somebody teach me how to sign Charlie in Japanese.  The next day the children got excited when they saw my autograph and started calling me by name.  I realized that they could not read my name the first day.  Knowing how to sign my name in Japanese has been useful at home.  I live in Seattle which is a Pacific Rim city and we have many Japanese visitors who come here on business or vacation.  When I realize that somebody is from Japan, I do my only Japanese trick cartoon and sign my name in Japanese.  That always gets a great reaction.  After my class in La Crosse I noticed that several of the English speaking participants were asking the Japanese participants to translate their clown name for them.
When you perform for a different culture, how can you incorporate something in their language into your performance?  Is there some way you can count during your act?  Do you use signs that can or should be translated?  What languages are frequently spoken in your home area?  How can you be prepared to do something in those languages?
Velcro is very useful for entertainers.  I recently found a Velcro One Strap roll.  The strap has the hooks on one side and the loops on the other so that it sticks to itself when you wrap it around another object.  You can cut it to any length.  The roll I purchased is twelve feet long.  You can also get it in shorter lengths.  
I have been using an iPod to play the music for my show.  I normally have it sitting on my magic table so I can control it myself from on stage.  Rone, of the Open Sesame clown troop, taught me to fasten the sound cable to the legs of my table so the iPod does not get pulled off.  I originally did that with black tape, but have discovered that the Velcro strap works much faster and easier.
The Velcro strap can also be wrapped around something to provide a temporary anchor for hanging signs, holding the end of a ribbon or streamer, or displaying a scarf.  Put a self adhesive Velcro dot on the back of the object you want to attach.
I recently attended a trade show where all of the booths were provided with threefold display boards.  They were covered with fabric that Velcro would stick to.  They reminded me of the felt boards used in Sunday School classes when I was young, but they were framed and hinged so they looked nicer.  The exhibiters used Velcro dots on the back of laminated signs and pictures to temporarily attach them to the boards.  I think something similar can be used to display signs, cards, or other flat props during a performance.
I have helped display items up for bid at Clown Camp auctions.  Often we improvise comedy routines using the items so the auction is an entertaining show people want to stay to observe.  One of the items donated this year was a chef puppet.  Your hand went into the mouth and a rod was used to manipulate one of the arms.  I noticed that the puppets hand was fabric with a nap to it.  I got a hooked Velcro self-adhesive dot and attached it to the back of a slip of paper.  The Velcro would stick to the fabric so the puppet could use his hand to pick it up.  That is something I had not seen done with a rod puppet before.
Magnets are another option for use in temporarily holding items.
When you need to attach something temporarily, what type of Velcro product will help you?  Would magnets be a better choice?  What other options are available to you?
Rex Nolan on page 325 of Volume Two should be Rex Nolen.
That's it for this fifth 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