Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week
July 20, 2009
Issue #339

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

I am always interested in your comments and questions.  I really do use them in planning future issues.
In This Issue
Thought For The Week
Clown Camp Singapore
Circus Lingo -- Jargo
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 

July 20, 2009

"Listen (don't argue) to feedback from others!  Although taking hard feedback may be difficult, we need to pay attention - particularly when it comes from multiple sources." - Maureen Moriarity
When we receive negative feedback the natural response is to try to defend ourselves.  I know that often when I am criticized the first thing that I do is try to explain my actions or words.  However, that is not the most effective way to deal with feedback because thinking about how to defend yourself keeps you occupied so you really do not hear and understand what the other person is saying.
In receiving feedback, the best thing to do is listen to what is being said and thank the person for their impute.  That keeps the lines of communication open.  Several years ago somebody asked me to critique their clown ministry skit.  I said I thought the symbolism that they used was confusing, and they started to explain why they had chosen those symbols.  When I said I did not understand that from watching the performance, they repeated what they had just said in their defense.  I quickly realized that they were not open to my views.  So, I ended my comments, even though I had some additional suggestions for them that might have improved their routine for future performances.  I have learned that sometimes when a person asks for a critique they really want reassurance that they had done well instead of wanting my opinion of their act.
Realizing that not all feedback is valid helps to avoid defensiveness.  Often the feedback you get will be contradictory.  After Carole and I performed a skit together the feedback that we received ranged from "it was great seeing two people having so much fun on stage" to "you were having too much fun for the roles you were playing." 
After one of my performances at a magic conference the feedback I received ranged from "change your music it is terrible" to "your music is great!  Where can I get it to use in my act?" 
I would not say any of those people were wrong in their feedback because they were expressing their opinion which from their standpoint was true.  However, their opinion was not necessarily valid for my performances. 
Sometimes people have their own motives for providing feedback.  I know of one time when all the female instructors at a program received negative comments on evaluation forms from a woman who was jealous that she had not been hired as an instructor.   Sometimes they flatter somebody that they think can give them something they want.
If you listen to everything they say when they give you feedback, you may learn the reason for their opinion which will help you evaluate it.  A woman questioned the appropriateness of some of the music that I had used in a show.  As she talked I discovered that she thought it sounded like New Age music.  She knew that I was a member of the Fellowship of Christian Magicians and was concerned my music choice meant I was leaving my Christian faith to follow a different philosophy.  I reassured her that I was not changing my philosophy, but was using music composed by a Christian specifically to accompany variety arts performances.  I thanked her for her concern, but continued to use that music.  I have not had anybody else tell me they associated that music with a specific philosophy.
If you get the same type of feedback from several different people, than give that opinion more credibility.  There is some reason they have the same opinion.  Also, you can assume that if you are a getting consistent opinion from people who make comments that others who have not said anything feel the same way.
How can you avoid becoming defensive when you receive feedback?  How can you determine the person's credibility and the validity of their opinion?

Clown Camp Singapore

Carole has said she knows my first trip to Singapore was a trip of my lifetime because of the number of times I still refer to it.
Singapore is a beautiful country.  Their national flower is the orchid, and just about everywhere you look you will find flower boxes full of orchids or other blossoms.
Singapore started as an international trading post, and is still an important international commerce center.  You will find people from all around the world there.  Some of them have congrgated in neighborhoods.  For example, one neighborhood had Chineese shops while another had shops and restaraunts from India.  You can get a little experience of many different cultures there.  However, there is no language barrier for visitors from the United States.  Almost everyone in Singapore is bilingual speaking the language of their heritage plus English, which is the language used to conduct business.
Singapore has an extensive mass transit system and I discovered that it was very easy to move around the city.  The citizens are very friendly and helpful.  On one of my first solo trips I was staring at a map of the subway system trying to decide which line I needed to take to get back to my hotel.  A teenage boy asked if he could help me.  He went out of his way to accompany me on the train to make sure I got off at the proper stop.
I used my experiences from my first experience in Singapore for many of my Thought For The Week articles following that trip.
I wrote an article about the trip to put those Thought For The Week messages into context.  You will find that article on my web site
You can find out more about the plans for the next Clown Camp trip to Singapore by using the link under Educational Opportunities.
I am excited about the chance to return to this wonderful City Nation.

Circus Lingo -- Jargo

A Jargo is the American circus term for an animal costume worn by two people.  (I know that sometimes in England this type of costume is known as a Pantomime Animal.)
I assisted in Phil Sheerer's Jargo Giraffe act during a short series of spot dates in the mid-1980's.  Phil was the animal's trainer.  His girl friend at the time was the front half of the animal.  I played the back half.  Part of the humor came from using a technique the Disney animation studio refers to as Squash and Stretch.  When the front of the giraffe came to a stop, I continued for a couple of steps as if I didn't know the front legs had halted.  This caused the giraffe's body to squash.  When the front of the giraffe started walking, I waited until the costume had stretched as far as possible before I started moving, and then scurried to catch up.
Another technique that is sometimes used is for the front and back of the jargo to move in perfect unison.
Another venue where Jargo acts were frequently performed was ice shows like the Ice Capades and Ice Follies.  I fondly remember seeing some of them while I was a child.
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. 

Educational Opportunities
October 15-18. 2009
Northwest Festival of Clowns
 Olympia. WA
Red Nose Festival Competition Coach and Vendor
 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. 
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 do 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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