Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week
August 3, 2009
Issue #341

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

Happy National Clown Week.  This week's Thought article begins with a quotation from Raymond Bickford.  He was the president of the Clown Club of America for ten years and was instrumentat in the establishment of National Clown Week.
The two history trivia questions last month seemed to be popular.  I am including another one this week.  If you use the newsletter archives, the trivia links in the previous issues have been changed.  To get the answers for those questions you need to visit the History Trivia page on my web site.
In This Issue
Thought For The Week
Jest In Time
History Trivia
Theatrical Term
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 

 August 3, 2009

"Clowning is something that must come from within ones own personality.  I well recall when first donning the hood and grease paint, being told that it takes more than a painted face and fancy costume to become a clown." - Raymond L. Bickford, The Circus Review, 1957
Clown appearance has evolved in the last half century.  I think it is interesting that Bickford considered the skull cap of a white face clown a better symbol of a clown than a red nose.  However, the basic foundation of clowning has not changed.  Bickford's comment is as valid today as it was over fifty years ago.
Not only has clown appearance in general evolved over time, but a particular clown's appearance can evolve.  When I first met Kenny Ahern, he was touring with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.  He had the exaggerated Auguste make up and costume that was common to many of the clowns touring with that show.  Over the years, he refined his make up until now he has a very naturalistic appearance.  (I have done drawings of his appearance in 1986 and in 2003.  Those drawings are included in Creativity For Entertainers Volume Two) Kenny is still the same clown character, and sometimes performs some of the routines he developed in the circus, because his personality is the same.  He has developed new skills and routines which fit with his old routines because they are all based on his personality.
When Carole returns from clowning at a hospital she often shares her experiences with me.  Often she says an interaction was successful only because of using her personality and experience as a grandmother.  For example, last week she said, "There were two little boys that I just knew would be trouble.  I knew that if I let them run around they would be into everything.  So, I told them, 'you sit down right over there and I'll show you some magic.'  They sat right down and they were fine."  Carole often comments that it took her a long time to realize that it is her personality that makes it possible for her to accomplish what she does as a clown.  She said that is something people can try to explain, but you really don't understand it yourself until you have experienced it.
When I became more involved in using clowning as a teaching tool as a part of clown ministry I was concerned about being inconsistent during a show.  I realized that to be effective I needed to speak and be serious at moments to insure that my message was understood.  The majority of my performance is silent and humorous.  I wondered if the two approaches were incompatible.  Audience feedback seemed to indicate that it was working.  I asked some other entertainers who saw me perform, and they told me that it seemed to fit together.  Then I began thinking about Red Skelton.  He was extremely funny, but he could also include serious thought provoking routines like his explanation of the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance.  In the "silent spot" on one of his television shows he performed a wonderful, powerful anti-war pantomime in partnership with Harpo Marx.  I have realized that the two different types of routines work together in my shows because my personality is the common thread tying everything together.  I try to be careful with how I make the transition between types of routines.  For example, after a serious routine I sometimes say, "Now it is time to have a little more fun."  I think my gentle style of comedy helps keep the transitions from being too jarring.  Over the years I have started adding more spoken inspirational routines to my performances, especially when I am on staff for an educational program.  It seems to work for me.  For me the clown appearance is a tool that I use, but that is not what makes me a clown.  My sense of humor, personal philosophy, and way of interacting with others is the basis for my clowning.
What makes you a clown?  What role does your personality play in your clowning?  How can you make your clowning more of an expression of your personality?

Jest In Time - Clearance Sale

Thank you to everyone who has ordered the print edition of Jest In Time.  All of the orders that I have received have been shipped.  If you ordered a copy and it does not arrive in a couple of days, please let me know. 

 There are still some copies left.  Remember to receive the clearance price of $8 plus $5 shipping you have to use the PayPal link below because this price is not currently available on my web site.  It is a special offer that I am making available first to Thought For The Week subscribers.
This offer is limited to the copies that I have on hand.  When they are sold out this publication will not be available in this format again.

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History Trivia

Click on your answer to see if you are correct.
In a vaudeville routine a servant reporting to his absent master on the telephone, says, "There's no news - except that you don't have to bring home any dog food - well, because the dog died - he was trying to save the baby - from the fire - the one your wife started when she ran off with the chauffeur.  Except for that there is no news."
"No News" was the most copied routine in vaudeville.  In modern times it was performed by Flip Wilson.  It was originated by
Nat Wills, the Happy Tramp 
(These links will be valid until September 1, 2009)

Theatrical Term - Sound Check

A sound check is a test to insure that the sound system is working properly and to set the sound levels.  If you speak you should do a sound check of the microphone.  If you are using a musical background you should check that portion as well.
Some entertainers use a phrase during a sound check that also doubles as a vocal warm up.  Jim Royal was the 1981 Carson & Barnes Circus Ringmaster.  Twice a day, while he was checking his mike before each performance, I heard him repeating "Seven silly geese, Eight Quaking Ducks, Nine..."  The variety of sounds insured him that the bass, treble, and other settings were properly adjusted. 
When I am doing a clown ministry performance I recite one of the verses that I am using as a part of my message.
When you do a sound check without an audience you should set the level so it sounds a little louder than desired.  Bodies absorb sound so it will be softer with people present in the audience. 
If you are not able to do your sound check before the audience arrives, a subtle way to see if a mike is working is to snap your fingers near the mike.  That creates a quick pop that many people won't notice.  You should not tap on a microphone because that projects an amateurish image and can damage sensitive equipment.
If you use pre-show music to create a mood you should set it at a comfortable level initially, and then gradually adjust it higher as more people arrive.
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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