August 2009 Vol 1, Issue 7

Creativity For Entertainers Trilogy

Creativity For Entertainers

Welcome to the seventh issue of my Creativity For Entertainers newsletter.  
I realy do rely on feedback from my readers.  The first article in this issue was inspired by a response I received to an article in issue number six.  I appreciate everyone who takes the time and effort to respond to what I write.
My goal with this newsletter is to try to meet your needs.  Let me know which articles are the most helpful and I will try to include more like that in the future.
I believe that the more you exercise your creativity, the stronger it becomes.  That is why Creativity For Entertainers Volume Two has many creative exercises.  You will find some more creativity exercises in this newsletter issue.

In This Issue
Is It Appropriate
Sing a Song
Nine Dots
Write Me a Letter
Quick Links
Join our Mailing List!
Is It Appropriate?
In the sixth issue of this newsletter I described how I used the imaginative phase of creativity (Explorer and Artist roles) to come up with a possible new version of the Stagecoach skit.  The next part of the creative process is implementation which includes the Judge role.  One of the tasks that you perform in the Judge role is determining if an idea is appropriate.  I had not carried the creative process that far with my idea.
Kenny Ahern wrote, "Here in Wisconsin stage coach would play outside of the major WI cities. Hunting is a part of life in WI. However, if you used injun in a skit, you probably would not receive a great review on your show. And more than likely here a few gasps from the adults in the audience. There is a very strong Native American heritage in WI. However, the word Indian is widely accepted."
I have a friend who lives in Washington objects to the word Indian because it is based on a mistake by Christopher Columbus.  He also does not like Native American because he says his tribe probably immigrated to the Northwest by crossing the BearingSea.  He prefers the term First People.
Another friend recently returned from a trip to Hawaii.  He said he talked to descendents of some of the indigenous people of the islands who are trying to obtain the right to be called Indian because of the rights and status given to Indians.  (The Indian tribes are considered sovereign nations located within the borders of the United States and have certain rights granted them by treaties signed with the U.S. government.)
As I said in Creativity For Entertainers Volume One, "For humor to be effective, it must be the appropriate material for the appropriate audience at the appropriate time."  (You can read more about this in that volume on pages 177 through 187.)
In deciding upon the appropriateness of an idea you have to know your intended audience and how they will react.  I did not mean to cause offence to anyone with my new Stagecoach variation and apologize for not considering its appropriateness.
When you travel outside of your home area you have to find out about what is considered appropriate in that culture.  Sam Tee, a clown in Malaysia, invited a group of clowns to teach and perform in his country.  When I went there he warned me that in his country pointing with your index finger is rude.  Instead Malaysians point with their thumb.  He said that in other cultures using your thumb, in particular the thumbs up sign used in America, is considered offensive.
How can you discover what is appropriate for your audiences?  When you perform in a different culture who can advise you on what is appropriate?
Besides avoiding offence, you want to insure that you are understood.  This summer we bought some popsicles with riddles on the sticks.  The question was on the handle and you had to eat the popsicle before you could read the answer.  Jackson, my eight-year old grandson, had one with this riddle, "What kind of music sticks with you?  Taped music."  I didn't think it was particularly funny.  Jackson didn't understand it at all.  He had never seen a cassette tape and has no experience with taped music.  He remembers CDs although he doesn't have any now.  All of his music is on his Ipod.  To be age appropriate you need to be sure your ideas involve things your target audience has experience with.
Do you use things your audience has experience with in your performances?  How can you learn more about your target audience and the things they understand?
Sing a Song

  Carole was recently looking for the words to "Hello Mudduh, Hello Fadduh".  I went to the public library and found them in a book titled Camp Granada : sing-along camp songs compiled and illustrated by Frané Lessac.  I recognized several of the songs as ones clowns have used to lead a sing-along during their performance.  It is a great way to get the audience involved. 

I fondly remember sing-alongs when I was a Boy Scout.  I particularly remember two humorous songs that were favorites of my group.  I am definitely not a skilled singer so I don't lead singing, but I know it can be an effective entertainment tool.

Would a sing-along work in your performance?  What type of song would you select?

Creativity For Entertainers Volue Two includes a chapter on music (pages 247-269).  I discuss using music as a tool to enhance your creativity and then discuss the creative use of music in performance.

Effect:  You tell somebody that they might win a penny if they can answer three questions with the word "kiss."  You toss the penny your right hand to your left hand as you ask, "What is the name of the band led by Gene Simmons?"  When they answer, you open your hand showing the penny.
You toss the penny from hand to hand again, and ask, "What word is spelled by the first letters of Keep It Simple Stupid?"  When they answer, you open your hand displaying the penny one more time.
You toss the penny from hand to hand a third time, and ask, "What would you rather have a penny or a kiss?"  When they answer you open your hand revealing a Hershey Kiss candy which you give to them.
Method:  The transformation is made using the Bobo Switch (Creativity For Entertainers Volume Three page 426.) 
Origin:  This is a variation of an idea that many performers used in the mid-1980's.  They would put a dollar bill in the bottom of a dove pan (Volume Three page 173) and tell an audience member they would win the dollar if they could answer three questions by saying the word peanuts.  The first question was, "what do elephants eat?"  The second question was, "what is something sold at baseball games?"  The third question was, "which would you rather have a dollar or peanuts?"  The audience member had to say "peanuts."  The performer than uncovered the dove pan revealing it was full of peanuts in the shell.  I felt that one of the flaws was that the audience member thought they might win a dollar and then they were disappointed.  Some performers used a smaller chick pan and then would finish by pouring the peanuts into the audience member's hand.  However, that small amount of peanuts was not worth a dollar.
I like this new version because the Hershey Kiss is worth more than the penny that you have first offered, and the audience volunteer gets something that they like.  It has worked out well for me.
Your variation:
How could you use this concept?  What would the audience member be trying to win?  What would you use as the final surprise? What would the first two questions be?  How would you accomplish the transformation?
Nine Dots
On the bottom of page 93 in Creativity For Entertainers Volume One is the classic nine dot puzzle.  There are three rows each containing three dots.  The task in the original version is to connect all nine dots using four straight lines without lifting your pencil from the paper.
My challenge to you is to find a way to connect all nine dots using a single straight line.  I will give you my solution in the next issue of this newsletter.
Write Me a Letter
Allan Sherman released "Hello Mudduh, Hello Fadduh" on August 3, 1963.  This novelty song, also known as CampGranada, is a child's letter home from camp.
I briefly talk about reading letters as part of an act in Creativity For Entertainers Volume Two on page 216.  I discussed it in more detail in an article titled It's In The Mail in The Clown In Times Volume 5 Issue 1 (Issue Seventeen).  That article is now available on my web site.
Reading letters can be an effective entertainment device.  Kerry Kistler used it very effectively for a series of circus themed gospel ministry shows performed by his family.  The first show started with them finding some dusty old props and letters from an ancestor who had traveled with a circus.  One of the performers started reading a letter and then a voice over narration of the author began.  The letters included some facts about the circus and introduced the next routine.  They provided a nice format to the show as well as putting each routine into context.
I recently finished reading Out to Pasture (But Not Over the Hill) by Effie Leland Wilder.  This short novel is expressed entirely in diary entries and letters written to a friend.  It contains lots of humor and is an excellent example of how this format can be used effectively.
A common exercise in creativity is to write a letter to somebody explaining the challenge you are facing.  A character development exercise frequently used in the theater is to write a letter or postcard from your character to another character. 
Who would your stage character write to?  What would they say?  How would that express your personality?  Who might write to your stage character?  What would they say?  Take the time to complete this exercise, even if you don't intend to use it in performance.  Your ability to be creative will grow the more exercises that you perform to stretch your mental muscles.
How could you incorporate reading a letter, diary entry, telegram, email, or other piece of writing during your performance?

Back issues of The Clown In Times are still available.  For more information on the contents of Volume Five go to
That's it for this seventh 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