September 2009 Vol 1, Issue 8

Creativity For Entertainers Trilogy

Creativity For Entertainers

Welcome to the eigth issue of my Creativity For Entertainers newsletter.  
My goal with this newsletter and with the products I carry on my dealer table is to try to meet your needs.  In this newsletter I am announcing a new product, Instant Wild Card, which is something that you might not want to make yourself.  It is not available on my web site yet, but will be available at the NW Festival of Clowns next month in Olympia, WA.  I know that many Creativity For Entertainers will be there.  Please stop by my dealer table to say hello.
Not only am I making it available for purchase, but I have discoverd a version that will be easier for you to make.  Information on that is included in this newsletter.
I believe in studying entertainment history as a source of information and inspiration.  One way that I do that is by listening to recordings of old time radio programs.  My favorite source of recordings is Radio Spirits.  They digitally remaster their recordings to make them as clear as possible.  Also, many of their sets come with an educational booklet that is a wonderful resource.
Over the internet you can also find sources for MP3 recordings of old time radio.  I have found that the sound quaility is not as good with these recordings, but because they are cheap to produce and market you can find some rare recordings this way.
You will find a couple of articles in this issue based on old time radio.

In This Issue
Nine Dots Solution
Instant Wild Card
Review: Blackstone -- The Magic Detective
Who is What?
Volume Two Corrections
Quick Links
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Nine Dots Solution
In the seventh issue of this newsletter, I presented you with a challenge involving the classic nine dot puzzle.
My solution for connecting all nine dots on the bottom of Creativity For Entertainers Volume One page 93 with a single straight line is to take your copy of Creativity For Entertainers to the middle of a street, open it to that page, and place it face down on the center line.  That line will be touching all nine dots so they are connected to each other.
The intent of the original puzzle was to teach you to question your assumptions.  Most people assume that the lines have to fit within the border of the dots which is not true.  This puzzle is the origin of the phrase "thinking outside the box."
The purpose of my challenge was to force you to question your assumptions again.  The normal assumption is that the lines have to be narrow ones created by a pencil.  That is not true.  Only in mathematics do lines have no width.  In reality lines vary in width and any single line that is wide enough to cover all nine dots solves the challenge.
Instant Wild Card
The Instant Wild Card routine (Creativity For Entertainers Volume Three pages 116-119) requires two sets of four duplicate cards.  To make it yourself you would have to remove just two cards from four poker decks which means you might not be able to use the rest of the deck.  For this reason I have decided to carry sets using poker cards on my dealer table.  I will have them available at the NW Festival of Clowns in Olympia, WA October 15-18.
Here is another suggestion.  Go Fish decks and Animal Rummy decks usually have four duplicates of each card.  By purchasing one deck you would have all the cards you need to perform Instant Wild Card.  In addition you would have cards that all ages can relate to.
Review:  Blackstone -- The Magic Detective
I have written various magazine articles about studying old time radio comedy programs to learn about comedy construction.  I have also gotten specific ideas from jokes in radio programs.  You can read about this in Creativity For Entertainers Volume One page 108 and page 374 as well as Creativity For Entertainers Volume Two pages 13-14, 35, 216, and 369.  What I wrote about comic strips in Creativity For Entertainers Volume Two pages 149-157 is also true about comedy radio programs.
I recently got a set of recordings of a detective radio series called Blackstone - The Magic Detective.  (It was also known as The Magic Detective - starring Blackstone, the World's Greatest Living Magician.)  The fifteen-minute program was originally broadcast Sunday afternoons at 2:45.  It debuted on October 3, 1948 and concluded on April 3, 1949.
The opening and closing scenes feature John, played by Ted Osborne, Harry Blackstone, played by Ed Jerome, and Rhoda, his assistant, played by Fran Carlon.
The opening scene took place in Blackstone's magic studio where the three were surrounded by props from Blackstone's illusion show.  One of the props, for example the Buzz Saw illusion, would remind Blackstone of a mystery that he had solved.  Then he would tell the story of how he used his knowledge of magic to solve the mystery.  In some of the episodes he revealed how con men, including mediums, fooled their victims.  In other episodes the crooks knew they were about to be revealed by Blackstone so they tried to kill Blackstone using one of his illusions, and he was able to escape and capture them.  He wouldn't reveal the method behind the illusions he actually performed.  He would say, "You will have to come to my show to see if you can guess how it is done."  It was a very interesting marketing tool for the theatrical shows performed by the real Harry Blackstone.  In some episodes the fictional Blackstone reveals how an illusion could be performed, but his explanation was not a method actually used by magicians.
During the opening, the announcer would say, "And right after the story Blackstone will explain tricks that you yourself can perform revealing the secrets of the world's greatest Magicians."
At the end of the mystery, Blackstone describes a trick as he performs it for John and Rhoda.  Then Blackstone challenges his friends to figure it out during the program's final commercial break.  After the commercial Blackstone explained the trick.  Some of the tricks were not magic effects but were puzzles to be solved.  I pause the recording to try to solve it as mental exercise.  (I also try to solve the mystery part of the story before Blackstone reveals the solution.)  You can read more about the creative use of puzzles in Creativity For Entertainers Volume Two pages 331-332, 339-340.
Some of the tricks were science experiments, and some were actual easy magic effects appropriate for performance by those interested in magic as a hobby.  I will be teaching some of those effects to youngsters interested in magic.  I have listened to half of the recordings so far, and have found one effect that I think I will be performing that is ideal for hospital clowns.
There are some principles that I think I may be able to use in creating new effects. 
Some of the effects can be improved by updating them.  For example, in one effect somebody selects a penny from a bunch of pennies, remembers the date, and returns the penny.   Blackstone then identifies the selected penny and the date is checked to prove that he is correct.  It can be hard to read the date on a penny.  However, the effect can be used with the new American state quarters which are easy to identify at a glance.
Who is What?
In Creativity For Entertainers Volume Two (pages 110 - 123) I used Abbott and Costello's Who's On First routine as an example of switching.  
Here is another example from their radio program.  On an episode with Frank Sinatra as their guest star they talked about inventors.
Costello:  Who invented the cotton gin?
Abbott:  Watt.
Costello:  Who invented the cotton gin?
Abbott:  Watt is the name of the man who invented the cotton gin.
Costello:  What is the name of the man who invented the cotton gin?
Abbott:  That's right.
Costello:  Right invented the cotton gin.
Abbott:  No, Wright invented the plane.
Costello:  What?
Abbott:  He invented the cotton gin.
 (I don't know the date of the original broadcast of this episode, but from some of the topical gags I would guess it is from 1944 or 1945.  When you purchase recordings of old radio programs they are sometimes identified by date, episode title, or guest star.  This can make it difficult to determine if you already own an episode.)
In the film "Who Done It", Abbott and Costello perform another switch on the routine.  In this comedy mystery, the first murder victim is electrocuted while sitting in a chair.  Lou Costello picks up the wire and almost gets electrocuted himself.
Abbott:  If you had touched the microphone 20,000 volts would have gone through your body:
Costello:  What?
Abbott:  Yes, volts are watts?
Costello:  What are volts?
Abbott:  Yes, watts are volts.
Costello:  Watts are?
In the same film, Costello wins a portable radio.  When he plugs it in he and Abbott hear a recording of themselves performing Who's On First.  Abbott commands Costello, "Turn that off.  Every time you hear those two they get into the same silly argument."
Try to write your own switch on the Who's On First premise.  How could you incorporate it into your performances?
Volume Two Corrections
The Jorodn Ayan and Deanna Berg acronym on page 223 should be T.R.A.N.S.F.O.R.M.  The proper title of the book containing their 36 creativity strategies is Aha! Ten Ways to Free Your Creative Spirit and Find Your Great Ideas.
On page 121 Charles Schulz should be Charles Schultz

That's it for this eighth 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