Charlie's Creative Comedy presents

Thought For The Week
December 14, 2009
Issue #356

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

This issue is a little bit unusual. 
Two well known clowns have recently passed away.  In addition to my tributes included in this issue, I would like to extend my sympathy to their family and friends.
Lee Mullally is the chairman of the World Clown Association Publications Committee.  He envited me to serve on his committee.  As part of this issue you will find some information on improvements to Clowning Around, the official WCA publication.  I hope that you will consider writing an article for this publication.
I wish you a wonderful holidy season.
Have a great week, 
In This Issue
Thought For The Week
Clowning Around
In Memory -- Michael "Coco" Polakovs
In Memory -- Dale Longmire
Educational Opportunities

Thought For The Week 

December 14, 2009

By Bruce "Charlie" Johnson

"Follow your enthusiasm. It's something I've always believed in. Find those parts of your life you enjoy the most. Do what you enjoy doing." -- Jim Henson


"A lot of people like to do certain things, but they're not that good at it. Keep going through the things that you like to do, until you find something that you actually seem to be extremely good at. It can be anything."  -- George Lucas


There are many possible approaches to clowning and potential venues.  You don't have to do everything.  Drawing was one of the things that I loved to do growing up.  So, I've learned to do trick cartoons and added them to my clowning.  I fell in love with magic at the age of eight, so that is part of what I do as an entertainer.  I also like to fold paper, so I've added origami to my repertoire.  I haven't developed the ability to do balloon sculpture or face painting because I don't have any enthusiasm for those variety arts.  I do respect those who love it and are talented at it.


You don't have to work in every possible venue.  Carole said that when she first started clowning she did everything she thought clowns are supposed to do including birthday parties.  She really didn't enjoy the parties.  She has always enjoyed visiting nursing homes.  Long before she started clowning she would take animals to nursing homes for pet therapy sessions.  (That was before the term Pet Therapy began being used.)  When she clowned for the first time at a nursing home, she felt comfortable and enjoyed it.  She felt she had found her niche.  Carole studied the area of Caring Clowning to learn more about visiting nursing homes as a clown.  That led to her interest in another branch of Caring Clowning, hospital visitation.  She started visiting Stevens Hospital in Edmonds, WA, and discovered that she enjoyed that.  Stevens Hospital has very few young patients.  Carole also enjoys young children, especially preschool age.  So she began visiting Seattle Children's Medical Center. 


Not only does Carole enjoy performing in hospitals and nursing homes, she is extremely good at the type of one-on-one interaction that is required in those venues.  She experimented with different types of clowning until she found the type that fits both her interests and abilities.  Then she found venues where she could do that.  Now Carole's performances are almost exclusively in a nursing home or hospital venue.


I did a little nursing home clowning early in my career but it wasn't a good fit for me then.  I had little experience with elderly people and didn't know what to do.  By observing Carole I have learned more about it and now I can do it.  I am not nearly as good as Carole so I don't consider it to be my specialty.  However, nursing homes are my favorite place to appear as Santa.


In most art forms there are people who enjoy it but aren't good at it.  For example, I know many people who write poetry but are terrible poets.  They do it for their own enjoyment.  I love music and admire those who play instruments.  Early in my career I purchased several instruments that I thought I would learn to play as part of my clown act.  Unfortunately, I don't have any musical talent.  I have managed to learn to play a single song on the piano by plunking one key at a time.  I play that song frequently for my own enjoyment, but don't inflict it upon audiences.  There is a place for those who create art for their own enjoyment.  However, they will never be very successful at that art form.


In marketing it is often stressed that you should find out what your customers need and then offer them something that fills those needs.  The other approach is to find out the best thing you have to offer and then find customers who need that.


What do you enjoy doing in your life?  How can you incorporate that into your clown performances?  What types of clown performance do you enjoy most?  Of those things that you enjoy, which ones are you actually good at?  What venues are a good match for your enthusiasm, talents, and experience?

Clowning Around Submissions

I am on the World Clown Association Publications Committee.  The WCA publishes Clowning Around.  Andy Moler is the new interim Clowning Around Editor.  I have seen the layout for the November/ December issue which is scheduled to be in the mail now.  I think the new layout style is very attractive and much easier to read.  For prospective authors that means your work will be well presented and members are more likely to read your entire article.
Another change is the elimination of theme issues.  Instead of writing on a specific topic for each individual issue, you are encouraged to write about your area of expertise.  You can write an individual article or consider doing a column focused on your specialty.
Because WCA Members may not recieve their current issue before the next deadline, I want to remind you of the pertinent information here.  It is already past the deadline for the January issue.  The next deadline is rapidly approaching.   January 1 is the deadline for the February issue.  The following deadline is February 1 for the combined March/April issue. 
It may seem strange, but this is the appropriate time to begin thinking about an article related to Easter or another spring topic.  With the time required to produce a magazine, the time it takes for it to be delivered by the postal service, and allowing readers time to put your idea to use you have to plan topical articles months in advance.  So you would want to submit an Easter/Spring idea to Clowning Around by Febuary 1  Here are some things you might consider.  Many clowns play an alternate character (Santa, Mrs. Claus, or Elf) at Christmas time.  Do you play an alternative character in the spring?  What is your favorite magic trick, baloon sculpture, or face painting design for use in the spring?  In many areas the parade sesaon starts in the spring.  Do you have a favorite parade routine or walk around gag that you do at that time of the year?  If you are a Caring Clown, do you use any topical spring time material?  If you are involved in Clown Ministry, what is your favorite Easter routine?  Do you do any special spring events like Breakfast with the Easter Bunny?  Besides Easter, what other events in the spring can you incorporate into your clowning?  Do you do anything for National Volunteer Appreciation Week?  Your answer to any of those questions could be an article.
I know that many entertainers have very heavy schedules between now and Christmas.  I also know that the last week of December and the month of January is often a slow time for entertainers.  That makes it a perfect time to work on a magazine article.  I encourage you to consider submitting an article for Clowning Around.  The address to send it to is
In Memory Michael "Coco" Polakovs 
Michael "Coco" Polakovs passed away on December 6, 2009.  He was born February 23, 1923 in Riga, Latvia.  He was a third generation clown and inherited his clown name from his father, Nicolai.  He began clowning as a child in his fathers act and was a professional clown for nearly 89 years.  He first became famous in England appearing with the Bertram Mills Circus and the Billy Smart Circus.  He first came to the United States in 1953 to work with the Mills Brothers Circus. 
He later returned to the United States to work with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.  He was the RBB&B Advance Clown for eight years.  Leon McBryde, who also worked as a RBB&B Advance Clown credits Coco as being one of his two most important mentors.  Leon has said, "I learned the technical aspects of clowning from Coco and the heart of the clown from Mark Anthony."  I know that Coco and Leon remained close friends over the years.
Coco was instrumental in the development of many classic clown routines including Busy Bee.
After Coco left the RBB&B Circus, he worked as a freelance clown.  I remember seeing a PBS program in the 1980's where he demonstrated clown make up application alongside his son Coconut.  (Only the oldest son of the oldest son can inherit the Coco name.)
Many Thought for the Week subscribers may have met Coco because he was an instructor at the U-W Clown Camp and at Leon McBryde's Advanced Studies.
Michael was inducted into the International Clown Hall of Fame in 1991.
In Memory Dale Longmire
After a lengthy illness Dale Longmire passed away on December 11.  Dale was known for his beautiful whiteface make up and elegant wardrobe.
I first saw and enjoyed Dale performing with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.  In the 1980's I also saw him performing with Circus Vargus.  I saw him perform his version of the classic Chicken Cannon routine with Circus Vargus.  That was the inspiration of my magical version with the roasted chicken appearing in an empty cage.  I described my version in a Laugh-Makers magazine article and a couple of years later had the pleasure of seeing David Copperfield perform his version using my method to make Webster, his duck, appear unharmed in the empty cage.  That chain of inspiration all started with Dale.  (You can read more about this routine in my Creativity For Entertainers trilogy.)
After retiring from clowning, Dale moved into circus management.  Most recently he managed the Walker Bros. Circus office.  He was also active in the Showfolks Club in Sarasota, Florida.  He held several offices in that organization, including president.
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
April 29 - May 1, 2010
Branson Magic Bonanza
Branson, MO
I will be there with a dealer table.
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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